Ready? Set. Work!

Guest blog by Dr Waites, Director of Teaching & Learning

In an increasingly conceptual and global job market it is time for businesses, parents and schools to work together to ensure that our young people are able to develop the character and skills necessary for the world of work. So says a recent report from the Confederation of British Industry (2019) entitled ‘Getting people work ready’. This follows the CBI 2018 Education and Skills annual report findings that 44% of the 28,000 employers represented, felt that young people leaving secondary education were not work ready. 45% ranked aptitude and readiness for work as the most important factors in recruitment  alongside broader skills such as resilience, communication and problem solving.

A huge percentage of the jobs that our young people will be entering in the future do not yet exist. It is, therefore, imperative that they develop skills that will serve them well in a wide range of situations. So how can we as teachers and leaders address this gap and ensure we are equipping our students with what they need to access the jobs of the future? Carving out time in a busy curriculum to focus specifically on ‘Professional Skills’ or ‘Work readiness’, is what some may consider a luxury. However, on reading this report, among other similar documents, I would consider it a disservice to our students if we did not.

The term ‘work ready’ has had many incarnations and has latterly been known as soft skills, transferable skills, 21st century skills, life skills, character education and, at Sydenham High School GDST, Professional Skills. The CBI has narrowed the concept down to 3 overarching terms that, combined, can provide young people with the necessary ingredients for being ‘work ready’:

  • Knowledge  – gained from a broad and challenging school curriculum.
  • Character – the development of resilience and the ability to be reflective.
  • Skills – how a student would put both of the other principles together to solve a problem, work as a team or lead a group.

Professional Skills forms part of Sydenham High’s bespoke Active Citizen Programme, and provides year 12 students the valuable opportunity to develop their networking and business communication through seminars from high level professionals. Matched with a mentor, they are tasked with organising and attending a meeting to discuss career options. Our mentors represent a huge diversity of careers and are often drawn from our extensive and valuable alumnae and parent networks.The workshops and seminars delivered in the first part of the course focus on areas such as corporate communications, writing appropriate and effective emails, networking, problem solving and using social media professionally and effectively.

Through this programme students are able to be reflective on their own performance and many gain valuable insights into the world of work and work experience, with continued mentoring regularly offered. Our Active Citizen Programmes also includes Volunteering and Enrichment (where students can opt to learn new skills such as rock climbing or photography). Through this curriculum, and the many and varied leadership and mentoring opportunities they have as part of the Girls’ Day School Trust, our students develop impressive character and skills, putting them in an excellent position to face the challenging world of work in this new decade.