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How you can help your child develop employability skills

To succeed in the world of work, employers will expect your child to have certain basic employability skills (sometimes called “key skills”).

These are skills which are needed to virtually any job – and even just to get by in life. Everybody needs these key employability skills, regardless of the industry or role they work in. There are plenty of ways your child can develop these skills at school or in their home life, even if they don’t have a part-time job.

In this article we’ll look at what those employability skills are and how you can help your child gain them.

'How to help your child gain employability skills'

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What are employability skills?

There is no authoritative list but there is a lot of overlap in what skills employers say they want as a bare minimum when taking on a new member of staff.

This is a list of key employability skills we recommend your child can demonstrate they have when they start applying for work:

How can I help my child gain employability skills?

1. Communication

What are communication skills?

People standing in circle
Communication is about listening well in addition to speaking

Good communication is the ability to express yourself clearly verbally and in writing. It also includes the ability to listen to others and process information accurately.

How to help your child gain communication skills

Encourage your child to get a Saturday or evening job that they can work around their studies. A job in a shop or restaurant/cafe will give them experience of listening to customers and communicating key information. They will get used to communicating with strangers, which will probably be a new experience for them. Gaining experience of this will boost their self-confidence and make this process second nature when they apply for full-time work later on. If they are shy, it will also help them get over that feeling of being tongue-tied around people they don’t know.

Other ways your child can gain communication skills:

Writing a blog: Communication skills are about writing too and a blog is a good way for students to hone these outside the classroom, writing on a topic they are interested in.

Joining a debating society: Some schools run debating societies where students learn how to analyse and respond to arguments on the spot. This can help your child learn to communicate effectively in a more formal style.

Taking part in a reading group: See if the school library runs a book society such as Carnegie Award Shadowing, where your child can discuss their reading with other students, learning to coherently express their thoughts aloud.

3. Teamwork

What is teamwork?

People round a table
Teamwork is working with others towards a common goal

Teamwork is the ability to work together with others towards a common goal, making the most of the group’s different strengths and abilities.

How to help your child gain teamwork skills

Team sport is the perfect example of working together towards a common goal so if your child is sporty, encourage them to join a sports team. Not everyone likes sport so if it’s not their bag, consider encouraging them to get involved with another lunchtime or afternoon school club. This could be an eco club, school orchestra, rocket society, drama society, construction club or gardening club. Any environment where students are working with others is a great opportunity for your child to learn how to support others and how to share and take responsibility to get something done.

Other ways your child can gain teamwork skills:

Project with friends: Outside of school, your child could work on a project together with friends. This is a really casual way to figure out ways of working together and will feel more like fun than a chore or task.

Join a band: Your child could join (or form) a band with friends or peers from school. They probably won’t even realise they’re developing teamwork skills this way, but they will be working with fellow band-members to create a composition or performance which, er, plays to each musician’s strengths.

3. Initiative

What is initiative?

Lightbulb moment

Initiative is about having ideas and making them happen

Initiative is being proactive, taking responsibility and making decisions for yourself to get things done, rather than waiting to be told what to do.

How to help your child gain initiative

It might sound like a tall order, but it is actually possible for your child to develop the skill of initiative. It’s not something they have or don’t have – it’s something they can demonstrate. It’s partly about getting into the habit of stepping up to do things before you’ve been told to do them. One way your child can hone then initiative is to put themselves in a position where it is demanded of them in order to make things happen. For example, they could take on a leading role within a club or society, such as chair or treasurer. They will need to demonstrate initiative to ensure their role gets done and the club continues to run smoothly.

Other ways your child can gain teamwork skills:

Start a project: Your child could get involved with a music, art or drama project which demands initiative – actively finding out how to do things and then making them happen.

4. Problem-solving

What is problem-solving?

Problem-solving sign
Solving problems is key in the majority of roles

Overcoming problems using creativity and logic is an absolute must for every employer.

How to help your child gain problem-solving skills

Problem-solving is a skill we all use every day so the challenge for your child is not so much gaining the skill but recognising that they already have it. This way, that they can be confident in their own abilities and put their problem-solving skills into action when they need to. Most people associate problem-solving with science-based subjects such as maths and physics. But everything from analysing a poem in English to designing a chair in design and technology or conceptualising a painting in art involves problem-solving. Ask your child about what they did at school/college today and encourage them to think about how they might have overcome problems in unusual scenarios.

Other ways your child can gain problem-solving skills:

Breaking down the task: Breaking a problem down into manageable chunks is a great way to make a big and seemingly insurmountable challenge easier to deal with.

IDEAL technique: A variation on the above, this technique involves splitting seemingly complex problems into a series of stages: Identify problem (work out what the problem is), Define goals (set out specific things that you’re going to achieve), Explore ways of reaching your goal (work out different ways of achieving them), Act (enact a specific course of action), Look and learn (review what worked and what didn’t work about what you did).

5. Computer / IT skills

What are computer and IT skills?

Young people have grown up surrounded by technology, but there are a whole host of apps and software that can aid our everyday work from automating tasks to helping us organise our workload. Students are quick learners when it comes to tech, but it’s important that they know how to find new software to help them at work.

How to help your child gain computer and IT skills

The chances are your child is already pretty tech savvy and leads a large part of their life online. A really important skill for work is knowing how to find new apps and software to tackle specific challenges. This is really just the skill of using Google! Whenever we come up against an organisational challenge or repetitive task, it is worth being in the habit of searching online for a tech solution. There are so many free apps and tools out their, from Doodle Poll or when2meet for organising meetings, Trello for task management, Google Drive for organising and sharing files, various tools for converting files into different types and all sorts of add-ons for your browser or email inbox.

Other ways your child can gain computer and IT skills:

Use something new: Each week, encourage your child to find one new piece of software to help them in their school or home life.

Specialist software: If your child has a good idea of what they want to do in their career, encourage them to research software to do with this career path. For example, a graphic designer needs to know how to use Photoshop and InDesign.

Hardware: Being confident with hardware such as projectors, office speakers and other kit is a more niche skill. Get your child to set up any new equipment you buy for the household, such as a Chromecast, Amazon Dot etc.

Other skills

This is an introduction to the top five skills on our list. We have in-depth articles on each of these employability skills, or we’re working on detailed articles which we will publish soon.

Click the links below to navigate to the articles:

  • Organisation – coming soon
  • Leadership
  • Hard work and dedication – coming soon
  • Creativity
  • Numeracy – coming soon
  • Reliability – coming soon

Found this article useful? Check out our full list of articles on employability skills.

Images: Zweimaldrei via photopin (license)