How power skills bring long-term rewards for students

There’s a good chance you know power skills by another name. Traditionally called “soft skills”, they include competencies such as leadership, problem solving, and creativity. Now, they have undergone something of a rebrand. The impressive new name means these key skill sets are finally getting the recognition they deserve.

In a world where the global population of people with degrees is set to double to 300 million by the end of this decade, it’s the students who have power skills who will be the most likely to stand out in the workplace.

That’s not just because employers are looking for candidates with heightened critical thinking skills. It is also connected to the accelerating rate of new jobs being created. The ability to adapt to change has never been more important.

Although power skills are not an official part of the language learning curriculum, they are still vital. These skills provide strong foundations for future success. The good news is that they can be built and developed in the classroom.

The following is a look at what power skills are and how they can be taught in the classroom. We also include language learning examples, so that your students can be prepared for success later in life.

First, what are power skills?

Power skills are a wide selection of competencies that are hugely important for the workplace. Here are some of the best known examples:

Leadership skills

Most recent graduates won’t begin their careers in a management position. But leadership is more than just being a manager. It incorporates a range of subskills, including:

  • Communicating a vision
  • Mentoring and guiding others
  • Giving feedback
  • Negotiating
  • Setting expectations and managing people
  • Managing projects and workloads

Not only do leadership skills help people stand out in front of their managers, they also help a person get things done. By exhibiting strong competencies in this area, your students are sure to rise through ranks quickly, once they enter the workforce.

Critical thinking

Critical thinking is essentially the means by which a person can step back and reflect on their work, working relationships, and opinions.

Strong critical thinking skills help students (and future employees) ask the right questions, formulate evidence-backed opinions, and analyze results and data. Ultimately, critical thinking will help your students excel in the world of work.

Time management

Time management is not just about being punctual. It’s also related to squeezing every drop of productivity out of the working hours in the day.

Knowing how to prioritise time will translate into more easily achieving goals with improved outcomes in the future. New employees with a strong sense of time are better team members, leaders, and project managers.


“The world needs an editor,” is a popular phrase in publishing. It refers to how even the greatest writers need someone to make their ideas shine.

However, as this luxury is not available to everyone, knowing how to communicate clearly is hugely important for career success. In fact, it underpins nearly all of the other power skills in this list.


Also known as self-care, this power skill means being able to look after your physical and mental wellbeing, which is vital for career success.

Teaching students how to reduce stress, lower illness risks, manage conflict and build positive relationships, will serve them well into the future.

Building power skills in the classroom

Thinking about how to teach life skills in schools might seem headache inducing, but there are a range of exercises you can bring into English as a second language (ESL) classrooms.

Project work

Project work is perhaps the most complete way of developing different power skills, while learning English at the same time. A typical project might encourage students to:

  • Negotiate which roles they are taking in the project. In the process, students learn about fairness and accountability too.
  • Research ideas online and in the library. Students develop critical thinking skills both in deciding what to research and what to do with the information they find.
  • Improve efficiency. Students soon learn how to share the workload and best use their time in the classroom
  • Communicate clearly: whether they are presenting their ideas to the class, or writing a report, communication is a central part of almost all classroom project work.

Active listening

Active listening ensures all your students are engaged during presentations, and teaching valuable power skills too.

While one student makes a presentation to the class, have the others practice active listening by taking notes. At a designated time, students should also ask questions and make comments on what they heard, or paraphrase what they have just heard to clarify the information. This will test their communication power skills.

At the same time, those presenting will learn how to reformulate or expand upon their ideas so they are clearer for their audience.

Persuasion role-plays

While role-plays are a staple in the English language teaching classroom, they can also be used to enhance other skills, like negotiation.

The key is to add an element of reflection, so that students not only practice the target language, but also think about their communication technique. For example:

In pairs, students take turns in being a salesperson and a customer, with the customer voicing an objection to the product they are being sold.

Afterwards, have the students assess what was and was not successful about their negotiation. This will push the students to show leadership skills and critical thinking to overcome their partner’s objects.

As you can see, there’s nothing drastically different about these types of exercises. You might already do these in your classes today. The key, however, is to focus on reflecting about the supporting competencies your students are practising, at the same time as learning the language.

A future payoff of learning power skills

Learning power skills in the classroom is one of the best ways to ensure future success and career progression. First and foremost, this is because companies are on the lookout for employees who possess them. If a graduate is equipped with skills in clear communication, team work, and problem-solving abilities to help with the constant need for innovation, they are set for a stellar career.

Ultimately, candidates with power skills will go further than those who only offer so-called hard skills such as technical know-how and academic qualifications. For example, someone who has studied a foreign language may not necessarily be a strong communicator. Having skills in communication can help to more clearly convey ideas in business meetings, interviews, and product pitches.

Teaching power skills like these and many others to your students can put them in better positions to shine later on and prevent them from being overlooked when the time comes to talk about promotions and salary increases.

Power skills will be vital for all future employees. As such it is important that students learn to think critically or manage time productively, as well as everything in between. Teachers are the best placed to help them on this important journey.

Get lots of resources and activities in relation to our Cambridge Life Competencies Framework.

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