Earlier this month, I attended a session at the Business in the Parliament conference on ‘Aligning our future talent with the future skill needs of industry’. It was led by Young Enterprise Scotland, with whom we’re currently working in partnership on the ‘meta-skills’ agenda.
Skills Development Scotland’s Skills 4.0 report defines meta-skills as timeless, higher order skills that create adaptive learners and promote success in whatever context the future brings. These are the skills that enable individuals to perform highly today; in a changed world of work they will be required by all of us.
Of course these aren’t new skills, but the pace of change and the changing nature of jobs and careers in today’s world are making them ever more important. The three key skills areas defined in the Skills 4.0 report are self management, social intelligence and innovation. While we recognise that academic qualifications are still important in many fields, it is this wider skill set that will enable people to thrive in a career which is likely to involve several changes of direction and professional area as well as a wide range of educational pathways and opportunities.
The session at Business in the Parliament included an inspirational presentation from Scott Weir of property management company Pillow, on his approach to providing opportunities to young people who don’t have formal qualifications. Scott said that what he looks for is ‘passion and commitment, nothing else’ and a ‘fire in someone’s eyes’. Jim Duffy, of The Awards Network, spoke eloquently on their support for youth awards across Scotland and highlighted that ‘the formal education sector doesn’t own learning’. In both cases, the development of meta-skills in different contexts is at the heart of the opportunities offered to young people, equipping them with the skills to support a successful career.
Developing 'meta-skills' within Journey to Success
Our education work at The Robertson Trust is, of course, rooted in our desire to contribute to a fair and compassionate Scotland and support the formal education system to widen access and ensure the success of all our young people. But within that context, we see the development of meta-skills as a key area in which we can add value to the students we support directly and through our widening access projects. That’s why a central part of our Journey to Success programme is our training sessions (pictured), which all our Scholars attend. Starting with ‘road mapping success’, which focuses on the importance of support networks and mental wellbeing, we move through career networking, understanding recruitment practices and preparing for internships and work experience to one-to-one coaching and mentoring as the Scholars prepare to make the transition into graduate employment. Through our career pathways we provide internships and professional mentors to enable the Scholars to focus on the non-academic skills they will need to be successful.
After graduation our growing alumni network will continue to offer support and mentoring as our Scholars develop their careers. Along with Young Enterprise Scotland and Skills Development Scotland we are planning an initial look at the way in which meta-skills are developed through our work and that of other third sector providers to equip young people with the skills they need to succeed.
Demonstrating how they put their meta-skills into practice, we’re thrilled that our alumni have recently launched The Tartan Fund, which enables them to develop their philanthropic activity through making a small grant of up to £800 to a community group, charity or individual each quarter. The initiative and organisational skills demonstrated by our alumni are exactly what we try to develop through our programme and we wish the Tartan group every success in their venture.
To return to Scott Weir’s focus on ‘passion and commitment’, this is very much what we look for when we recruit our Scholars. We’re often asked what selection criteria we use, and it’s not an easy question to answer, because while all our Scholars come from challenging socio-economic backgrounds, every one is unique. While certain criteria, such as financial hardship, experience of care or being a young carer are taken into account, a commitment to learning and a willingness to embrace the opportunities that our programme provides are the most important factors. We want all of our Scholars to be successful in whatever path they choose through life, and the task we set ourselves is to give them the skills they need to go with their passion and commitment.
With this in mind, we were pleased to launch our Summer Internship Scheme 2020 earlier this month. This fully-funded scheme has received excellent feedback from hosts and participants in recent years and I'd encourage any employer interested in hosting a Robertson Scholar for two months next summer to visit here for more details. It's a great opportunity to help with a Scholar's career development but we believe, and feedback has shown, that the benefit is two-way - as brought to life by the video below.