The 4Cs are alive and well but why are they in short supply?

The 4C’s – collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking skills – are essential to succeeding in the workplace. Why, then, are they still in short supply?

Since our inception in 2016, Digital Innovators has been on a mission to bridge the gap between education and employment. We do this by engaging young people, educators and employers in the Digital Innovators Skills Programme.

The DI Skills Programme is our project-driven, ‘learning by doing’ approach to personal development, which combines personalised and curated learning with innovative industry project.

Throughout the programme, we work with our learners to develop their ideas in response to challenges provided by leading employers such as HS2 and the West Midlands Academic Health Science Network (WMAHSN), as well as working on their collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking skills – or the 4C’s.

Why are the 4C’s important?

If you’re already familiar with Digital Innovators, you would know that the 4C’s – collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking skills – are at the core of what we do.

The 4C’s are the skills which employers tell us repeatedly are so important for succeeding in the workplace, but are often lacking in young people applying for jobs after leaving school, college or university.

The 4C’s are not a new concept and have been around for quite some time, the term having been first coined by the Partnership for 21st Century Learning, or P21, in 2002.

Despite their recognition, however, in a report recently published by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, these skills are still missing in young people. As the report states:

“Of course, pupils still need a good grounding in knowledge. But to flourish in increasingly digital workplaces, they also need more space to develop attributes such as critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaborative problem-solving (which experts dub the ‘4Cs’)”.

Ending the Big Squeeze on Skills: How to Futureproof Education in England, Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, 23rd August 2022.

We are delighted that an institute such as this has publicly recognised that the DI approach to modern learning is both necessary and essential to enabling young people to succeed in the workplace.

However, it is disappointing that twenty years after being identified, the 4Cs are still not generally being taught by or nurtured within the traditional education system.

Increasing demand for soft skills in a digital workplace

The report by the Institute for Global Change goes on to identify an even more pressing issue.

Since 2002, when the 4C’s model was first proposed, there has been a massive leap forward in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its application to automation, not just in manufacturing, but in traditional white-collar jobs such as accountancy, law and even medicine.

With the rise of AI technology and digitalisation across multiple industries, there is an increasing need for workers to be equipped with a combination of “hard” and “soft” skills that complement, rather than rival, AI.

As such, it is the role of education to equip young people with the skills and qualities they need to succeed in life and to thrive in the labour market of the future.

The World Economic Forum also noted the importance of these soft skills:

The top skills and skill groups that employers see as rising in importance include things such as critical thinking and analysis, as well as problem-solving, along with skills in self-management such as active learning, resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility. These undermine the value of standardised learning models in which teachers impart information through a narrow curriculum, and raise the importance of processes based on the creation of new ideas and methods”.

The future of jobs, World Economic Forum, 2020

Taking action

At Digital Innovators, the approach to modern learning outlined by the Institute for Global Change is one that we are not only on board with, but have delivered to over 1500 young people over the last six years.

The combined findings of the Institute for Global Change, the World Economic Forum, and our own research and surveys with employers has demonstrated that not enough is being done to nurture the development of the 4C’s in the young people coming through our education system.

We are looking for employers and organisations to join us on our mission to bridge the gap between education and employment by providing real-world challenges for learners on the DI Skills Programme to work on.

If you are interested in learning more about this, please contact us here.

We also encourage educators, local government and other interested parties to read the Institute for Global Change report and consider how the ideas it puts forward could be integrated within mainstream education – a matter which we are keen to discuss and collaborate on further.

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Published by Peter Cripps

Software architect, digital activist, blogger and photographer.

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