This World Youth Skills Day (15th July) University College Isle of Man’s (UCM) Employment and Skills Coordinator, Caroline Walter, is exploring why students need to develop employability skills and why this should be a key factor when young people are choosing their education pathway.
What are Employability Skills?
“Employability skills are a set of skills or behaviours that are required for any job. Whether you are working in construction, finance, retail or computing, employability skills enable you to work well with others, apply knowledge to solve problems and adapt to different tasks and environments.
“In the past people had a ‘career for life’ but now most people, over the course of their working life, will hold jobs with a variety of employers or work on different projects. Being prepared and successful in the world of work means that you will need to understand that we all have a set of employability skills. These are skills that are not specific to one particular career path but are useful across all employment sectors.
“Communication is the process of using words, sounds, signs and behaviours to share information. Depending on the job, communication means being clear about what you mean and what you want to achieve when you talk or write. It involves listening and being able to understand where someone else is coming from. Communication skills also include non-verbal communication, such as the body language you use.
“Teamwork is about working together to achieve a common aim. In work you may be required to work as part of different sized teams inside and outside of the organisation. Each member of the team is responsible for contributing to the task, but the group as a whole is responsible for the team’s success. A successful team player can work positively with people of different cultures, backgrounds and ages, listens to others perspectives, understands that people have different strengths and can solve conflict professionally.
“Problem Solving is the ability to look at information or a situation and think of an alternative to improve it. Organisations rely on people who can handle difficult or unexpected situations and complex business issues.
“Resilience has never been more important, we all need to have the ability to bounce back from a difficult situation and adapt to change. Developing skills of resilience can help you face challenges and difficulties in life, which can help you feel better and cope better. When you’re resilient, you’re more prepared to seek new ways to overcome your challenges and achieve your goals.
“Learning is a lifelong approach which doesn't just happen when you’re at school, college or university so it’s important to develop learning skills. Actively seeking new ways to learn and adapt will help you to keep your knowledge and skills up to date and active in the job market.
“Self-awareness, understanding your strengths, weaknesses, motivations and skills, is one of those most essential skills for any individual, regardless of what you do for a living. This gives you a better understanding of the unique qualities you bring to your interactions with others and to your work.”
How does a student develop these important Employability Skills?
“We already have lots of skills; for our students at UCM they adapted to new situations by joining UCM; communicate with lecturers and fellow students; work in or have the opportunity to lead teams; they have to plan and organise coursework; and much more. Activities both in and outside of the classroom such as clubs, sports and hobbies help build skills. Work placements that students have to complete as part of their course and learning in our real working environments are invaluable opportunities to build skills. I work with students to develop their skills and we have a programme of events to support them – so there’s lots going on to help our students develop the skills that will benefit them throughout their careers.”
Why should developing employability skills be a factor when people are choosing their education journey?
“Whatever subject you choose, what you learn ‘in the classroom’ is of course incredibly important but the importance of the skills you learn outside of the subject, such as employability skills, shouldn’t be taken for granted. They will help you stand out against other candidates when you are looking for employment and then go on to succeed in your role.
“For students who want to progress to degree level and post graduate qualifications they should also consider how important these skills are. Being able to demonstrate their skills on applications to universities is incredibly valuable.”