Creative and Employability Skills: Auchterarder

It is predicted by 2030 global youth unemployment will hit 60%.  This is coupled with 47% of jobs being automated.  The shift away from mass industry to a culture of freelance employment is unarguable.  The world of work is changing unlike anything ever experienced and with these monumental changes comes a new set of challenges for the next generations.  A future world full of uncertainty demands learners must be equipped with higher-order creativity skills that, as Education Scotland suggests:  will help children and young people not just understand the world, but be sufficiently equipped to influence its shape.

The CBI understands: Employability covers a broad range of non-academic or softer skills and abilities which are of value in the workplace. It includes the ability to work in a team; a willingness to demonstrate initiative and original thought; self-discipline in starting and completing tasks to deadline.

‘Bringing Auchterarder Together’ was a project that established a creative challenge then invited a group of S3 pupils to work on their own for a week.

 Within the ‘Bringing Auchterarder Together’ project we wanted to establish an experiment which explored the big picture leaning capabilities of young people to manage complex and challenging real world situations whilst working as self-directed learners.  In doing so we supported them to understand what we mean by creative and employability skills when not directly related to one job, i.e. what skills do all jobs need?  Whilst reflecting on the project the pupils understood these to be:

  • Taking responsibility
  • Decision making
  • Time keeping and deadlines
  • Speaking/communicating effectively
  • Team work/collaboration
  • Motivation/desire/work ethic

The project established a situation that did not rely on adult voice.  This was introduced to support the student’s ability to make decisions by themselves without the fear of an adult telling them they were wrong and, in doing so, disabled them from taking responsibility to think and act for themselves.

The group established structures that supported time and team management.  This can be a complicated process when working with 27 people, especially when they chose to function in one large group, in 3 smaller sub groups and also independently.  The adults only supported when asked and in doing so allowed the pupils time and space to work through problems rather than adults solving them for them.  These moments were messy and uncomfortable for the students as they were failing.  However, from these moments came real learning and understanding about the challenges faced when the answer isn’t known or at the ‘back of the book’.

The pupils were required to establish their own success criteria which they would monitor as the week developed.  This authentic sense of autonomy and control motivated the group as they had a strong desire not to let themselves or their peers down.  They took charge of their own learning and had the desire to achieve.

The decision to divide the large group into smaller groups supported the development of communication and team work skills.  This was again divisive and caused huge problems within the group dynamic.  They argued, challenged the system they had established, and exposed the problems of working democratically.  As uneasy and difficult as it was to watch it was imperative we (the adults), didn’t step in to solve their problems.  To do so removes the development of a skills base; in this case communication and collaboration.

When we work with subjective outcomes we start to discover pupils, who may thrive within other parts of their school life, begin to realise they need to develop new skills, i.e. imagination, creativity, innovation.  However, we also see less academic pupils begin to find their voice as their non-linear way of thinking becomes useful to the task/project.  They begin to find a voice which is not present within other areas of their curriculum.

Finally we explored skills relating to leadership.  The confusion of what makes a leader was evident.  By un-democratically electing a bad manager who was called ‘the leader’ forced the group into a confusing and problematic system which many struggled with.  The meetings were uncomfortable with deadlines missed and plans changed.  However, from these messy situations emerged passion, resilience and empathy.  Leaders, often not labelled as them, emerged to ask questions which forged new ideas, new collaborations and new thinking.  They started to discover what makes a leader by experiencing uncomfortable situations.

When we listen to pupils we discover their hopes, fears, aspirations and skill base.  As educators we then support them to fulfil their potential and, in doing so raise attainment.  It is being realised that what is more important is the skills of an individual in ‘acquiring, utilising, diffusing and creating knowledge for the future’ and that this process is a lateral process influenced by an individual’s natural talents and interest, where previously knowledge formation had been considered as a ‘linear, culmative process…static, eternal and free from subjective values and interpretations’.

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