Nothing soft about learning workplace skills - Education Secretary


There is nothing "soft" about learning vital workplace skills as well as traits such as resilience, according to the new Education Secretary.

In his first speech in his new role, Damian Hinds also argued that at a time when children are growing up as "digital natives" it is important that they learn the technology skills - such as writing apps - that they will need for the jobs of the future.

Mr Hinds told the Education World Forum in London that while qualifications are of vital importance, there is much else that "counts a great deal" as well.

In his former job as employment minister, Mr Hinds said he had learnt from businesses about the importance of employability skills, sometimes known as "soft" skills.

These are typically skills such as teamwork and communication.

Damian Hinds told a conference that today's children are
Damian Hinds told a conference that today's children are 'digital natives' (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

"I would suggest that there is nothing soft about these skills," Mr Hinds told the conference.

"The hard reality of soft skills is actually, these things around the workplace, and these things around character and resilience are important for anybody to achieve in life, as well as for the success of our economy."

He added: "I don't suggest that they can just be taught, but clearly what happens in school, the ethos of a school, the expectations set for students, and the support that's given, alongside what happens in extra-curricular activity, in sport, in public speaking, in voluntary work and so on, all of these things will have an effect on character, resilience and on the workplace skills that our young people take with them."

Mr Hinds went on to say that around nine in 10 new jobs created will require digital skills to some extent, and there is now a generation of children who are "digital natives" that are growing up with technology such as the internet and smartphones.

"We want to go further than just having our young people able to work with technology, and make sure we are taking every chance to make sure that we are able to make technology work for us," he said.

The Government has introduced a new computing curriculum that moves "beyond the ability to use apps to the ability to write apps", the Education Secretary said, and millions of pounds are being pumped into improving the teaching of computer science.

Mr Hinds went on to say: "Throughout the economy, throughout society, you can't predict exactly what the future is going to be.

"I suggest to you that is even more true when you talk about the development of technology.

"We need to be flexible, we need to be open-minded about what may come in the future."