Kitchen Social Club at Paradise Park Children Centre

CEO Blog Post: Employability Skills

Employability skills- a bit like ‘school readiness’ it all sounds a bit scary.

It seems to be shorthand for a reasonably well adjusted, fairly sociable person with basic listening skills, an element of self awareness and a level of resilience. One who can cope with being thrust into the unknown and swim not sink.

Whether that is the first day in a new job or the first day at school none of us would pretend that it is easy.
I think any one of us would admit that being with others in a controlled environment needs certain skills. My question is are these ’employability’ skills and is that the best way to describe them to young people?

Recently I was at a presentation and we were told that young people want to be seen and encouraged to be entrepreneurs not just trained to do jobs that already exist. This seems like an excellent idea considering all the research is telling us that the jobs that currently exist soon won’t. But I don’t think we should start calling them entrepreneurial skills. Although they are.

Personally I think ‘school readiness’ and ‘work ready’ sound better to adults than to children and young people. When you ask them what they want to be ready for, it’s life. I understand the need to keep reinventing the wheel for bureaucracy (I fundraise for a charity, believe me, I really know) but we don’t need to do that for young people – they are already brand new.

If, as adults, we have some good ideas or experience that we think will help them on their journey then we should share it but let’s do it honestly and directly, not through the prism of other adult’s judgements about what school or work ready looks like.

There has been feedback from employers that young people ‘can’t stick it’, fall apart and run away when criticised – are basically not resilient-so how do you encourage resilience?

At the same meeting there was a discussion of the ‘old world’ and the ‘new’. Many (all) of us have worked hard to get where we are and have learnt a lot and changed a lot but we mainly admitted that we were struggling a bit with technology. And yet we were still the ones with the power, the salaries, the job titles and the responsibility…

What skills do we have that have got us and kept us where we are?

Are we going to share those secrets?

Do we really think we are obsolete with our stories about managing to meet up with friends even without whatsapp?
Or do we know that the skills we have developed are the very same ones that successful children and young people will develop:

Emotional management, social skills, confidence and resilience. Yes I know you know where I am going with this…play is where children develop those skills.

So employability skills are the outcome of the freedom to play. Playworkers give children the opportunity to test things out, face challenges in a safe environment and learn about themselves and their world. Universal play services are the best way to provide an experience for children and young people that will give them what they need to face the new world that they are part of creating and I am so glad that in Islington we are still offering them.