Employability and communication skills have been in the spotlight well before any Social Media influence. In fact, Government studies identified communication concerns among our youth as far back as 2010.
When texting became a ‘thing’, Jean Gross, a UK Government Advisor, spotted the adverse affects of TV and SMS on youth communication. At that time, evidence showed that 16-year olds had narrowed their vocabulary to as few as 800 words when texting. That’s a big fall from the 40,000 words they should have been using.
Jean suggested that “We must help today’s teenagers understand the difference between textspeak and the formal language they need to succeed in life.” She went on to summarise; “800 words will not get you a job.” Ouch!
Whilst current measures are hard to find, we do know that textspeak is a growing issue. In fact, the convenience of text-speak is now affecting the spoken word and young people are talking in acronyms. “O M G”, you respond. “Yup. True. LOL”.
Communication influences for students
Today, Social Media is pervasive and it’s hard to detach from it. If you have kids, you’ll already know that calling a 16-year old to dinner is easier via messenger, snapchat of other SM app, than by shouting through the house. Young people invest hours and hours on Social Media and they communicate continuously. My own 16-year old niece measured her screen time at a shocking 12 hours per day and most of that time is spent on Social Media. Given the time sent on it, Social Media must be declared a bigger influence than TV or text on communication.
Youth communication seems centred on brevity and shorthand. Indeed, Twitter invites us to make a point in just a few words. Facebook urges us to make picture posts to attract attention and snapstreaks encourage the exchange of any old rubbish to maintain an unbroken run of communication.
As young people replace the written word with emojis, video, photos and soundbites, the classroom is our last stand against poor communication. So how is the classroom faring? In 2018, approximately 70% of students achieved at least a level 4 in English. That’s a grade C, folks and 30% of students failed to achieve it!
Employers demand great communication skills
A 2108 survey of 1,000 employers offered 25 skills choices and asked which were the most important for any new employee. Topping the list, in order were:
- Oral Communication
- Listening Skills
- Written Communication
Employers believe that strong communication skills are key to employability. That’s because communication is important for:
- working in a team
- instructing others and receiving instructions
- corresponding with customers and
- managing situations.
Employers know that poor communication leads to a misunderstanding and that can lead to false agreements, missed actions and unintended outcomes. These outcomes can, in turn lead to higher costs and lower productivity.
How can we improve communications skills?
Schools and Colleges must do more to bring every student up to an adequate level of competence. Given that employers demand good communication skills, their future employability depends upon it. A GCSE in English is taken after 11 whole years in education, so there is little excuse for failure.
I think most employers would agree that if a student is academically challenged, they would be happy to see a reduction in the the number of subjects taught That could help to increase the contact time for language and communication.
The classroom is a good place to start, but the general culture must shift. Today’s most energetic force for change is Social Media. Facebook, twitter and all of the other platforms are partly responsible for a decline in communication skills, so they should perhaps help to reverse this trend.
Social Media companies know how to make young addicts of their users. They tap into a reward-based psychology and gift users a hit of dopamine with likes, thumbs and so on. Unfortunately, their key motivation for keeping users engaged is solely money. A greater number of active users gives a social media platform a stronger advertising base.
I believe that the Social Media giants could deploy the same addiction tactics to reward an improvement in communication skills.
It may be a little Utopian, but imagine living in a world where posts with wider vocabulary, or those with perfect spelling and grammar are most rewarded. It may require our Social Media giants to develop a social conscience, but they could start a communication revolution. That would be great for our youth and awesome for employability.
Can we make it happen? Would we want to? Why not leave us a comment with your own thoughts?
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