Qualifications alone are not enough to guarantee a job and schools should be providing students with the skills that employers are looking for according to David Hermitt, Executive Principal, Congleton High School, an 11-18 specialist school of engineering, and Chief Executive Officer of Congleton Multi-Academy Trust in Congleton, South East Cheshire. In this article David talks about how his school ensured that 100 per cent of last year’s school leavers are now in education, employment or training.
Employability skills are generic, or transferable, skills or qualities highly valued by employers, such as team working, communication, problem-solving, resilience, creativity and a ‘can do’ attitude. There is no statutory requirement for schools to provide such skills but it is, of course, in the students’ and prospective employers’ best interests to provide opportunities for them to develop these skills.
In school, we promote the development of employability skills across the curriculum. We have linked these to our engineering specialism and have posters around the school, reminding students and staff that these skills and qualities are important in all subjects, particularly science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM ). We organise a wide range of extra-curricular and curricular STEM activities designed to help students to develop these skills.
Many of these activities are supported or organised by companies. For example, each year a Sixth Form team takes part in our ‘Engineering Education Scheme’, in which a company sets them a real problem to solve over several months. The project requires them to work effectively as a team, find a creative solution to the problem, communicate with engineers and other adults and present their work to a panel of experts.
At Congleton we quickly identify students that are more suited to a vocational pathway. Fourteen per cent of Year 12 students are on pure vocational courses and a further 21 per cent of students have at least one vocational course in their Level 3 options. Twenty five per cent of students in Year 13 are on pure vocational courses and a further 16 per cent of students have at least one vocational course in their Level 3 options.
Congleton delivers careers guidance throughout each Key Stage as part of the personal, social, health and economic (PHSE) programme, which is enhanced by visits to local employers, careers conventions and HE institutions or talks and workshops run by them in our school. The many vocational courses that we run also provide sector specific talks and visits which include careers advice.
Schools need to be preparing students for a rapidly changing world in which they will have to be flexible and resilient to achieve success. They must remember that formal qualifications alone will not prepare students for the challenges ahead. They must understand the importance of ‘softer’, employability skills and provide opportunities to develop these if students are to compete successfully for jobs.
David Hermitt is Executive Principal, Congleton High School, an 11-18 specialist school of engineering, and Chief Executive Officer of Congleton Multi-Academy Trust in Congleton, South East Cheshire.