A growing body of evidence recognizes the importance of soft skills in predicting long-term life outcomes, including labor market outcomes as well as social and health behaviors. Soft skills refer to a broad set of skills, behaviors, and personal qualities that enable people to effectively navigate their environment, relate well with others, perform well, and achieve their goals. These skills are applicable across sectors and complement the acquisition of other skills such as technical and academic skills. Although the returns to cognitive and technical skills have long been recognized, recent literature suggests that soft skills rival cognitive skills in their ability to predict positive outcomes. Moreover, evidence suggests that soft skills are more malleable than cognitive skills among adolescents and youth adults.
This paper seeks to identify which soft skills enjoy the most support for predicting positive outcomes for youth across the three fields of workforce development, violence prevention, and SRH, and thus, should be cultivated as part of strategies to create those positive outcomes. Skills that emerge as enjoying the most support across sectors are recommended as targets for youth development programming employing a common skills approach. This knowledge can inform and guide the major investments that USAID and other funders make.