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

TES (Times Education Supplement) - - EDITORIAL -

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.

Tai­lored learn­ing

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.

Emo­tional in­tel­li­gence

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

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