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Simon Price

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Practise what you preach: Transfer your skills


Simon Price, associate solicitor and professional development lawyer at DWF, considers the need for teaching transferable skills and how businesses can invest in the future generation.
When looking at today's competitive job market it is clear to see that an increasing number of positions, including graduate roles, require today's jobseekers to be self-starters who are able to effectively communicate, lead a team and learn from their colleagues, as well as possessing a whole host of other 'soft skills'. Where previously it was expected that a graduate would learn all of these skills on the job, now it is expected that they will bring these transferable skills to the job.
While employers are right to expect their new starters to hit the ground running, having the basics already firmly under their belt, the reality is most graduates have not had the opportunities to learn these skills while they have been studying. Such skills can be taught and developed, and students who graduate with soft skills are at a huge advantage when it comes to securing their chosen career.

Teaching transferable skills

Universities, schools and colleges are increasingly aware of the need to help students develop these relevant skills, but it must be remembered that it's not as easy as providing inductions on employability, or giving a lecture on how to act once in their chosen role. Ultimately, transferable skills need to be practised in order to be learnt and perfected – reading from a handout or downloading a podcast isn't going to enable students to absorb the skills employers are expecting them to possess. Two key attributes that educational establishments can help young people to build through a programme of practical workshops are:
  • Confidence: A key attribute for any potential employee. This is not the gift of the gab or something you were born with. Confidence is a process of empowering young people to develop a sense of self-assurance through an understanding of their own key strengths. Once developed, it will allow them to differentiate themselves from the rest of the crowd and enable them to project the best versions of themselves to others.
  • Optimism: Receiving rejection is tough for many people – not just new graduates. Often it can lead to pessimism. However, some are able to view rejection as an opportunity – a chance to learn, adapt and tackle the problem head on. They have learnt to understand that rejection is a part of life, and have the confidence and belief that they can develop the necessary skills to turn the situation around. What sets these people apart is optimism, and it is something we all need to be encouraging in the younger generation.
"Ultimately, transferable skills need to be practised in order to be learnt and perfected – reading from a handout or downloading a podcast isn't going to enable students to absorb the skills employers are expecting them to possess."

How can employers help?

For many young people, a lack of experience is holding them back. While they have spent nearly 20 years in academia they often have little or no experience of a working environment, or what the day-to-day demands of a job will require. Employers can play a key role in preparing young people for working life through offering:
  • Work placements: Employers can provide a lifeline to students by offering them realistic work placements. These often short-term positions allow young people to build up their practical knowledge of the workplace and shadow someone already successful in their chosen position. Employers can add real value by engaging with the young person, transferring their knowledge and expertise in handling the pressures of the modern working environment and offering encouragement. Through their experiences, students can build up their confidence and ability to tackle new and challenging situations, and in doing so can begin to lay the foundations for a successful career.
  • Staff placements: Businesses can partner with schools, universities and colleges to offer staff work placements. For example, Liverpool John Moores University runs an iniaitive called World of Work, which gives its employees the chance to try out a staff work placement at other businesses, such as at a national law firm. By having a member of staff try out a new work environment that is very different to their own, it can provide a welcome insight into the world of work a lot of their pupils will be seeking to enter. This knowledge can then be transferred back to the students allowing this practical experience to be embedded into the school day. This approach also allows businesses to gain an insight into the world of education.
  • Mentoring: Employers can also invest in students by partnering with academic establishments to offer mentoring schemes where members of staff go into the school to offer advice and guidance, explaining what their role involves and how they work.

Investing in the future generation

Employers, schools, colleges and universities are all embracing the need to ensure students develop transferrable skills that will prepare them for life outside of education. Early investment will pay dividends in the end, thoroughly preparing the future workforce for the real work environment and equipping them with the skills they need to succeed.
The value of practical experience for young people really cannot be overstated. Whether businesses invest directly in individuals by offering work experience placements, or in educational establishments through partnership schemes, it is vital that employers are engaged with their future potential employees, helping them to translate theory into practice, and ultimately become highly employable individuals.
Simon Price is an education sector-focused professional development lawyer. He also has significant experience as a learning and development professional having worked with thousands of people helping them develop their potential. Simon works extensively in schools, colleges and universities delivering aspirational development programmes for young people and has been involved with organising placements at DWF as part of Liverpool John Moores University's World of Work programme


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