Skills for life, What IS that?

Skills for Life. I agree, it sounds like more ‘Ministry speak’. We’ve all had quite enough of that in the last three years. Nevertheless, if there was ever a time when we need a little dig out, it is now. Our world is bursting with confusing contradictions. Most of these don’t need repeating here because that will bewilder us further however, one cannot be ignored. The Chancellor’s enthusiasm to get over 50s back into work sharply contrasts with CMI’s assertion that employers do not favour older workers.

What is clear to anyone who has been near UK Plc recently is that a huge tranche of wisdom and experience has been voluntarily withdrawn or forcibly removed from our labour pool since the blight of Covid. In typical reactive style, companies working on an extremely short-term tactical leash have been compelled to fill competence gaps with the tallest substitute whether that candidate is ready and capable or not. In too many cases, these new appointees are enthusiastic yet ill-equipped. This means poor leadership decisions made by inexperienced people now, will have potentially ruinous consequences further down the track.

The labour market is gummed-up. Opportunities for capable people abound, but for some reason right-person, right-job is not happening on anything like the scale required to get UK Plc back on track. And so, to decoding  Skills for Life. To level-up opportunity (more Ministry speak), some aspiring new hires need to further develop basic human abilities. HR and L&D professionals are now calling these ‘Human Connection hard skills’ and suggesting that they are the most sought-after commodity when hiring.

What are they? The ability to engender trust and respect. The ability to communicate effectively and inclusively. The ability to and cope with the rapidly changing priorities which confront us every day. Whilst some younger candidates must develop muscularity in these areas, the Chancellor’s target group has an emphatic need to improve its familiarity with a digital world which is second nature to Generation Z, but confuses and terrifies Generation Y. None of this is about products or services or accountancy or engineering or science. It’s about having the right set of skills to work cooperatively and productively with others. Understanding the social conventions within a blended workforce drawn from across all groups in our society. Gluing us all together in a productive and supportive working environment is not a nice to have, it is existential.

Everyone’s Skills for Life development journey will be slightly different but none of us can remain the finished article for more than a short period in today’s ever shifting world. Developing Skills for Life which are in fact, skills for living, is a never-ending task. Have you started yet?