At the end of August, 2014, a remarkable event took place at In Down-Town Language School. For a week the school’s premises hosted a youth exchange named “Skills for Life".This exchange united 6 groups of young people in the age of 16 to 25 years old from
Estonia, Bulgaria, Poland, Spain, Macedonia, Turkey.
The goal of this gathering was to discuss reasons for youth unemployment as well as one of the possible ways to solve it – a development of personal Soft Skills.
From the Editor: Soft skills are a combination of personality traits, interpersonal skills, attitudes which make us more attractive for an employer because they complement hard skills – our theoretical and practical knowledge applied to a job. Meaning, a person who can work well in a team, knows how to manage the time as well as is creative, innovative and motivated has more chances to get a position than just a person who knows their job well.
Everyone in the project was curious about what exactly these soft skills are and how to explain to an employer that you have them. So, on the August 24th we started our week of discoveries.
- THE FIRST DAY was devoted to getting acquainted – the participants in mixed teams were exploring the Old Town by searching for QR codes with the questions about each of the partner countries. This task turned out to be hard even for locals, although they knew the city better than their guests! After lunch we came closer to the topic and here a hot discussion started – what’s the difference between Hard and Soft Skills? I need to say, it took us a few days before everyone had a clear idea about this concept. We also tried to find out what skills we already have, what our strengths and weaknesses are and what qualities we would like to develop. And then each country answered a question: what do employers expect and look for? According to our participants, it’s not a rosy picture at all.
- Starting from THE SECOND DAY we took a look at some of the Soft skills, such as team work, time-management, public speaking skills, goals-setting and problem-solving. The most challenging task for all the participants was to talk in front of everyone on a random topic for one minute without preparation; it caused hot discussions about public speaking skills in groups after everyone had had a chance to speak up. The task which caused most laughs was about the time-management skill. 5 multicultural groups had a list of tasks to complete within 1 hour; each task had a certain number of points. For example, making the list of the full names of all the group leaders was equal to 56 points, while pretending to be a chicken during 3 min was worth 600 points. Our participants turned into children and were choosing the funniest tasks to let their positive energy out.
Besides, we discussed how to write an excellent CV and what to say during a job interview. Every person even had a chance to pass a mock job interview and get feedback for future improvements. During the Exchange we had some guests as well. The first ones were from the YOUTH CAREER CENTRE; they confirmed the importance of the Soft Skills for young job-seekers and offered some exercises to feel where and how exactly they can be applied.
OUR OTHER VISITORS, who were employers from different enterprises, such as the Tallinn division of the Sony Ericsson Company, one of the Tallinn hostels, the UK recruitment division of an Estonian language school, ESTYES volunteer organization from Estonia, and a worker from Tallinn Vapiano Café, came to participate in the Work Cafe, where they shared their working experiences and explained how they hire new workers, what they usually pay attention to during a job interview. This meeting inspired many of our participants, because they could hear real life stories and could also ask questions which they wanted to ask since long time. Besides, current and ex-EVS volunteers came to the school to tell the participants about what European Voluntary Service is and what you can learn from participating in it. No secret that EVS and other youth projects are a great way to acquire Soft Skills.
BUT DON'T THINK THAT THE WHOLE EXCHANGE WAS ONLY ABOUT LEARNING AND DISCUSSING!
First of all, we had a really great time together and this week became unforgettable thanks to friendliness, smiles, activeness and open minds of all those people who chose to come to Tallinn and be a part of this event. Secondly, every evening was brightened up by 2 country presentations where we were sharing our cultures, cuisines, songs and dances. The most impressive was the Turkish presentation, 5 boys from the Police Academy amazed us with their Dance of Eagles and a traditional musical piece performed on a special kind of flute.
Now, it's been several months since the Exchange was over, and in the course of time we can see the results more clearly. I can tell you that some of the participants passed their first job interviews (and they were successful!!!), the others are preparing to apply for an EVS project, and some of them got inspired to organize their own youth exchanges. We also had rather creative outcomes which will allow us to spread the idea about the importance of the Soft Skills further: a computer game, a calendar with helpful tips and a song. Add to the above new friends from all over Europe, Youthpasses which are a great value to a CV to confirm soft skills competences for all the Exchange participants and a perfect energy boost for the coming year: it all means that our project wasn't a waste of time.
We hope to host other Youth Exchanges in future which will give a chance to many other young people to discover new opportunities!
The link to the COMPUTER GAME on SOFT SKILLS:
Some other links will follow a bit later!