Personal and social skills are just as important as qualifications

It is no longer enough for young people to rely on qualifications. Personal and social skills are more important than ever before, according to research published today.

An analysis by the Institute for Public Policy Research (ippr) of surveys conducted with people born in 1958 and 1970, showed personal and social skills – such as communication, self esteem, planning and self control – became 33 times more important between generations, in determining earnings later in life.

Poor children who have high levels of application and concentration are 14% more likely to be well-off by age 30, than the average poor child.

But the report revealed qualifications still matter. GCSEs add about 10% to wages compared to those with no qualifications, A Levels add a further 15% for women and 20% for men. A degree adds a further 25% for women and 15% for men.

The report suggests the best way for children to learn the skills that they need is through structured activities where they mix with children of other ages and backgrounds but are mentored by adults. Examples include the scouts, cadets, martial arts, drama clubs and sporting teams.

Nick Pearce, ippr director, said: “There have always been class divides in education. But in the post-war period there were no social class gaps in how children were socialised into developing personal and social skills. Now there is a personal skills class divide and it is contributing in the decrease in social mobility.”

The report Freedom’s Orphans: Raising Youth in a Changing World, recommends:

  • Participation of every secondary school pupil in at least two hours a week of structured and purposeful extracurricular activities
  • More school ‘house systems’ and more multi-age classes to strengthen children’s self-esteem and help develop their social skills
  • Investment in a range of relationship support services for parents, particularly lone parents. This needs to include new skills for professionals as part of workforce development in the NHS and social services, to enable them to identify and respond to relationship difficulties in couples.



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