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We all spend on average 12 years of our lives in formal schooling, educating ourselves about mathematical concepts, from algebraic equations to measuring the angles of a triangle. We learn about the history of our country and the difference between a verb and a noun; we are taught what happens when oxygen collides with hydrogen, and we are told what people in different parts of the world eat and wear.

But how does this knowledge benefit us when we leave the classroom and step into the real world? Can the things that we learn at school help us to become ‘wanted’ by the employers whom we long to work for? Can the learning that we have acquired help us to get noticed in a competitive job market, and can it help us make that instant positive impression on interviewers?


What do Employers Want?


HR Directors of multinational companies, like Microsoft Vietnam and HSBC Vietnam, were interviewed for this article, as well as Jonah Levey, the CEO and Founder of Navigos Group, the largest executive recruitment firm in Vietnam. All were unanimous in highlighting that critical thinking is one of the skills that are highly favoured and sought after in young graduates by multinational employers. The ability to problem solve and take initiative as well as thinking ‘outside the box’ all constitutes ‘critical thinking’. Employers regard this highly in Vietnamese candidates. Interpersonal skills such as communication and collaboration are also important features that employers look for in new recruits. These are often cited as the skills that most of the young candidates lack.


When asked about the top three most important skills for the next five years, the employers agreed on the following three Cs:


1) Critical thinking and analytical skills


2) Creativity and innovation


3) Communication and influence


According to these large employers, values such as integrity and accountability are also essential in the workplace. Employers also respect employees who show initiative and are proactive in approaching and resolving issues.


Critical Thinking and Communication


Fortunately, in Vietnam, the international schools seem to be on the right track in preparing students to become work-ready, possessing the appropriate soft skills that multinational employers desire.


Creativity and innovation can be seen in courses such as Design and Technology, Art and I.T, and Robotics, where students embark on projects that allow them to express their own ideas and are encouraged to develop a piece of art or an object that is innovative and purposeful.


In addition to the range and variety of courses on offer to students, it is also important to emphasise that the way in which students are taught can give them that edge. When the students are engaged in exploring different opinions and sources, testing and challenging the validity of information presented to them, they are developing the all-important skills of critical and analytical thinking that employers wish to see.


The daily interactions that children are a part of in an international school setting, within a rich and diverse student and teaching body — be they verbal, written, through song, food, clothing or any of the myriad of other avenues for communication — allow them to develop balanced and meaningful ways to communicate effectively with one another. These experiences form the foundation of communication and influence, skills that are heavily sought after by multinational employers.


Employers drive the demand and schools should be commended for having the foresight to create the opportunities for such demands to be met.


Dr. Clive Keevil is the Executive Principal at the Australian International School. Clive is responsible for the strategic as well as day-to-day management of the school.

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