Why Future Focused Skills are important

Jo Vigneron
Jo Vigneron, Principal


Over the last 18 months, humanity has faced unprecedented challenges. Accelerating globalisation, the speed of technological development, political unrest and the pandemic are fuelling social, economic, and environmental concerns. As educators we have a duty to prepare our students with the knowledge and skills that enable them to confront these challenges and take their place as responsible global citizens who are able to thrive in their future careers, university studies and adult lives. 

Research shows that aside from the core academic and job-related skills – English, Maths and Sciences – what students need to be successful and to progress to their chosen field are the skills that make us human and bring the richness and depth into life. Recent research revealed that 9/10 employers believe that emotional intelligence, the ability to collaborate, think critically and creatively and communicate effectively are the most important skills for employees to have, and yet it is these that so many students currently lack. Graduate recruiters tell a similar story: 90% rank human skills among the top three most important factors in hiring decisions.

At Pearson Online Academy UK Global we believe these ‘human’ skills are essential transferable skills that not only contribute to how individuals work, either individually or collaboratively, but also in how they manage their own lives. These skills enable our students to prioritise, build relationships, make well thought through decisions, and ultimately take ownership of their own learning and decisions. These skills are often referred to as ‘soft skills’, ‘21st century skills’ or ‘future skills’, and are needed by everybody regardless of specific occupation. 

We break them into seven categories: 

  1. Critical thinking: Being intentional and deliberate when gathering information and/or evidence and then being able to analyse and use this to make informed decisions, draw conclusions, design and create. 

  1. Creativity: Someone with creative skills is able to think laterally and identify potential everywhere. They can drive business innovation by producing novel and useful ideas. This skill is supported by an ability to engage in unconventional or divergent thinking. 

  1. Communication: Great communication occurs when individuals listen with intent and seek to understand. In turn they are able to communicate in a manner that allows the listener to understand: using the appropriate language level, intonation and well-structured prose that sets out the message clearly and logically. Communication is both a social process, a conversation of exchanging messages in order to create shared meaning and achieve outcomes, and one-way (e.g. public speaking).  

  1. Collaboration: Working well with others to achieve shared goals thereby building more productive teams and fostering a better and more enjoyable workplace. 

  1. Self-management: People with strong self-management skills are often more motivated, reliable, and need less oversight than those who are less organised. They are generally able to manage their emotions, behaviour, and effort. Those who self-regulate are self-reflective and regularly monitor their progress allowing them to continually learn and improve. 

  1. Leadership: Teams with better leaders have higher levels of performance, stronger motivation, and more job satisfaction. Leadership opportunities exist at all levels and all are able to practice these skills. 

  1. Social responsibility: Behaving ethically and sensitively toward social, cultural, civic, and environmental issues. Those that understand cultural differences are better placed to work in increasingly globalised workspaces. 

Developing these skills prepares and equips our young people for university and their first job. It places them at the head of the group when applying for jobs and speaking at interview and equips them with the skills necessary to develop and grow their careers. 

Often content knowledge takes precedence at school, and there is little focus on these skills. It is easy to assume that children will naturally develop these capabilities, (for example, learning how to collaborate by completing a group project), however, this is not the case. In order to address this at Pearson Online Academy, we have integrated these skills across the curriculum and each one is explicitly taught: 

  • We support our students as they learn manage their own time and workload, developing effective organisational skills.  

  • We build opportunities for the development of communication and collaboration skills, for example through our debating and Amnesty International Co-curricular clubs. 

  • Students have multiple opportunities to develop their skills through our co-curricular activities – for example taking leadership positions in clubs and societies, or through positions on the Student Council. They can also be assembly presenters and take part in mentoring programmes. 

  • Our Success Coaches, tutors and teachers all have regular conversations with our students, ensuring that these skills remain in their consciousness, and they remain on track to progress. 

In subsequent blogs in the Future Focused Skills series we will share advice on how to find opportunities to develop these all-important skills.