The importance of leaving college with life skills

New wellbeing package of eight complementary qualifications designed to enhance employability skills for learners.

New wellbeing package of eight complementary qualifications designed to enhance employability skills for learners.

17 Nov 2021, 8:00

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When we think of Further Education, we tend to think of specific subjects that may lead to university courses or vocational and professional qualifications that give students ‘hard skills’.  But what of the ‘soft skills’ – the art of social interaction, empathy and self-awareness? Do colleges bring enough emphasis to these? And is there a college equivalent to PSHE studied at school that will give students a good steer on their personal wellbeing, diet, lifestyle and exercise choices?

On leaving college and seeking employment, students with life skills and social skills will be favoured by employers. Candidates who display health, confidence, self and social awareness will stand head and shoulders above other candidates.

The welfare of workforces during the pandemic put workplace wellbeing in the spotlight. Employees’ mental health and physical health were of as much a concern as their work performance. Employers were increasingly being held to account for managing the wellbeing of their staff. Not surprisingly, as people struggled to adapt and cope, empathy and social awareness became of paramount importance. As further education, internships and recruiting youngsters into their first job return to a more ‘normal’ pattern, it’s important we don’t forget the value of life skills and soft skills among students.

Importance of life skills

Life skills enable us to adapt and manage day-to-day events – from interacting with others and dealing with our emotions to behaving appropriately in any given situation. Knowing and valuing oneself is key to success, as well as having empathy for colleagues, friends and people at large. People with strong life skills have a greater awareness of themselves and those around them. As such, they make good managers and leaders and can expect to progress well at work.

It could be argued that time is the best teacher of many life skills and social skills as experience at work and in the wider world helps to shape a person. Learning from your mistakes rings very true for us all and is referred to as ‘learning the hard way’ for good reason.

But what if there was an easy way for further education providers to guide the student journey from college to work? By supporting their personal and social development, building an appreciation of their personal wellbeing and raising their awareness around healthy eating and drinking?

Ready-made menu of wellbeing courses

It can be a minefield for tutors to find the right courses and put them together for the best effect. But help is at hand thanks to a new collaboration between two of the UK’s most highly regarded Awarding and End-point Assessment Organisations – Active IQ and Skillsfirst.

They’ve joined forces to create a unique Wellbeing Package to meet the growing demand from employers for staff to have both physical and social wellness skills.

The new Wellbeing Package comprises eight qualifications and offers a broad range of topics at Level 1 and Level 2, making them accessible to the majority of learners.

The qualifications complement each other and dovetail nicely. Two or more can be studied in tandem thus maximising the opportunity for learners to gain multiple skills in a short space of time.

“We are increasingly aware that employers are looking for multi skill sets in the wellbeing field,” says Gavin Baxter, Active IQ Business Consultant. “Our bespoke Wellbeing Package will equip learners with a number of skills that are sought after in the workplace.”

“We each chose four qualifications to offer a good range of social and interpersonal skills,” says Faye Moore, Skillsfirst Head of Business Engagement. “All of our qualifications can be delivered face-to-face or in a blended model and meet the requirements of funding provision.”

Wellbeing training can be embedded into apprenticeship programmes, offered as standalone or provided within the induction programme when students join the college. Before embarking on delivering these new qualifications, Faye advises colleges to set time aside to develop their staff so that they, in turn, can support their learners.

Important life lessons

Why is it important for FE facilities to offer training / qualifications in wellbeing?

Individuals, employers and learners are increasingly invested in wellness, especially in the current climate. It’s increasingly expected that colleges will offer such qualifications and training as people realise that education plays a key role in helping young adults understand their own wellbeing.

“Students who undertake wellbeing courses will be well rounded and have a better chance of employment,” believes Gavin. “The aim is that not only will they learn about their own mental and physical health, but also gain an appreciation of the health and wellbeing of those around them.”

A good balance

The Wellbeing Package enables colleges to offer social/mental wellbeing skills training alongside physical wellbeing.

“Although we commonly think of the mind and body – our mental wellbeing and physical wellbeing – as separate, we need to think of them as a whole,” says Faye. “Physical wellbeing – being fit and healthy, having strong bones and muscles and good posture – has a positive effect on our mood and general wellbeing, as do our social connections. Training students in these complementary disciplines makes perfect sense.”

The Wellbeing Package also includes personal and social development and personal wellbeing to give learners confidence to manage their day-to-day needs. Much sought after by employers, self-awareness of one’s own wellbeing is itself a key employability skill.

Broaching sensitive topics

Some of the qualifications on offer – smoking cessation, alcohol awareness and LGBT inclusion – broach important topics that may be sensitive for younger learners. However, as these issues are highly likely to affect young adults, shying away from them in the classroom is not the answer.

Focus on the person – not just the skill

Responsible employers will look at the whole person, not just their skillset, as they understand that optimum productivity can only be achieved by an individual who is physically, mentally and socially on top of their game. The best skilled person in the world won’t see their competency fulfilled if they don’t have life skills and soft skills.

A number of FE colleges and training providers are already successfully incorporating Active IQ and Skillsfirst personal and workplace wellbeing qualifications. As life skills grow in value and importance to employers and students respectively, wellbeing skills training within colleges looks set to have a very healthy future. / /

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