Skillage: Are you ready to get hired?

Early on in the year, much was being said about youth employability being the key to the economic crisis. We felt that was the problem. It was only being said, little was being done.

So we set out to try to do something about it. We wanted to create something that would help young people to understand if there was something else they needed to do to get a job in an increasingly ICT-focused employment landscape.

There were a few local or national assessments around employability, and a number around ICT, but nothing obvious that joined the two, and nothing across Europe, nothing international. So the challenge was simple: create something that would help assess the ICT for  employability skills of young people across Europe.

The opportunity to get it to market was only three and a half months away. Get Online Week 2012 was set for the end of March 2012 where thousands of telecentres across Europe would be focused on helping people to get online or learn new skills. It was  a great opportunity to get our Skillage tool used widely.  We knew that we had a steep course to take. But we wanted it to become viral so that young people would want to use it, Facebook it, Twitter about it, and want to tell their friends about it and share their results. This meant it needed to be in their language, cool and real. Great feedback and initial resourcing came from Microsoft – this allowed us to plunge into building the system straight away and with huge collaborative support from our members.

So, we easily found lots of criteria to help us specify the system, but what of the pedagogy of ICT and employability? How would it work? Nothing seemed black and white here. There are often no absolute answers in preparing for the modern ICT-focused job market. We realised, of course, that this was the point! There is very little that is right or wrong here. It’s often shades of grey. So could the assessment be shades of grey? Without it being ambiguous? We chose to make the questions  generate thought and discussion. You might even disagree with the suggested answer, but it will have prompted you to think about the topic a little more, to ask yourself do you really know what you would do in this situation. So Skillage is indeed a tool:  it’s partly assessment, partly learning through self-questioning.

Much further discussion and thought went into the name, and the design, and look and feel, but nothing prepared us for what happened next.  Our network partners could really see the value of this tool, and so without resourcing it was translated into 20 languages in about three weeks.

Get online week arrived, and with final tweaks happening right up until the last minute, it took off really quickly. There were more than 9000 uses in Get online week, and around 500 each week since.  We have noticed is that in a few countries, late night use is showing early signs of Skillage becoming viral.

I think though what has been the most interesting aspect has been that we got the question level right. It wasn’t meant to be too easy, nor too hard. The average score is coming in at around 60% at the moment. I hope this is really encouraging for those who take the test, but it also shows that this young audience doesn’t know everything they need to get or keep a job in 2012. We hope Skillage can help people to see what they need to brush up on, and where they can go to get that help, and if it does that then it’s doing a great job.

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