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Knowledge in The Round

Last week a letter from teachers at Barrowford Primary School to their year six pupils went global on social media. The school in Lancashire wrote to the children telling them to remember ‘the scores will tell you something, but they will not tell you everything....... remember there are many ways of being smart.’ Although this text first came to light last year when used in America, the world seemed amazed at the approach the school had taken, with praise for the school seen all over Twitter.

Many young people are told that their exam results are everything. Whilst they are important, they do not mean that bad grades will lead to automatic failure in the rest of life. Everyone has their strengths and everyone is suited to something. Some of the most successful people left school with no or few qualifications, Alan Sugar, Bill Gates and Richard Branson being just a few. They had brains, vision and worked exceptionally hard. But no qualifications.

When going into the workplace, you will often look for more than just academic qualifications. In fact an academic qualification doesn't necessarily land you a job, as thousands of young people have discovered.

What’s important is good life skills which transfer into the workplace. You want people who will listen and learn, and perform above and beyond what is asked. Often you do not need to ask what O-Levels, GCSE’s or A-Levels someone has. You do need good basic literacy and numeracy skills, but all the frilly extras may be superfluous to requirements. We tend to say “recruit for attitude train for skills”.

While academic qualifications tell us more about a person, such as their willingness to learn and their interests, they are not the be all and end all. Often those who found school difficult and did not get top class grades have some very good life skills (that’s not to say those with good grades don’t have the same life skills!). For example, being able to talk to people, spark up a conversation with someone you don’t know, isn’t something that is taught at school but can be vital in some work environments. Who wants a sales person that doesn’t like talking to people?

Everyone is suited to something but no-one is perfect at everything. We have yet to find a client who says yes (absolutely truthfully!) when we ask them ‘do all of your employees meet all of your reasonable standards nearly all the time?’. It is about finding the person who has the right skills to start with and building on their strengths and their weaknesses. Both strengths and weaknesses are important, by playing on an individual’s strength you can benefit your business and build their confidence. Building on a weakness may eventually turn it into a strength, being able to help people develop is an important skill for yourself and for your business.

You know the story of the taxi driver who was asked by a passer-by “What’s the quickest way to Carnegie Hall?”. He replied “Practice, lady practice”. A lovely tale, though I doubt it’s true. It’s the same with life and work skills. What’s the quickest way to learn them? Read. Listen. Ask questions. Practice. Repeat for several years.

The wider world of work is about so much more than academic grades, something a lot of young people are not told enough. This alone will boost their confidence and help their employability.

Russell HR Consulting provides expert knowledge in HR solutions, employment law training and HR tools and resources to businesses across the UK.

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