Building Brighter Futures

The skills for today, not the future

| 7 min read

When faced with the enormous challenges we see today and with huge uncertainty about the future, and with no clear way out it can feel overwhelming.

This is particularly acute for our young people, who have experienced major disruption to their education over the last nine months.

Even if the pandemic had not happened would our children have the essential skills to be ready to confront the challenges that face them as they transition into adulthood?

I would suggest that for many the answer is no.

This will have a greater impact on certain individuals or groups within our society. The findings from the Education Endowment Foundation in June 2020[1] suggest that school closures will widen the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers, likely reversing progress made to narrow the gap since 2011. The median estimate indicates that the gap would widen by 36%.

It is important to note that like the virus the lack of skills development, or perhaps more accurately the lack of a supportive environment in which they may be improved, can affect anyone.

The importance of developing a set of essential skills for individuals to thrive in education, employment and entrepreneurship has been long documented, from the CBI’s landmark 1989 report[2] through to the Taylor Review in 2017[3].

These are the skills which ‘almost everyone needs to do almost any job. They are the skills that make specific knowledge and technical skills fully productive’.[4]

Too often this is an area where terminology is confused and confusing. The work of the Essential

Skills Taskforce[5] over the last year has been to try to cut through this, to refine a consistent, universal approach to these essential skills.

Our starting point is eight essential skills. Known by many different names, we define them as: Listening, Speaking, Problem Solving, Creativity, Staying Positive, Aiming High, Leadership and Teamwork.

These eight skills maps across to the four domains that come up time and again as the core, transferable skills for employment. In pairs they cover communication, creative problem-solving, self-management, and collaboration skills. They are laid out in the Skills Builder Universal Framework[6].

The Framework breaks each down into tangible steps which can be developed in turn. We can use it to clarify what success looks like in each one and to map out the trajectory for growth for each person.

As a father of two young children I am constantly aware of their development, wishing to support them whilst still wanting to let them ‘find their way’. I come from a single parent family, experienced domestic abuse and knew we were poorer than many of my peers growing up. I often talk to friends about how we raise our children to understand ‘the value of a pound note’, be resilient and independent without them having to experience hardship or fear. I must add that I still had an enjoyable childhood and my mum was a superhero raising my sister and I pretty much on her own, both of us now ‘successful’ in our own right and with families of our own. How you measure success is of course another commentary piece of its own.

In a professional context as the CEO of The Harlequins Foundation[7] I am equally as passionate about the programmes we deliver, and the impact they have on the lives of individuals. The development of essential skills is as vital in my primary school-aged children as it is for the elite athletes at Harlequins.

Nor are these skills bound by geography, they are truly global and if developed will enable individuals to apply any academic and/or technical skills they learn more effectively, be they an eight-year-old child or a 28-year-old international rugby player. Ultimately this will result in more rounded, capable, and productive employees who are agile and adaptable for whatever role or function they find themselves in.

I have often found myself frustrated that applicants for job roles look fantastic on paper, but then struggle to cope with the demands placed on them when they begin the job. I am sure many people reading can relate to this.

Working in partnership with a group of sports organisations, we have developed a version of the Framework to be used in sports settings to set the standard of ensuring high impact essential skills are developed from coaching through to competition.

Within sports organisations and programmes, the Framework can be used to support:

  • Programme design and delivery – using the consistent language that is already used in a range of educational settings with common expectations of how they are broken down and the logical order in which to develop them.
  • Personal development – allowing individuals to reflect on their own essential skills, and to work individually or with a coach, mentor, or manager to build them.
  • Training – using the Framework as a set of learning objectives to help structure training in essential skills alongside technical skills.

It was with this in mind that we have set out to be changemakers in our sector(and hopefully others). Harnessing the power of the Harlequins brand and reach we hope to make the focus of essential skills development the ‘new normal’. Frustrated at sticking plaster programmes that do not focus on the fundamentals we have partnered with The Skills Builder Partnership to transform how all young people develop essential skills through sport.

It is incredibly exciting to be part of this work and to know that through sport we will drive positive change in society. It is our ambition to positively impact the lives of one million individuals by 2030, and we believe that through this and other high impact pieces of work, we will achieve it.

Sports Toolkit:

  • Advice & case studies for all sports settings.
  • Advice for building essential skills into programme planning, delivery, and workforce development.

Coaching Handbook:

  • Practical ideas for building essential skills with learners.
  • A starting point for coaches & impact organisations to introduce, practise, reinforce and assess the skills into their sessions - one step at a time.
  • Click on the skills icons on each chapter cover to jump to a focus skill.
  • Use the Framework pages to skip to a specific step.

[2] Nicholson, B. (1989) Towards a Skills Revolution: Report of the CBI Vocational Education and Training Taskforce, CBI

[3] Taylor, M. (2017) Good Work: The Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices

[4] UKCES (2009) The Employability Challenge: Full Report, UKCES

[5] Essential Skills Taskforce: CIPD, CBI, Gatsby Foundation, EY Foundation, Careers & Enterprise Company, Business in the Community, and the Skills Builder Partnership

Nothing on this website should be construed as personal advice based on your circumstances. No news or research item is a personal recommendation to deal.

Building Brighter Futures

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