Creative programs more relevant than ever

Soft skills perception needs to be revisited, says CNA dean

4/23/2020 11:48:06 AM

STEPHENVILLE, NL – What some people might consider to be “soft skills” in today’s technology-driven world, Brenda Tobin would counter by saying they are “necessary skills” no matter what career path a person takes.

And now that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced businesses, governments, institutions and individuals to revisit their approaches on how they communicate and offer services, these skills might be more essential than ever.

Tobin, College of the North Atlantic’s (CNA) Dean of Academics, Applied Arts and Tourism, says provincial and federal governments are putting forward initiatives that lean toward the idea that people are among our greatest assets, and economic diversification and the growth of various sectors within our economy stems from their development and contributions.

“People are able to contribute to a broad range of sectors because they have different strengths, knowledge, skills and talents,” she said. “These themes are emerging all the time with government in NL and Canada, and our community college wants to work hand in hand to strengthen and support these initiatives. No matter what field you’re in – trades, engineering or business … you still must be able to communicate, create, innovate, think analytically and be adaptable, while oftentimes working as part of a team.”

Tobin explains that CNA offers many areas of study, with applied arts being among them, and there seems to be a resurgence of applied arts skills needed in today’s economy.

“Our applied arts programs are really strengthening our people, their knowledge in diverse areas, but more importantly their skills. These skills are needed in a knowledge-based and digital economy. What our programs do is address several themes that have become apparent in the workforce, including creativity, flexibility, and the ability to think differently and innovatively. This is achieved through team-based work, recognition and appreciation for diversity and the movement toward inclusion of people of different cultures, nationalities and skills. What I see are a lot of themes that are needed now and into the future.”

Of interest to Tobin is how applied arts in early childhood education programming has been developed for people working with children right from birth. Emerging concepts from this type of programming include play-based learning, allowing creativity, flexibility, resiliency, learning by doing and experimenting, and innovation.

“So right now, we are encouraging children to think this way from birth – skills development and not just knowledge and memorization,” said Tobin. “Our programs help develop those skills needed in various sectors today. They will be needed in future and they really help develop people through communications and creativity, while helping to give people lifelong skills that they will carry over into the various sectors for a very long time. They are no longer softer skills, they are required, especially now as we figure out how to respond to the challenges presented by COVID-19.”

At CNA, there are several other programs in Tobin’s school of study that reinforce these skills. For example, Video Game Art & Design (VGAD) has a curriculum that is built on creativity, design, and a team-based support to make a product. These products can, in and of themselves, be used to teach people workforce skills, introduce people to new concepts and simulations, or for educational purposes. Sound Recording & Production (used in music, gaming and filmmaking worlds) and Digital Filmmaking are examples of other programs that use core skills to tell stories, and they promote the value of communications through a digital means. Textile & Apparel Design programming promotes innovative and quality textile design and product development, and advances innovative clothing design, including protective, safety wear apparel.

“All are connected – many synergies exist between these creative programs, but they are also teaching the value of who we are as people, the values we have, and what are the skills that we need to develop as a community,” said Tobin. “We are teaching independence and leadership qualities yet also about being part of a team. It is also important to highlight that this is lifelong learning – you don’t learn a concept for this year; you learn skills so that you keep learning for a lifetime.”

The newly restructured Community Leadership Development program has introduced new courses for seniors to reflect the fact there is an aging population.

“There is a realization that seniors have a lot to bring to the province and want to continue to do so,” said the dean. “These are ways we can keep our aging population engaged … people remain healthy when they are engaged and active. Many are not old. We can engage them in recreation, arts-based programs, create more advanced diplomas, and keep them living more independently. These skills are so important today and they still will be tomorrow.”

For more information about CNA programs, visit:

Media contact:

Michelle Barry
Communications Manager
College of the North Atlantic