Hard and Soft Skills in Vocational Training: Experimental Evidence from Colombia
We randomly assign applicants to over-subscribed programs to study the effects of teaching hard and soft skills in vocational training and examine their impacts on skills acquisition and labor market outcomes using both survey and administrative data. We find that providing vocational training that either emphasizes social or technical skills increases formal employment for both men and women. We also find that admission to a vocational program that emphasizes technical relative to social skills increases overall employment and also days and hours worked in the short term. Yet, emphasis on soft-skills training helps applicants increase employment and monthly wages over the longer term and allows them to catch up with those learning hard skills. Further, through a second round of randomization, we find that offering financial support for transportation and food increases the effectiveness of the program, indicating that resource constraints may be an obstacle for individuals considering vocational training.
We thank the Carvajal Foundation for partnering with us to run and implement the program, and in particular, Mario Gonzales, Ana Enriquez and Angela Gonzales, and for providing funding for research assistants and travel to conduct field work. We are also grateful to the staff at the Ministry of Health and Social Protection for providing us with the administrative data, and Milagros O'Diana for research assistance. We thank David Deming, Nada Eissa, Carolina Gonzales, Carmen Pages, and Ken Wolpin as well as seminar participants including Isaac Mbiti, Derek Neal, and Lesley Turner for helpful comments. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.