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Life skills and workforce preparation

To prepare for future careers, students need a holistic education that includes practical vocational skills, communication strategies and leadership development. As more value is placed on soft skills, research suggests that higher levels of emotional intelligence are linked with better leadership and the ability to cope with pressure.

91%of CEOs globally say that they need to strengthen their organisation’s soft skills to sit aside digital skills.

PwC, 2018

53%of UK teachers believe that soft skills are more important than academic qualifications to students’ success.

Sutton Trust, 2017

85%of Australian teachers feel that standardised testing is ineffective as a method of assessing students’ real abilities and knowledge.

Australian Education Union, 2018

Hear from the experts

Life skills and workforce preparation

A conversation with Amanda Timberg

Head of Talent Outreach and Programmes, EMEA, Google

Amanda Timberg

Why do you think that so many schools are shifting their focus toward making their students workplace-ready?

Getting a good job has become more difficult over the years and as subsequent cohorts of students leaving school or university failed to find jobs that made use of their degrees, schools and governments took note. In the UK, for instance, OFSTED grades schools on destination data, ie ensuring those who left entered Employment, further Education or Training. This has held schools more accountable to making sure students have a clear pathway to one of those next steps. So the accountability, alongside the duty of care that schools feel to ensure students progress, has led to this shift.

What skills are in highest demand from employers like Google?

Different jobs will require different minimum qualifications that make someone suitable for that role, e.g. a job in in the legal sector and a job in marketing require different experience. However, in terms of the professional skills and attributes we look for, here are a few I’d highlight: intellectual curiousity, collaboration, ability to navigate ambiguity, resilience and inclusivity.

From an employer's perspective, what does it look like when a recent graduate is prepared for the workforce?

Because recent graduates typically lack significant work experience, employers are looking for other indicators that will ideally predict success in the role. Previous achievements academically or in extracurricular activities often provide this, such as marks, leadership roles or experience in teams. In the interview, recruiters are looking to see that the graduate can communicate effectively, demonstrates commitment and also a passion for the work.

Describe ‘life skills’ in 10 words or less.

Navigating life’s opportunities and challenges with grace and resilience.

Jan Owen
Life skills and workforce preparation

A conversation with Jan Owen

C.E.O., The Foundation for Young Australians

Why do you think that so many schools are shifting their focus toward making their students workplace-ready?

In the past, it might have been reasonable to expect that if you finished your studies, either secondary or tertiary, you got a job. You were workplace-ready. But the world of work looks very different to what it did previously. Technology is changing the tasks that we do at work and therefore the skills that we require to perform our jobs. A 15 year-old today is more likely to have 17 different jobs over five careers in their lifetime. The Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) New Work Order report series revealed that it takes young people in Australia an average of 2.6 years to gain full-time employment after completing full-time study compared to just one year in the 1980s. This highlights that schools, university and vocational education urgently need to change how they are preparing young people for the future of work, if they’re not already.

What are you seeing today with how schools approach workplace readiness compared to five years ago?

With the uptake of programmes like our own $20 Boss, we’re seeing a commitment by many educators across Australia to ensuring that students are prepared for the world of work. The programme provides students with $20 of start-up capital to create, launch and operate a business venture over the course of a school term, and it is all about putting skills development at the forefront of learning. While there is more to be done, what this tells us is that many educators are seeing not just the benefit, but the necessity, of providing opportunities for their students to get prepared for the future of work. However, there is still much work to be done to ensure that all students across Australia are made workplace-ready, and system-wide change is essential. It cannot be the sole responsibility of teachers and urgent, cross-sector redress is required.

How do you see the idea of ‘life skills’ evolving in the next 10 years?

Life skills will likely evolve to reflect the ongoing impacts if automation and technology on our jobs and workplaces. As such, skills like digital literacy and communication will be of critical importance for young people seeking and securing work in the next decade. Research from our New Basics report shows that the demand for digital skills has increased by more than 200%, critical thinking by more than 150%, creativity by more than 60%, and presentation skills by 25%. This demand is likely to continue rising, particularly as younger Australians will need to fill the gaps created by the large number of older Australians leaving the workforce.

However the evolution of life skills has really already begun. Our applied research project in South West Victoria, the New Work Mindset in Action, proved that skills are far more portable than first thought, and when people are trained and work in one job, they acquire skills that will help them potentially secure 13 other jobs. This new understanding of skill portability is relevant now, and will definitely shift the idea and importance of life skills for the remainder of the decade.

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