STEP Workshops: Offering Professional Development and Critical Skills

Siobhan Ali
Sunday 28 June 2020

By Siobhan Ali

Project: “How do we develop critical thinking in practice for S3-S6 pupils?”

As well as working in a group on a particular project, the Summer Teams Enterprise Programme also includes six workshops designed to develop entrepreneurial skills. When embarking on the internship, I was grateful for the opportunity to gain and hone skills to boost my critical thinking and employability. While initially uncertain about what these workshops would entail exactly, I was pleasantly surprised by how informative and useful these have been.

The workshops kicked off by discussing “Reflection” which was a solid place to start as it instilled effective practices from the onset. I came across the “Gibbs Reflective Cycle” which involves extensively analysing your past experiences and identifying what you learned as a result and how to improve in the future.   While this is important when launching your own project or business, it can also prove invaluable when applying to internships and jobs. It can support discussions about your experiences in cover letters, applications, CVs and interviews. Effective reflection also ensures you go beyond a surface level understanding of your roles and responsibilities and basic acknowledgment of the transferable skills gained.

This workshop also helped me ensure I get the most out of the Enterprise Project; noting what skills and gaps in knowledge I currently possess and what I would like to accomplish during the course of the internship. With a clearer understanding of how to chart my progress and development, I can also apply this model to any future jobs. Ironically, even this blog post is a means for me to apply my reflection skills.

Adaptation of Gibb’s Reflective Cycle

Week 2’s workshop focused on “Decision making and critical reflection” and strongly correlated with the work we were conducting in our smaller project teams. One of the most crucial lessons from this workshop was the concept of “Issue Trees”. As someone who enjoys an organised and methodological approach to problem-solving, I really enjoyed this technique as a way of identifying key factors and issues and breaking down our project into manageable chunks. I, therefore, broached the subject of including an Issue Tree in our presentation to our project sponsor as a way of explaining the thought-processes behind our decisions.

This also closely links to Week 3’s workshop on “Opportunity recognition and evaluation” which not only encourages creating effective solutions to problems but also promotes realistic thinking. It is important to consider how feasible and useful an idea actually is and consider factors such as costs, necessity etc.

Smoothly transitioning into the following week’s workshops on “Creativity and innovation” which advocates for designing unique ideas to meet client and market needs. This is an enterprise skill I was able to apply when pitching and designing the STEP blog: I identified a potential gap in the market which could be of interest to others.

In addition to this, the workshop highlighted the importance of incorporating key components such as equality in each aspect of your project. In light of current global discussions on diversity and inclusion, this develops crucial professional and personal skills.

Example of how an Issue Tree can be used to tackle a client’s problem

With only two weeks left to go with the project. I am looking forward to gaining a better idea of effective leadership tactics and learning how to successfully and concisely communicating in a team. These workshops will undoubtedly continue to further my growth and development. I cannot recommend STEP enough for students wishing to develop crucial and transferrable skills.

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