Get Gold with 21st Century Skills

21st Century Skills are about your employability in today's job market. They're about you as a person and are 'transferable' no matter what role you play.

Get Gold with 21st Century Skills

I wrote this blog 17 hours after getting up this morning. 12+ hours after starting a nine hour day at a massive dance event. And after enjoying three episodes of one of my favourite TV shows, Suits.


Because I've wanted to write this blog for a good few weeks, especially since preparing a whole presentation about Gold Arts Award and its link to 21st Century Skills which I gave, twice, to the recent Creative & Cultural Skills Conference. Today has been a reminder of why I do this job - encouraging young people to make the most of a career that they love. A career that has a profound impact on their lives, their families' lives, and sometimes the lives of many more around them. I refer instinctively here to those touring art work with a social mission, telling a story, true or imaginative, but a story nonetheless likely intended either to make us think, or to inspire us, or sometimes both. Scroll down to the "Now to business..." bit if you want to get straight to the nitty gritty.

Today has been trying. A 5:30am start driving to the train station is not something I'm naturally built for. Like it or not, I'm more of a night owl and enjoy solace in working undisturbed. Our stand at the event to showcase Arts Award was right next to a stage blaring music all day, just down the row from the freestyle stage doing the same, and actually not a million miles from the main stage. Hearing people ask questions, and giving them some sort of sensible answer through my hoarseness was a challenge. A rewarding, productive and enjoyable challenge. I met some dance school (and state school) tutors/teachers who really do care about the young people they're training, and who are committed to helping them get on in the world (and I genuinely believe a good Arts Award experience is one day to succeed). I also met some parents who 'spoke for' their children. Whilst I then tried to direct my questions about their interests and future ambitions to the young person stood sheepishly before me, I also wanted to help the parent as best I could - because after all they were just trying to help their son or daughter succeed in what can be a competitive world. They had paid to get their family all the way in to London just for this pretty unique experience.

It just so happens that the episodes of Suits I had watched with dinner in an attempt to unwind before facing another full day and the travel were just as inspiring. Depicting a range of stories including trying to get a balance of morals and who looks after whom. Also for corporate lawyers trying to help an apparently innocent man get off Death Row - a man with only 30 days to live if not. This is television, I know. I also know that these sort of life struggles (including the unfairly accused innocent) happens on a daily basis. That we must all make judgement calls.

As well as the morals around all of this, I think Suits has been very well produced. If reasonably predictable storylines, it is made up for in style, in soundscaping, in talented actors and sheer dissemination of what fighting for something you believe you can do.

It also demonstrates the point of this blog: that skills are transferable. That in the world of work you must think sideways. You must think two steps ahead, you must rethink the last move, you must think about in who or what you trust. You must make calls about what you think based on thorough research, practical experience, and skills that go far beyond what you can learn through simply being told.

Experience brings you many things in life, and I'm a firm believer that you're not too young to start developing these experiences of the world of work. Whether it's using your Gold Arts Award to teach a term full of dance classes to six year olds despite being just 14 yourself; or networking to find the person that might become your mentor one day. I followed the route of volunteering on many shows and events when I was a teenager. That led to who I am today. It's meant that I am fortunate enough to now be studying to further extend my skills. I'm doing a University Diploma in Event Safety Management. Although the topics go far beyond what the title suggests. Despite being pretty terrible at exams my whole life, I finally sat one which was 'open book'. And found something that suited my style. Something I could thoroughly research & prepare for, but when it came to it, I knew that I could look up that little thing I was aware of but hadn't considered significant enough to pre-plan for. These moments happen in life all the time, and the important thing is to be aware of them and trust that you can swiftly find the answers. Suffice to say I got an unbelievable 92% in my recent Event Legislation Exam. This is a bit of a boast, but a proud achievement against the odds to be frank. I didn't believe I could do quite so well and maybe that was wrong of me.

This has been a long-winded brain dump which is designed to simply say that life is about the skills you develop along the way. And your Gold Arts Award journey is a part of this and in my opinion, an accelerant.

Now to business. What are 21st Century skills?

In short, it's a description of some employability skills. Skills that are considered vital in today's world of work.

They are everything I've just rambled on about above. There's varying classifications, definitions, and descriptions. But, in addition to media and IT literacy, the four I think you need to remember are:

  • Creativity
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Critical Thinking

These "four C's" come from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.


This isn't really about your ability to draw or dance. It's about your ability to think sideways. To consider options 'out of the box' and face challenges head on.


Another word for teamwork. It's about working together with others to achieve a shared understanding and output. It might require you to think two steps ahead (and think about others in doing so) or indeed to rethink your last move. Maybe it had an unidentified, if not undesired, effect on you, your team or project.


Nothing can be achieved without communication. At the very least with yourself. But really with your team, with your audience, with your stakeholders, with funders, friends and family. Every facet of your life or the life of your project must be communicated with. Sometimes things can be left unsaid and yet be understood. Sometimes you need to make a clear briefing document that is well communicated to everyone. It could be verbal (like a motivational chat), written (like a letter), or physical (like designated signs or body language cues). Communication is your lifeblood.

Critical thinking

Thinking about yourself, how well you're doing, what you could do better, and what you are completely satisfied with is all important. It's not just about criticism, but about getting into the detail and reflecting honest outcomes.

Each one of these are developed through doing your Gold Award. Remember, I did my own 10 years ago and now I've had the pleasure of seeing several students achieve their's too. But how much they are developed and what they mean are truly down to you. Your interpretation will be unique and individual.

I would love to hear about how you've developed or are developing in your Gold Award in the comments below. Let's share our experiences and hope to inspire more.

This is one of my longer blogs. And you've now had an insight to my brain as well as a quick summary of something I hope is practical for you. If you want something a bit sharper with a few ideas for getting gold in 2017, or on using our Gold Hub resource, then do check out my previous posts.

  • Image from Flickr under Creative Commons.


Emrys Green

Emrys Green Voice Team

Emrys is the Business & Projects manager at Upstart who runs Voice.

Alongside managing Voice and its related programmes of work Emrys manages web builds and live events through his own pursuits - with a wide encapsulation of the arts sector. Theatre, Dance, Circus, Spoken Word and a combination of contemporary and shakespearean work would all be in his wheelhouse.

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  • Luke Taylor

    On 14 March 2017, 10:17 Luke Taylor Contributor commented:

    I've got my Gold by using my extremely versatile 21st Century Skills! I would love seeing many other young people using their extremely versatile 21st Century Skills!

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