On-going learning and skills for the future are an integral part of the StayOn project’s mission for a more inclusive, active and creative world. It coincides perfectly with European Year of Skills and its Agenda for sustainable competitiveness, social fairness and resilience whose objective is also to “ensure people have the skills they need to thrive” in a fast-moving labour market and even more importantly for sustainable development & a green and digital transition.
In line with the EU agenda, our project also acknowledges the importance of including everyone in lifelong learning by focusing on empowering disadvantaged youth in rural areas. Our trainings aim to help them build their skillset through improving their existing skills just as much as through training in new skills. Coaching, which is a vital part of the project, then supports the participants in having the courage to take the (newly) learned skills through training to the market and implement them in their life. Together, this equips them to find and benefit from more (job) opportunities as well as boosts their confidence and builds connections. It makes it easier to prepare them for not just the current but also the future market conditions and the potential changes in society. Or as the StayOn partnership vision states: Encourage & motivate & equip young people with soft and hard skills to achieve their professional goals.
Soft skills that we find vital for our project participants could be divided in four main groups or themes:
- overcoming challenges: problem solving, system thinking, critical thinking (value orientation), imagination;
- personal drive: proactiveness, self-management, self-esteem, self-awareness, self-efficacy;
- humanity: teamwork, relationship building, empathy, communication;
- learning: lifelong learning, digital literacy.
All of them are of considerable value on both personal and professional level, since they facilitate navigating the challenges and the complexity of the world just as much in life as in one’s occupation.
We also kept this motivation and our project’s aim in mind in the innovative gamification of personal development support. The chosen skills and types served us as a basis when creating a personal development tool, called The Shapers,in the form of cards, divided into four needs (imagination, focus, action, reflection) and activities (ice-breaker, inspiration, challenge, career coaching). They are being used by the StayOn coaches and are intended for sharpening and strengthening the players’ competences by offering them inspiring quotes, provoking questions and challenges. The purpose of the game is to help project participants with the desired personal development: address their career goals, aspirations, doubts and ideas & raise their motivation and grow their confidence to stay-on in their local communities and continue their career path there. The card game offers a stimulus and a dynamic that engages the participants to work on their skill set in a fun & structured way.
In a world where change is the only constant, the ability to think, question and make sense of it is fundamental.For resolving any kind of issues, we require skills of problem solving and critical thinking; furthermore, systems thinking and imagination are gaining in importance with the growing complexity and connectedness of challenges we face. We need to be able to deeply understand them, explore their roots, their effect on our daily lives & lives of people in our community as well as their role on a wider scale. To solve them we believe it is crucial that we sharpen our capabilities of imagining alternative scenarios and use our creativity. How we used to see and manage things in the past might not be working as well in the present and even less in the future, so we have to be open to see many possibilities and be able to come up with new inventive solutions.
When we think about all these challenges, transformations and lack of stability, it is not hard to see that knowing how to manage our own personal determination and ambition comes in handy. That is why we also include the skills of proactiveness, self-management, self-esteem, self-awareness and self-efficacy as critical for our youth’s future, even more so unfortunately when it comes to underprivileged groups. These skills consist of knowing how to identify one’s limits, but also how to go beyond the limits we believe we have, having the capability to motivate yourself to change and evolve, determine the steps to take and actually take them, and then stay motivated through difficult times. In short, to choose your path and follow it with a well-grounded confidence.
Just as significantly, soft skills, connected to our relationships with colleagues or just fellow human beings in general, are only growing in importance in recent years. Companies and organizations are more and more aware that investing in them benefits them greatly and are likewise looking for these skills in future employees. Teamwork, relationship building, empathy and overall communication skills are skills we need to be able to work together, make sure everybody gets their opportunity, listen to their contributions and build a better future together. Including different points of view and seizing everyone’s potential makes us stronger as an organization and as a society. These skills also address some of the rising cultural tensions by celebrating our diversity and collaboration. It is only together we can find and employ the best solutions in times of crisis as well as for a sustainable transition.
Last but not least, we have already emphasised that a positive attitude towards lifelong learning, the willingness and a habit to learn, curiosity and flexibility are absolutely essential for future workers to remain competitive and to succeed, hence crucial for today’s youth and their resilience. Learning is a skill for life– the one that can enable and simplify all others. With the rapid advances in technology, digital literacy is a skill that keeps needing an update and is never fully gained, although it is, at the same time, much easier once we cover the basics and understand its logic. While the importance of formal education and certification is transforming in some fields, it is interesting to also keep in mind how personal passions and hobbies can contribute to young persons’ well-being and (in)directly build their skillsets. They balance their work-life balance, keep them open and positive, fuel their curiosity and very likely build their (inter)personal skills.
Joining the skills of personal drive with those of humanity, dialogue and openness is a powerful and transformative combination for our youth’s success as well as a recipe for a healthier future society.
We do not just talk about these skills and their importance as project partners for our participants, we put them to work, practice and build them, too, as we work on the project’s mission and beyond. Therefore, to determine which skills are central for our target group, we put emphasis on the process of discussing and deciding itself as well. We included all partners and invited them to contribute their ideas, and created the final version together through partnership sharing and collaborating. That way, we ourselves actively engaged in an essential skill for a sustainable future – cooperation, which practices inclusive communication and empathy as well as feeds imagination with richness of diverse perspectives.