There has been a continued emphasis in recent years on STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – training in the United States. However, the best engineers and best scientists could still have trouble filling the crucial roles of the future if they lack other traits and abilities.

STEM Majors Need Soft Skills

This can include the soft skills, the non-technical skills that relate to how you work, interact with colleagues, solve problems, and manage a workload. Soft skills can consist of interpersonal (people) skills, communication skills, listening skills, time management, problem-solving, leadership, and empathy, among others.

“The focus on STEM education has undeniably led to groundbreaking advancements. The true potential of these innovations can only be fully realized when complemented by robust soft skills,” explained Andres Lares, managing partner at Shapiro Negotiations Institute.

Soft skills should complement STEM skills.

“Skills such as effective communication, empathy, persuasion, and negotiation are not merely nice to have; they are essential components of a well-rounded professional, and organizations must invest in training their teams to raise the bar,” Lares told ClearanceJobs. “The future belongs to those who can seamlessly integrate the intellectual prowess of a STEM-based education with the strategic adaptability provided by strong, soft skills.”

The Soft Skills Gap

Some experts have warned that in an era of rapid technological advancement, the anticipated future skills gap poses a significant challenge for organizations across industries.

“As AI and automation continue to disrupt traditional fields, the demand for STEM skills becomes more critical than ever. To future-proof our workforce and ensure sustained innovation, it is imperative to cultivate a diverse talent pipeline,” suggested Sara Guitierrez, chief science officer at management consulting services company SHL.”As AI becomes increasingly impactful in corporate environments, soft skills and behavioral skills will be even more critical. Skills are developed in all different ways, not just catastrophically expensive college education.”

Interpersonal skills are the skills that you need to work effectively and communicate with others.

“They’re a kind of power skill and are crucial for us as we navigate an increasingly complex workplace. In the future, not only will we have to work together in human teams, in-person and hybrid/remote, but consider how automation and AI change the team dynamic,” added Annee Bayeux, chief learning strategist at Degreed.

Bayeux told ClearanceJobs that these interpersonal skills are applicable to many roles, as they can help an individual adapt to different circumstances. Yet, they can be difficult to build as they cannot be effectively taught in a classroom.

“They need real-world application to build effectively, therefore, cohort and peer learning programs plus stretch assignments can really help someone develop interpersonal skills to the required level,” Bayeux noted.

Building a Team

It may also be critical for companies to recognize the importance of cultivating soft skills for organizational resilience and adaptability

“For managers and leaders, particularly, the development of these skills is not just a matter of personal growth but a strategic imperative,” said Caitlin Collins, program strategy director at system software provider Betterworks.

“Developing interpersonal skills is important at every stage of an employee’s career, but a special focus is warranted when employees change roles, especially if they take on team management responsibilities where skills such as empathy, conflict management, and active listening are vital to the success of the transitioning into these roles,” Bayeux continued. “First-time manager training generally focuses on leadership skills and can overlooked broader interpersonal skills unfortunately.”

Soft Skills in the AI Era

There may also be a concern that the emphasis on STEM means that soft skills are no longer as important, especially as AI is changing the way people work and interact.

However, this may simply overemphasis the importance of AI.

“The notion that written communication will become less valuable in the age of AI is simply not true. Language will always give tremendous power to those with the ability to control it, so the value of language skills to influence AI and differentiate from it will increase,” explained Dan Head, CEO at Phrasee, an innovator in brand language optimization through its AI-powered content platform.

He added that as technology is part of every brand’s “creative canvas,” AI literacy is the number one soft skill in the workplace.

“However, generative AI is a powerful yet raw material, which calls for interconnected human creativity to unlock its potential and scale,” Head told ClearanceJobs.

“A case in point is that, realistically, it can take just as much time to curate AI-generated content as it does to write it yourself. AI-literate copywriters will amplify their creative language abilities and output by marrying knowledge of brand language and regional language with enterprise tooling for AI that can curate, performance predict, distribute and optimize messaging at a massive scale,” Head noted. “For brands and their customer engagement, this is the key to meeting the customer wherever they are with relevant and personalized communications.”

Build Soft Skills Alongside Technical Capabilities

The integration of AI into work processes could also require that companies “recalibrate” the approach to leadership and talent development.

“Leaders and managers equipped with emotional intelligence, critical thinking, adaptability, and collaborative leadership will be at the forefront of achieving business and employee success, in this new era,” said Collins. “They will be capable of inspiring innovation, managing change effectively, and cultivating environments where creativity and human potential flourish. The balance of technological proficiency and human understanding will be the critical competitive advantage that organizations need.”

In addition, soft skills are just as important to keep current and relevant as technical skills.

“These skills are the very foundation upon which our professional lives are built. Soft skills, such as effective communication, empathy, persuasion, and negotiation, shape our identities and empower us to communicate, collaborate, and motivate, transforming technical expertise into impactful solutions,” said Lares. “As the dynamics of human interactions evolve, the ability to effectively engage with others remains a timeless asset, emphasizing the importance of continual improvement in these areas.”

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Peter Suciu is a freelance writer who covers business technology and cyber security. He currently lives in Michigan and can be reached at You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.