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Emma Sue Prince



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From Barking to Bangladesh


...there is a skills gap. Quite literally at opposite ends of the world and everywhere in between there is a lack in crucial skills for employability and the workplace in general. I'm not talking about CV writing and interview technique - those are a given and if you don't have these you're not even in the race. Even if you have a degree or other qualifications. I'm not even talking about working well in a team or being able to present well and work to deadlines.

I believe the biggest gap is in self-awareness. How you conduct yourself in the world, understanding what triggers stress, how to use different communication styles, how to be present, focused and in the moment. Being accountable, being resilient, flexible and relaxed. Taking the initiative, being proactive and strong. Yet, most people do not think about the need to develop such skills or even that it might actually be possible to develop them in the first place. And yet if you develop and work on these, you are far more likely anyway to be a great team worker, a confident presenter, be accountable and reliable and a host of other things that employers want. You are also likely to be happier in your life and choose to go for work that interests you and that you are good at or choose to be innovative enough to create a new job that maybe does not even exist yet.

I've been experimenting with running short experiential learning workshops based on the skills outlined in my book The Advantage. They are designed to raise awareness of adaptability, critical thinking, empathy, integrity, optimism, being proactive and resilience. From the research I did in writing the book, whilst it is true that some of us may be naturally optimistic or resilient, through genes or life experience, all of these skills can actually be learned and developed.

Except you can't just attend a training course and be "proficient" in these kinds of skills. And training is not what I offer. What I do in the workshops is use exercises that help to immediately raise awareness of our capacity for and understanding of these skills. This happens through leading the group through an exercise designed to focus on, say resilience, and then facilitate reflection and discussion on what happened, what feelings that brought up and relating these to other aspects of our lives and work. The conversations that occur during these workshops are what enable individuals to learn about themselves and understand better how to apply and strengthen these skills. Each workshop is completely unique, even though we conduct similar exercises, because the individuals in the groups define these skills for themselves and their own situations. The intention is that the workshops create a springboard from which to start developing these skills in the day-to-day. Some of the exercises are physical in order to get people to really feel how a particular emotion or behaviour feels. One of the exercises we do is simply saying "yes" (ok, not that simple - it's actually a fun applied improv game) and we do this not just vocally but with the whole body in order to feel the immense surge of energy that comes with saying "yes" rather than "no" (even if it's just a quiet, internal "no") which is what we all tend to do as a default when something is unexpected or not as planned.

So far, I've run these workshops with groups of undergraduates, HE tutors and teachers in the UK and a variation of them with groups of business people and students in Bangladesh. Each group has been engaged, lively and willing to learn. It's been great and I've learned so much myself too.

I'm looking forward to running a further workshop this week in Cardiff with young apprentices and the week after with a group of senior leaders from the charity Teach First. And then back to Bangladesh.

The cornerstone of all development is self-awareness. I'm not a psychologist but I am a trainer and I know I can facilitate and create the space for workshop participants to heighten that awareness.

And if you're a teacher or trainer, so can you. The purpose of these pilots is to refine the 2-day workshop and then develop a network of licensed trainers. Interested? Comment here or come find me on Twitter @unimenta or read more here.

One Response

  1. Soft skills, hard truth

    I agree with Emma-Sue's comments, from Barking to Bangladesh.

    I provide soft skills through a job-ready programme for graduates and job seekers in Lagos, Nigeria. For us, there a more than a couple 'missing links' but particularly a lack of self-confidence and knowing what the employer expects of them at interview. Our workshops are focused on preparing for assessment tests, building self-confidence, and answering questions honestly without cramming answers about how to pass interview questions.

    Our work has just started.. the goal is to prepare 1000 graduates within a short period of time ( I shall reveal our findings after each quarter)

    I am glad to have found you, Emma-Sue. We shall continue on our quest to train and prepare these graduates and job seekers





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Emma Sue Prince


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