Interviewing Dominique L'Olive (Associate Lecturer in Textile Print Design at Central Saint Martens) on the value of soft skills in higher education and the new workshop/module she is currently working on in collaboration with Johnathan Jewel (Lectures in Fashion on Business and Economics in the London College of Fashion). Collectively they are looking to explore the value of Ethics in the Art curriculum.
*The answers have been paraphrased for contextual purposes.
What is the role of Ethics in Arts?
Let us use the medical profession as an example in the utilisation of ethics and look at how student are trained on what it means to be an ethical person and the relationship between patient and medical staff when carrying out daily duties. This approach is not necessarily implemented in Art, as some will argue that this will hinder artists from being able to express themselves in any manner; they see fit.
In order to fundamentally change the mindset of the students, allowing them to think more ethically, specific practical measures need to be put in to place. Thus, allowing students to experience and build up an emotional compass to react and adapt while considering the consequences that are attached to their action. In addition to understanding the effects, this will have on the audience, politically, socially or environmentally. The aim is not for the participant to regurgitate fact and figures at the end of the workshop/module but to influence their thinking and encourage them to react differently to situations they encounter throughout their art practice and lives.
What is the value of soft skills?
One of the great gifts of soft skill is that they are a set of tools that are utilised daily and will be ever-present even beyond one's occupation. In most cases, some acquired hard skills will no longer be relevant after retirement. However, due to the value of soft skills, it is crucial to identify how best to teach students methods of acquiring and refining such skills. The book titled "you can't teach a kid to ride a bike in a seminar" is a great way to think about the challenges faced when it comes to teaching soft skills. How are individuals able to obtain the appropriate skill set that provides them with the best range of comparable skills that can later be deployed depending on the type of situation that arises?
The way that communication has developed in the digital age is an area that seems to be problematic. In this digital world, many forms of communication are occurring daily, but the problem remains, we need to be able to communicate face to face to understand all the information that is being delivered, this goes beyond typed text. Body language or tone of voice is still an essential medium of communication. With less contact time and ever-increasing screen time, what are the unidentified damages (such as the rewiring of our brains), brought by the digital age and why are we not noticing this significant change.
Soft skill in the workplace?
If we go beyond art schools and into the wider community, especially the gig economy where an algorithm is issuing instructions to employees, what is the role of soft skills? Self-employed workers who are on zero-hour contracts have to deliver a service to the community with minimal interaction with their consumers. In such an environment, the reduction in human contact time is significant in comparison to corporate office work. The rise in the soft skill gap is widening with future generations, forcing some employers to overlook the importance of this skill but instead recruiting those who on paper are considered to be 'top talent', the same individuals who may not be a good match for the company's values or principles. Thus, having damaging effects on the company's culture in the long run.
Another critical factor in the development of soft skill is the environment. Our surroundings shape who we are and how we feel about the world. Students should be able to work and carry out a project in an environment that stimulates creativity and allows room for learning through failure.