Soft skills, or workplace-based pragmatic competencies, are increasingly a focus in language education programs for internationally trained professionals and other job seekers who have migrated to Canada. This trend stems from Canadian employers’ stated desire to hire job candidates who have both technical skills and the ability to collaboratively problem-solve – the latter being closely related to communicative skills including pragmatic competencies.
While pedagogical approaches to teaching aspects of language such as grammar and vocabulary have been fairly well vetted, teaching methods for soft skills remain somewhat ill-defined, in part because, in practice, even defining “soft skills” can be challenging. Referring to a project conducted by Kerekes and Sinclair (Under Review), in this presentation I will discuss the rationales and importance attributed to the teaching of soft skills at Mesa Centre, a settlement organization in the Greater Toronto Area.
Data sources include observations of classrooms of varying levels; teacher and administrator focus groups; and interviews with students, teachers, and administrators. We examine several themes in the contemporary literature on pragmatics and soft skills instruction in vocational settings, explore these themes vis-à-vis the data gathered, and offer suggestions for culturally responsive instructional approaches that can equip students with tools to understand the cultural and linguistic landscapes of Canadian workplaces through a lens of empowerment.