Soft Skills or STEM? What skills will our children need in their future employment?

How after school activities can help prepare your child for the world of work

Try to think back to a time before smartphones, tablets, social media networks and Skype. Seems impossible doesn’t it? Technology has radically changed the way we perceive the world, and the way we live, learn and work. The world of work in particular is constantly evolving to adapt to these technological and cultural changes.

With these shifts what will employers look for in the CVs of their future workforce? Will they primarily looking for STEM qualifications or will they also look for evidence of ‘soft skills’ such as critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity in their employees? As parents, how can we ensure that we fully equip our children with the balance of skills and experiences they need for their future.

In this blog we take a look at how we can improve the future employment prospects for young people through ‘soft skill’ development in after school activities. We will also explore STEM and its role in the world of work and share our top tips on how to get the balance right.

The World of Work is Changing

Technology has certainly made the world smaller. Gone are the days of the traditional ‘coat on the back of the chair’ office culture in many companies around the world. The introduction of video conferencing and super-speed broadband means that we no longer have to be sat behind a desk in a traditional office environment for work. There is definitely a rise in a more remote and flexible work culture in the workplace.

Indeed this rapid rise of tech could also mean an increase in the automation of jobs. This is a fact highlighted by PricewaterhouseCoopers in their recent report in which they state that “Up to around 30% of existing UK jobs are susceptible to automation from robotics and Artificial Intelligence by the early 2030s.” (1)

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) of course definitely plays an important role in the skills required in the workplace. But in light of these ongoing changes in technology and the increased threat of automation of jobs, what other attributes will future employers be looking for in an employee? Could it be that they also consider ‘soft’ skills based on teamwork, creativity, expression and collaboration as much as they do STEM qualifications?

''Backing Soft Skills''

Schools strive to support STEM as much as they can in the current education climate. It is evident that schools provide a digital presence to a certain degree. We often see tablets used in classrooms and coding lessons being taught in schools.

But is this enough? Alongside the traditional subjects and of course STEM what other skills will our children need in the future world of work?

James Caan CBE is one of the UK’s most successful and dynamic entrepreneurs. Mr Caan collaborated with McDonald’s on their initiative ‘Backing Soft Skills'. This campaign was partnered and supported by a number of influential businesses and youth and education charities to promote the importance of ‘soft skills’ in the workplace and the development of these skills in young people. Speaking to Huffington Post he commented: “Whilst I didn’t have the traditional platform available to sell myself academically, I knew my communication skills, time management and decision making abilities would be the solid foundations for me to achieve my goals.” (2)

According to research carried out by the ‘Backing Soft Skills’ campaign: “97% of UK employers believe soft skills are important to their current business success, and over half say skills like communication and teamwork are more important than traditional academic results”. (3)

From an economic point of view it is also estimated that “soft skills contribute £88 billion to the UK economy today (2015) - with this contribution predicted to increase to £109 billion during the next few years” (3).

These are truly fascinating statistics and definitely food for thought when considering the skills we need to encourage and nurture in our children for their employment future.

It is true to say that these all important soft skills are taught to a certain degree in schools through subjects such as the arts (music, drama, dance and art) and in PE. They may also be drawn upon in different educational settings such as group-work in other traditional STEM subjects. But alongside this level of skill development, what else can we do to drive and nurture these skills outside of the classroom?

After School Activity Achievements

Activities after school can help your child to develop a variety of soft skills in an environment where they feel relaxed and therefore more confident. Soft skills feature in numerous activities you may not have perhaps realised.

We review some of the more popular soft skills and explain how your child’s after school activity can help equip them with the key skills they need for their working future.

Teamwork:

Scouts

With separate groups for different ages, Scouting helps support your child as they grow. With adventure at its heart each Scouting section will offer your child a variety of challenges and activities, to work through individually and as a team. There is definitely a strong sense of community and belonging.

Netball

Netball is the perfect team sport for kids of all ages. This unique sport requires teamwork as many of the playing positions are restricted to where they can move on the court. Therefore the netball team must cooperate and work together to attack, defend and score goals. This strong camaraderie is often present both on and off the court. Making Netball an extremely sociable sport.

Collaboration, Communication:

Rowing

Rowing is a very sociable sport. There are often social activities going both on and out of the water if your child chooses to join a rowing club. Rowing also promotes teamwork and camaraderie amongst rowers. You need intense collaborative effort and in sync precise timing to get the boat moving faster through the water. Therefore everyone in the boat has a job to do in precise collaboration with others to make it work.

Confidence:

Gymnastics

The discipline of gymnastics can really help to develop your child’s confidence as they learn new apparatus and skills. It can also assist them in conquering any childhood fear they may have such as fear of heights, making it a fantastic activity for building courage in your child.

Yoga

Yoga helps your child to develop their own body awareness, through learning how to use their bodies for health and fitness. Yoga classes for children and in particular young people can also help to increase confidence and promote a positive self-image. This is mainly due to Yoga not being considered as a competitive sport or activity for children. Yoga can therefore be practised, learnt and explored at each individual child’s own pace.

Critical Thinking:

Tennis

Tennis is a physical non-contact sport and also a game of strategy and tactics against your opponent. Your child will learn how to think strategically whilst staying active. A great skill to build your child’s focus and concentration.

Fencing

Along with basic Fencing skills your child will learn to develop their strategic thinking and concentration. In competition Fencers must ‘hit’ their opponent up to fifteen times by touching them with their Foil in a specific target zone. Children must learn to think tactically and think about their strategy whilst participating in the sport.

Self Expression:

Dance and Drama

Getting involved in dance and drama allows kids space to express themselves creatively. Allowing them to let off steam through this ‘freedom of expression’ is great way for releasing stress outside of the classroom.

Stress Management:

Horse Riding

Horse riding is great for getting your child outside enjoying nature and the great outdoors. Many horse riding lessons take place outside (although there are some stables that provide indoor arenas in case of poor weather). Being outside in the fresh air helps children to relax and de-stress which can help their overall wellbeing.

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Resources:

(1) pwc.blogs.com/press_room/2017/03/up-to-30-of-existing-uk-jobs-could-be-impacted-by-automation-by-early-2030s-but-this-should-be-offse.html

(2) huffingtonpost.co.uk/james-caan/soft-skills-business-management_b_7712228.html

(3) backingsoftskills.co.uk/

#Afterschoolactivities #STEM #SoftSkills

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