What Are Best Skills Qualifications?
I realise that the system most students find themselves in does not prepare them for job roles where the knowledge requirement is quite broad and deep, in addition to being able to apply combined knowledge. It is clear that PISA is helping to solve at least half of my issue, by ensuring that problem solving as opposed to just pure knowledge retention is tested, but I am still feeling short-changed about the breadth and depth of knowledge potential candidates might have.
I see several reasons why this might be the case. Firstly, using the UK as an example, education tends to taper toward specialism the further you get through the education system. Secondly, not every job role is obvious to students or educators. So, employers need to do a better job of working with institutions to better articulate what jobs and skills they require. Thirdly, as employers, we often rely too heavily on the experience that has been gained through formal examinations and professional qualifications when, in many cases, other experience should be viewed as having equal, and dare I say, possibly greater importance.
It is this third point where I wish to focus. At Promethean, we are global business, therefore, maybe more so than in other companies, additional language skills have a value. More importantly, language skills also bring a hidden value as that knowledge (and appreciation) leads to better business decisions. This is particularly true around things such as translation, and localisation of your products and services.
Therefore, does somebody need a language qualification and paper certificate, or would other evidence of language skills suffice? Can an informal path to language skills actually be worth more than the formal path? Are language skills gained overseas worth more than those gained in the classroom? The validity of both paths can be argued, and they certainly both have merit, but the point I am making is that the absence of the recognised qualification does not equal the absence of the knowledge. Yet how many of us disregard or downgrade experience that is not backed by a piece of paper or examination board?
The same can be said of the infamous ‘gap year’ (a time/year between school and career to pursue something entirely different), the butt of many a joke. However, just like people, not all gap years are made equal. There will of course be the individual, who appears to have wasted a full year, but takes the time to look a bit deeper. Look at where people have traveled, undertaken voluntary work, or experienced life in a number of different countries. In most cases, this will have given them global perspective that is difficult to teach or coach, and almost impossible to gain in the classroom or office. But you need to decide how much you feel that it’s worth without the security of grading by an examination board.
I am not suggesting we disregard structured qualifications. Society would struggle to operate without them, but we should look beyond them where the role dictates it. Schools and classroom give education much needed structure, but we know that learning isn’t restricted to, nor stops the moment you walk out of the classroom. Have the conviction to put your neck on the line as an employer, and take the time to consider broader experience, you may just get the better candidate, and that is better for you, your employer/company and your new recruit!
About the author: Iain Home is a UK father, student of education trends, and an international marketing strategist for Promethean. Iain is also a regular columnist at Connect Learning Today.