In part, I came up with the name “Skills Culture” as a rip from “Talent Culture” – a website I have been following for years. Talent Culture is an edgy, smart concept (career, leadership, and workplace advice) directed towards sophisticated white collar workers; Megan Brio does a great job. (Still in the early stages, but I might try to build Skills Culture in a similar way – a useful blog.) Whenever I hear the word talent, I find a way to pit talent versus skills – in conflict with each other. This is what got me thinking of a Skills Culture as a philosophy or mindset for much of my work on skills over the years.

I got the domain www.skillsculture.com (so I know the concept was somewhat novel). I searched on the concept, which returned a Facebook page of an organization in India. Some of our interpretations of a skills culture are similar, though their work focuses on underprivileged students in education. I clearly see the advantages in emphasizing skill acquisition with less structured schools. But I have always had a much broader view, focusing on education and higher education students and young professionals.

Thinking about educational systems, a Skills Culture seems aligned to an apprenticeship model. Once students find a career track, they learn specific skills in the classroom and apply them in experiences; sometimes working towards mastery. There is gaining traction for apprenticeships in the US. These “new age apprenticeships” represent many disciplines (not limited to skilled trades) and do not designate a lifetime career.

In fact, this less strict adherence to careers is key differentiator of a Skills Culture. With Skills Based Approach (an engine behind Skills Culture), a student or professional works with an evolving skill set and may pivot towards another career instantaneously – assess current and needed skills, identify gaps, and acquire needed skills. So, working in skills makes transitions fluent.

Working with a Skills Culture addresses all skills (not just technical skills). I suggest students build strong foundational thinking skills, which give them a basis for learning technical skills. Thinking skills also make interpreting humanities and arts meaningful. Students learn ‘soft skills’, which becomes more important than technical skills as we experience a rise in automation, some experts argue.

A Skills Culture is about learning new skills ad hoc, whether for personal or professional motivations. It might take 20 hours to learn a skill for your own needs. This whole movement towards (micro learning) works best with skills and competencies. Personally, I see no reason why a student or professional does not give learning a skill a chance.

Every experience is an opportunity to apply skills, therefore experiential learning

Here are some other key aspects of a “Skills Culture”:

·         Working with talents involves a fixed mindset: “I have these talents, to this is what I should be doing”. Working with skills involves a growth mindset: “I want to try this skill. If I put the time and deliberate practice toward learning the skill, there is a good chance I will be successful”.

·         Put a list of talents next to a list of skills, there is considerable overlap between the actual names. It is all about the connotation. Talents are natural abilities. Skills are acquired through experiences.

·         Dealing with skills and competencies, and underlying methods and applications is more precise than talking about talents.

·         A super talented professional is also a master of related skills. Some who has talent will gravitate towards learning related skills; it makes sense.

·         Everyone must acquire skills, regardless of your collar: blue, white, or hoody. A Skills Culture (as a mindset) is useful for anyone, regardless of their class or education / career stage.