The importance of soft employability and enterprise skills for young people’s careers have been demonstrated by various organisations on numerous occasions but how we measure young people’s development of these crucial skills still proves to be challenging.
A 2015 report sponsored by McDonald’s – “Backing Soft Skills”– investigates in depth the penalties of underinvesting in soft employability skills.
Additionally, the report calls for various education establishments to start formally embedding soft employability skills into curriculum and extra curriculum activities.
The proposed solution simply “makes sense” but the practicality of embedding soft skills formally into education systems might be a bit more challenging than the aspirations stated in the report.
For instance, as a training company supporting a variety of educational and youth organisations, Employability Town is often asked how you can effectively measure the development of young people’s soft employability skills especially when it comes to one-off events and workshops.
For a dose of useful inspiration, I would like to present to you our work with Elevate Slough (City Deal). As with all such funded projects, Elevate Slough is faced with a range of pre-defined KPI’s to hit and so just delivering an event on soft skills is not enough. Clear outcomes need to be demonstrated.
Elevate Slough is a youth employment program aimed at 16-24 year olds offering help, advice and support on employment, work experience, volunteering and mentoring with the goal of reducing the number of NEETs (Not in Education Employment or Training) in the Slough community.
Employability Town was delighted to support the delivery of an Elevate Slough event “How to Become Super Employable” , which was organised into two parts; a morning employability boost workshop and afternoon networking event for traineeship opportunities. During this event, I used the following four tools to measure the progress of young people in developing soft employability skills:
Young people’s subjective views
Even though it is the most basic evaluation of the training outcomes, it is always valuable to go back to young people and simply ask them how they rate their own skills. Therefore, I asked young people to complete a short questionnaire to tell us how they feel about their soft skills after the workshop. (You can find the outcomes of the questionnaire here).
In most cases, training evaluation begins and ends here. However, since views and feelings of our own skills are very subjective, your measurement strategy should not be limited to only this tool.
None of us like to be assessed but there are plenty of exercises available that allow you to check throughout the training whether the content was learned or not without participants knowing they are being assessed. In other words, we need to determine whether young people truly understand the concepts behind soft skills in a fun but challenging way. This is why during the Elevate Slough event I faced participants with various forms of quizzes throughout the sessions.
Even though young people can grasp the concepts behind soft skills and feel more confident about them that does not mean that they are going to use and apply their newly learnt skills in their professional life.
That is why the next step is to go further and incorporate the following tools:
Evidencing the skills
This involves asking the young people to take the learnt concepts and apply them into completing practical exercises. During the Elevate Slough event, young people were asked to apply demonstrated concepts by completing practical exercises from which their individual portfolio of work was created. For instance, many young people could define and explain the elevator pitch but they agreed that they fully understood it when writing and presenting their own skill pitch.
Designing a real-life test for young people allows you to check whether they are truly applying what they learnt. In the afternoon session of the event, young people had a chance to network and pitch their skills to various traineeship providers who were aware of our learning objectives. The young people were tasked with the goal of finding the right traineeship and to pass the initial screening for the opportunity then and there.
The event finished with a high success rate of each young person having a new career plan and a specific opportunity to undertake in the near future!
In an ideal world, we should incorporate all four tools to truly assess young people’s progress in developing soft skills because only then can we be sure that the training programs have an impact on the young people’s career.