Transferable skills are the capabilities that make specific knowledge and technical skills fully productive. They include areas such as problem-solving, creativity, leadership, teamwork and communication. They work across different contexts and enable individuals to thrive in different roles.
Once called ‘soft skills’, essential transferable skills are now seen as a significant driver of productivity. The Sutton Trust found that 94% of employers view them as at least equal to academic qualifications. As upskilling and automation transforms the workplace people will need to be lifelong learners, able to adapt quickly to unpredictable and ever evolving circumstances.
Employers look for problem-solving, creativity, leadership, teamwork and communication skills. But a content-focused curriculum makes them hard to teach. We believe these skills must be a bedrock of an individual’s education and be developed during their working life. Their relevance may change during a career – calling for different skillsets as circumstances change. The key to success lies in defining these skills and creating a shared language across academia and industry.
It is reckoned that the lack of essential transferable skills cost the UK economy over £22bn in 2022. Of that an estimated £5.7bn fell on employers via lost productivity and output.
These skills are vital for a thriving economy. The current curriculum must find ways to promote them as rapid technological and social change becomes ever more challenging. Charities and private sector programmes must come together to strengthen these skills and unleash them for the benefit of individuals, society and the economy.