Transferable skills – generic skills that can be learnt in one context and used in another (such as IT skills and leadership skills).
Transferable skills are those skills that can be used in multiple contexts. They are sometimes referred to as ‘generic skills’ or ‘employability skills’. Depending on the skill, they can be naturally developed through the course of learning (embedded), explicitly taught as the focus of a standalone activity or program, or a combination of both. Probably the most common transferrable skill that teachers emphasise is organisational skills. Teachers are always encouraging students to bring the correct books, remember their homework, plan and stick to a schedule in order to finish an assignment, arrive early to class, neatly pack away toys and games, and so forth. Such organisational skills are taught in the classroom from k-12 and are very useful in the work environment as well.
Good practice is to identify transferable skills as part of the planning process so that there is a combined focus – killing two birds with one stone, as they say.
Anyone who is successful in their career invariably has a high level of organisational skills. It is a highly valued and useful skill and employers simply don’t care where those skills were initially developed. This is why transferable skills are so often a key part of the conversation: they are extraordinarily valuable, linked to educational and career success, already embedded in most programs anyway, and they help to produce well-rounded graduates ready for the challenges that lay ahead.
There has been a concerted push in recent decades for teachers to include transferable skills as part of their programs.i The tertiary and vocational sectors have enshrined transferable skills in their polices and regulations for some time. They go by various iterations such as ‘desirable graduate traits’ or ‘employability skills’. Schools sometimes choose a transferable skill for their motto.
Broadly speaking there are 3 types of transferable skills:
Type 1 and 2 skills are known as ‘soft skills’; these are difficult to teach and even harder (if not impossible) to measure. Type 3 skills are known as ‘hard skills’. These are relatively easy to teach and measure, especially in comparison to type 1. For example, assessing trustworthiness requires a high degree of subjectivity, whereas assessing typing speed can be done with a simple calculation.
Type 3 skills are highly valued by employers and they help job applicants to set themselves apart from the crowd. There are 4 primary reasons for this:
Below is a list of transferable skills that many employers actively look for when hiring staff:
Many of the transferable skills that employers are looking for (like IT skills) can be explicitly delivered in a specific class or they can be delivered as part of an unrelated lesson or program. For example, a science teacher may spend a short period of time teaching students how to use Excel in order to record and summarise data from an experiment. Good practice is to identify transferable skills as part of the planning process so that there is a combined focus – killing two birds with one stone, as they say. Teachers can’t teach everything, but they can identify and teach several transferable skills even if they’re not explicitly listed in the curriculum.
Adam Green is an advisor to government, a registered teacher, an instructional designer and an author. He is completing a Doctor of Education and was previously head of department for one of the country’s largest SAER (students at educational risk) schools. Adam is managing director of Fast Track Training Australia, an accredited training provider for thousands of teacher aides every year.
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