The Printing Charity’s CEO, Neil Lovell, shares his thoughts for prospective Rising Star applicants 

Each year we run an awards programme for young people in our sector.  It’s familiar territory for sectors to champion the brightest and the best and we do it by offering funding to gain skills that otherwise may not be part of on-the-job training. The awards are now the largest single initiative for young people in our sector and this year we have changed the name to the ‘Rising Star Awards’ to better reflect what they are about.  

It seems simple to say if you’re between 18 and 30 and working in our sector, here’s up to £1500, now think of how you’ll use it to enrich your skills and help you develop in your career.  It’s actually harder than you think, especially if you’re so focussed on learning specific skills necessary to do your job.  The challenge is asking applicants to think beyond this.   

The most in demand ‘soft skills’ today

I joined an online seminar recently where future skills and skills gaps were discussed. What struck me was that the skills they were describing were ‘soft skills’, those sometimes intangible competencies that are often overlooked. They included: fluency of ideas, monitoring, systems evaluation, complex problem solving.  Personally, I think these are new descriptions to say the same things I’d have been expected to pick up when I first started work (about 100 years ago); being creative and open to ideas, understanding how to check progress and validate what you’re doing and finding answers to problems you face.  I know why, as an employer, I would want my team to have these skills; they are a sign that someone isn’t just able to do the role they have but can do it in such a way that it’s more likely to be done well. 

The other part of the seminar talked about the skills needing most improvement from an employers perspective. These ranged from the ability to manage your own time and prioritise tasks, to knowledge of products and services, and customer handling. It’s a little frightening that there is thought to be a deficit in these areas by employers but here, too, there are plenty of courses on time management, how to manage customers, and depending on your area of responsibility, how to learn more about the products and services you’re responsible for.  

To help you find the skills you need, we’ve explained soft skills and why you need them and listed some of the online soft skills courses available.  

Are you a Rising Star?

For me, I believe what’s key is no matter which sector or business you are in, your skills, knowledge and experience are what differentiate you from everyone else. Finding ways to keep developing and growing through learning is vitally important once you leave formal education because it’s who you are and what you bring to a team and an organisation that matter. Take every opportunity you can to take on new responsibilities, put your hand up, say yes to the opportunity to do new things and you will go far.  The way we work and the jobs we do will keep changing so although, of course, specific qualifications and certified training are important to show competence, the power of soft skills is in adding to your personal tool kit.

And why not start by checking out our Rising Star Awards? If you meet the criteria (18-30 years of age, working in our sector) and can demonstrate why you want the funds and how they will help you become more rounded and capable, we’d love to hear from you.  

Ready to boost your skills, or know someone that is? Fill in this application form and return it to us before 7 March 2021.