Worldskills in motion
Lessons learned from the Worldskills competition have become an integral part of one college’s curriculum. Its principal, Dawn Ward, explains why
How the competition has transformed a college’s curriculum
WE LIVE in an ever-changing world. Technological developments, new working patterns, global communications and artificial intelligence are changing the employment landscape that UK colleges need to prepare learners for.
Conversely, the soft skills that transform learners into successful professionals are the same as they were a decade ago. Colleges are adept at aligning their curriculum to meet the technical needs of this changing landscape but we are not always as focused on these equally important – and some may argue more important – soft skills.
The need for these skills became apparent to me when I was training individuals to compete on the Worldskills international stage, as part of Team UK. Competitors would not have been able to succeed in this arena with only technical skills. To win a medal at such a high-achieving standard, you need the will, determination, strength of character and resilience to achieve more than those in the competing teams.
Formal qualifications don’t teach this but, as educators, we must. Skills competitions reflect business. To succeed, technical ability is a given. However, what sets you apart from the crowd is your response to change, how you handle difficult situations, your emotional intelligence and your ability to manage your own thoughts and emotions so you can achieve everything you want to. On the surface, skills competitions might seem to be about a craft or technical skill, but without soft skills development, those medal cabinets remain empty.
As parents, we all want educators to support the emotional growth of our children alongside developing their technical skills and academic ability. So as a leader, it resonates deeply within me that the further education sector should be about so much more than just a qualification.
At Burton and South Derbyshire College, we have developed something called Skills Promise. This suite of 14 soft skills is applied across our curriculum in a tailored way to meet the needs of the industries our learners are striving to secure a career in.
Through an extensive and ongoing dialogue with employers, we know that technical skills
are simply not enough in today’s modern economy. Modern employees need resilience, ambition, creativity, initiative, leadership and teamwork skills. Our Skills Promise is embedded into our technical and vocational curriculum, and delivers in a way that adds value to the experience and future prospects of all our learners.
At Burton and South Derbyshire College, as with most colleges, staff are qualified as both industry professionals and teachers, so igniting their passion for embedding these soft skills through our Skill Promise was not difficult. They understand the importance of such skills and have the ability to help our learners develop them.
What takes time, however, is developing a fully-embedded model across the organisation that is tailored to individual levels and curriculum areas. For example, a nursery nurse needs different soft skills to an engineer, and a junior chef requires different skills to an executive chef. Therefore, it is essential to allow staff to utilise their industry knowledge and curriculum insight to tailor the promise to the needs of each learner.
The results are fantastic: learners are trained in areas of specialist expertise and are taught soft skills that reflect the cultural values and ethos of the industry that the curriculum area is linked to.
All our learners now use the Skills Promise not only to set their own targets, but as a means of measuring their performance too. We believe that personal measurement is an important aspect of emotional intelligence although sometime scores will go down as well as up. This is something we encourage as we believe that self-reflection is about knowing where you are compared to your ultimate goals.
We discuss this with our learners as a means of helping them to shape their personal journey narrative so they are able to clearly communicate this during an interview with a prospective employer, or a professor at their first choice of university.
If colleges are a simulation of industry, and competitions within colleges simulate the industry market leaders, then we must focus on technical competency and soft skills if our learners are to achieve not only gold medals in competitions, but go on to be the leaders, academics, engineers and entrepreneurs that continue to make this country thrive.
Dawn Ward is chief executive and principal Burton & South Derbyshire College
MAD SKILLS: Team UK celebrate at the closing ceremony of Euroskills Gothenburg 2016, after winning several medals at the competition