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Why transferable skills are the key to a better future

For Learning at Work Week FutureLearn’s People & Culture Director talks emotional intelligence, soft skills and how training will transform the world of work for all of us.


Imagine a world where you’re competing with AI and other technologies for work. With each new patent filed by the likes of Amazon and door-opening potential terminator created by Boston Dynamics, we edge ever-closer.

In order to thrive and bring value to a post-industrial society, humans will need to adapt and learn continuously.

At FutureLearn, we help people develop new skills to close current technical skill gaps. For instance, to meet the digital skills gap we offer coding courses. We also believe that closing the ‘soft skills’ gap will be what’s needed to diversify the type of work we can do, and to differentiate human from machine.

Soft skills training in an area like emotional intelligence is an important stepping stone towards developing other transferable skills – leadership, communication, collaboration and even cultural competency (find out more about what soft skills are).

Through developing our soft skills, we all have the opportunity to transform society for the better.

We can and must train the next generation to explore the depths of our human ability: breaking down communication barriers where we find them, making connections between what we see, hear and feel. We have to challenge the mindset that practical or ‘hard’ skills reign supreme and invest equally in learning important transferable skills, like emotional intelligence.

Beyond helping us to meet our full human potential, transferable skills also help us to excel in a rapidly changing society. Emotional intelligence provides a heightened sense of reality that can help us to view and solve problems differently.

“Emotional intelligence gives us a heightened sense of reality that can help us to view and solve problems differently”

Our current education system is based on churning out mini replicas of adults. It’s a system designed for the Victorian era, when people needed to learn to conform in order to get work in the factories of the industrial revolution. In a world where change is a constant, emotional intelligence gives you the basic skills needed to thrive – no matter what life throws at you.

As globalisation, climate change and conflict displace populations and employment opportunity, resilience and intercultural competency will be more important.

Beyond the courses we offer to learners, we as an organisation are prioritising our internal learning and development towards transferable skills. We’ll be sharing some more practical ideas for how you too can do this in your own organisation in the coming weeks.

How are you developing your own soft skills? Does your organisation recognise the importance of this collection of skills?

Let us know in the comments.

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