The seven skills the future demands.

New skills, old skills? New organisations, revisited skills?

As you will probably know, we have been working with young people for 12 years – we started off delivering Enterprise programmes (hence the name!) in schools and we’ve developed in a variety of ways with a variety of partners and clients and now deliver a huge range of programmes around mindset, enterprise, creativity, mentoring and life skills in schools and other workplaces and organisations.

Enterprise skills and attitude are our specialist subjects and these are still the foundation stones of all of our activities and resources. As you are aware, we live in a changing world and all the PEST areas are currently vying for the fastest, most-clicked and craziest stories from around the world:

  • Politics – with Brexit, Mr Trump, Eurpoean integration and other political stresses, the world is finding itself confronted with many new areas to consider, conflicts to resolve and population exodus from many places (or are they old issues in new clothes?)
  • Economics – since the Crash 10 years ago the world has been coming to terms with a different set of economic forecasts and a very real and growing gap between rich and poor. (New Economics, or a re-hash of the Depression and all the fallout?)
  • Social – factors around the world are brought into instant focus through the internet: the rise of fascism, changes in family shape and size, global refugee crises, religious schisms, displaced peoples and land-grabs. (Or has it always been like this?)
  • Technological – the change in pace of technology (Nokia was the biggest phone maker in the world a decade ago), instant access to anything, chaotic and disruptive technologies such as Uber and Cloud Computing are all having a major effect on our lives, workplaces and levels of connectedness and stress. (or was this affected in the 1800s and 1900s with the development of steam, combustion engines and mechanization?)

My question is: with all this going on, what do we need to be supporting our young people with to enable them to cope with the future? Does it need to be a radical set of skills and behaviours? Do they need to be fitted with implanted microchips and do they need skills in how to live in space?

This is the kind of thing I think about.

Luckily, the World Economic Forum (WEF) recently issued some research that they had commissioned* about the future skills required by students going into the workplace of the future – the key findings were that young people need the following skills and behaviours to survive and thrive in the 21st Century workplace (and beyond):

  1. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  2. Collaboration and Leading by Influence
  3. Agility and Adaptability
  4. Initiative and Entrepreneurialism
  5. Good Oral and Written Communication
  6. Accessing and Analysing Information
  7. Curiosity and Imagination.

WOW! A whole new set of skills and behaviours then?

How will we cope with all that then?

Who is going to pay for all that stuff then…?

Now here’s the good news: Most students are getting most of these skills developed during their education, part-time jobs and in work experience. Some students are getting these skills developed but don’t necessarily know it. Some students (with help from tutors and parents) will realize that these skills are useful and translate them into self-reflection for their job, apprenticeship and University applications.

Sadly some students won’t see these skills in themselves; don’t see them as relevant and also won’t translate them onto paper in applications or into words for interviews. This is what we do through corporate mentoring and our workshops.

Look at those seven skills again – go on – they’re not that complicated are they?

They’re not that unusual are they?

Just like the PEST analysis of current world events, these skills have always (to some extent) been important to the world of work and how people navigate their way through it.

Each of the elements has been taught or picked up by young people as they develop skills through play, interaction, teaching, work or sport but the emphasis on different areas of the skills has changed through time. Currently we are negotiating a set of new norms in work – short-term contracts, zero-hours contracts, modern apprenticeships, University courses plus tuition fees – and the creative, entrepreneurial, collaboration and initiative skillsets are in the ascendency…not all of which can be taught in the classroom – which is why we support businesses who want to work with schools, we deliver workshops and also design and facilitate activities to get students thinking differently.

The world of work is changing fast but we can help young people cope if we look at the skills they need and make sure we get them covered AND highlight that the students ARE learning them.

I’m sure when we look back on these skill requirements, they won’t seem so different after all in hindsght.


Please let me know if we can help you in any way.


* Research authored by Dr Tony Wagner, Harvard Change Leadership Group.