When economist James Heckman was studying the effects of job training programs on unskilled young workers, he found a mystery.
He was comparing a group of workers that had gone through a job training program with a group that hadn't. And he found that, at best, the training program did nothing to help the workers get better jobs. In some cases, the training program even made the workers worse off.
The problem was that the students in the training program couldn't learn what they were being taught. They lacked an important set of skills which would enable them to learn new things. Heckman, a Nobel-Prize-winning economist, calls these soft skills.
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