We as the School of Professional Teacher Education in Häme University of Applied Sciences are one partner in the Marketing Through Europe project (MaTE). There are four secondary level vocational education organizations with us in the project. One organization from Hungary (Andrassy, Eger), Netherlands (Graafschap College, Doetinchem), Portugal (INETE, Lisbon) and Finland (Winnova, Pori/Rauma). These institutions teach programmes in Marketing among other subjects. In this project, we are going to develop the teaching of marketing.
In the framework of the project, we conducted a survey that aimed at assessing the soft skills of young marketing students. The students are mainly in the age of 17-18. In the Portuguese team there are four students who are 16. In addition, there are also a few adults from different countries among the answerers of the self-evaluation questionnaire. We wanted to find out how the students evaluate their own soft skills. We created a questionnaire in Microsoft Forms software, implemented the survey and analyzed the results. We got 61 answers. 11 from Hungary, 22 from Netherlands, 12 from Portugal and 16 from Finland. In the project there are only 16 students. Four students from each institution. In this first round we wanted to get more answers to get comparison data if there are some differences between the participating students and other students.
The students were asked their age and organization. Then the students assessed their soft skills using 24 statements concerning 11 concepts of soft skills: empathy, resilience, capability to solve problems, self-esteem, assertiveness, trustworthiness, team working, flexibility, goal orientation, entrepreneurship and critical thinking.
We received a total of 61 responses. In this blog article I will focus on the results as a whole and notice some country differences. In the questionnaire, students rated their soft skills statements on scale: 1 = I totally disagree, 2 = I disagree, 3 = I do not disagree or agree, 4 = I agree and 5 = I totally agree.
The students evaluate themselves to have a good level in soft skills. The average of all the rates is 3,992. Of the offered statements, the students rate their own soft skills at the lowest values for the following statements (soft skill in parentheses):
- I like to work in an uncertain situation – 3,23 (resilience)
- I easily accept solutions that go against my own opinion – 3,48 (flexibility)
- I am a good team leader – 3,69 (assertiveness)
A little surprising is perhaps the desire to avoid uncertainty. They also want to hold on to their opinions, which may reduce flexibility. They don’t feel like they are good team leaders, which may indicate not only a young age but also inexperience.
The following three statements are most highly rated:
- Team members can trust in me – 4,49 (trustworthiness)
- In social media there are a lot of “fake news” – 4,41 (critical thinking)
- I come up with my own ways of working and doing things – 4,26 (entrepreneurship)
The students seem to be more team players than individuals. On the other hand, they seem to be willing to realize and implement their own ideas. They also feel themselves that they know how to filter out the fake news from a flood of information.
The biggest differences between the countries are that the Hungarian students evaluate themselves generally higher than the others:
Finland – 3,845
Hungary – 4,415
Netherlands – 3,847
Portugal – 4,067
We do not know how the survey has been presented and how the answerers have been briefed in different countries and how the circumstances have differed. There might be some possible explanations for the relatively big differences. We need to discuss these results and possible explanations with the teachers.
The other interesting notice is that the students taking part in our MaTE-project evaluate themselves with a little bit higher rates than the others. It might tell us that the students willing to take part in the project genuinely are a bit better in their soft skills than the other students. We also need to notice that answering in this survey needs English language skills, which might have an effect on the answers. English is a foreign language in all the participating countries.
Based on these results, it is impossible to draw far-reaching conclusions about young people’s soft skills. Nor can any conclusions be drawn about the differences in these skills between the countries or the students participating in the project. Instead, the results provide a basis for us to examine the effects of the training phase of the MaTE project on soft skills. A group of 16 students, four students from each institution, have participated in the training of the project in April-June 2022. The intention is to do the same survey for these students at the end of their education. In this way, we hope to be informed about the effects of training on the soft skills experienced by students. Those results are to be reported separately.
Heikki Hannula, Häme University of Applied Sciences / School of Professional and Vocational Teacher Education