Monday, 7 October 2013

School skills + work skills = life skills

In our somewhat materialistic world of today, our kids seem driven to 'have'. The prime motivation to work is based on earning, rather than learning.......but I wonder if our young people actually realise how many benefits (and life skills) are attached to these first part-time jobs?

Without wanting to rely too heavily on parent handouts, our kids are often anxious to earn for themselves - to gain that first scent of the power of independent spending! That first job is like unlocking a door which leads to a sense of choice, as well as a sense of future options.

Apart from the obvious capacity to earn money for themselves, part-time jobs teach our kids some invaluable skills; skills which they are learning first-hand, away from the classroom. For most, that first job will be entry level stuff - basic, often repetitive, and possibly not very stimulating.

In 2009, Professor Wendy Patton (Exec Dean of the Faculty of Education at QUT) conducted a study on the skills young people learn from part-time work. The data was collected over three years, with students from Yrs 10-12, and concluded that part-time work gave students an insight into workplace structures. As these students were also employed in lower-level positions, it also gave them the opportunity to reconsider the value of their education as a pathway to increased career and employment choices later on.

So, what other life skills can part-time work offer our young people? Here are just a few: 
  • Communication skills - the ability to engage with peers as well as employers
  • Team work - co-operation and joint decision-making
  • Problem solving - completing a task to expected standards and, sometimes, overcoming difficulties to 'get the job done'
  • Time management - prioritising and planning tasks towards completion
  • Organisational skills - being able to listen to instructions, process what needs to be done and apply a system for completion
  • Initiative - the ability to make decisions and complete a task without always waiting for instructions
  • Independence - managing their income and making choices
These skills provide a foundation for future choices, and we should encourage our kids to take up the opportunity to find part-time work while still at school. Having said that, as parents we need to ensure that employment does not tip the scales too far in the direction of 'earning' rather than 'learning'. That first part-time job should be just a window into future possibilities.....not an end in itself.

photo credit: smedero via photopin cc

About Author:

Angie Wilcock is a highly regarded expert and speaker on transitions in education. She works with teachers, parents and students across Australia.

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