Head of Arts Award at Trinity College London, Cat Sercombe, reflects on our responsibility to ensure that young people leaving education are truly work ready, taking a look at how providing young people with the broadest possible experiences early in life ensures success for the future.
In an article in the Washington Post written by Valerie Strauss, The surprising thing Google learned about its employees –and what it means for today’s students, Strauss discusses research undertaken by Google that proves the need for young people to be able to do more than master STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths).
It will come as no surprise to anyone working in the education and youth sectors, that young people’s success in later life and progression into work or training is dependent on them developing both hard and soft skills to apply formal academic learning in a real word context. However, ‘soft skills’ are often left behind as a poorer relation to formal academic qualifications in Maths, English and Science. That is not to say we shouldn’t be championing academic achievement, far from it - All young people need to have access to a quality education.
However, are we doing young people a disservice by not providing them with access to developing soft skills such as problem solving, organisation and communication skills? Are these not the foundation on which to make a positive contribution in the workplace and develop a successful career? And should they not be seen as complementary and equal in importance to the achievement of GCSEs and A-Levels?
In Strauss’ article she points to research conducted by Google in 2013 which identified that among the eight most important qualities of Googles top employees, STEM expertise came last. The other seven qualities were all soft skills, including:
- Being a good coach
- Communicating and listening well
- Possessing insights into others (including different values and points of view)
- Empathy and support of colleagues
- Critical thinker and problems solver
- Ability to make connections across complex ideas
So how do we ensure that young people have these skills? It would be short sighted of us to think young people simply acquire them and can apply them at the appropriate moment.
Arts Award: delivering 21st Century Skills
For our part, Arts Award Silver and Gold qualifications provide young people with the opportunities to deliver their own arts leadership projects, supporting them to lead activities with their peers or others that require them to communicate effectively, problem solve, organise their time and resources, all the while increasing their confidence.
in 2016 we published the Arts Award Impact Study. This longitudinal study of Arts Award’s impact led by London South Bank University tracked 68 young people over three years. The Impact Study found that there was a wealth of positive impacts on young people, not least as they had the opportunity to organise activities in a ‘real life’ environment. They could demonstrate through practical application professional skills that will hold them in good stead as they progress into employment including:
- Communication and people skills
- Organisational skills
“Through Arts Award I learnt to try something, to be self-motivated to seek opportunities. That’s played a role throughout the last 6 years” Arts Award Impact Study
So, to reiterate Strauss’ comments, no young person should be prevented from developing the skills and achieving the qualifications they need to progress into their chosen career. Broader employability skills will support future generations to not just be workforce ready but world ready.
Catherine Sercombe is the Head of Arts Award at Trinity College London. She leads on the strategic development of Arts Award, working in association with Arts Council England and regional Bridge organisations to support the implementation of Arts Award nationwide.