Skip main navigation

The role of transferable skills in employability

In this article, Dr Trina Jorre de St Jorre looks at what transferable skills mean for your employability.
A group of three people sitting at a table looking at a document
© Deakin University
Transferable skills are becoming increasingly important for obtaining jobs, adapting to changing job roles and performing well in the workplace. In this article, Trina Jorre de St Jorre looks at what this means for your employability.
Global unemployment levels are high, and unemployment is expected to increase further in some countries. At the same time, the jobs on offer are changing and the concept of a ‘career’ has changed: individuals now more often move between disciplines or industries, either out of necessity, or to accommodate new interests or gain better opportunities.
Within this challenging context, being able to articulate and evidence what you know and can do is more important than ever.
To maximise your career opportunities, you must be able to draw on all your experiences and transfer your professional knowledge, expertise and understanding across different contexts.

What transferable skills are in demand?

Analysis of big data from job advertisements suggests that transferable skills such as communication, problem solving, teamwork and digital literacy are now in greater demand than ever before.
According to The New Basics report, an investigation of more than 6000 websites and 4.2 million job advertisements over three years (2012-2015) showed that transferable or ‘enterprise’ skills are:
  • demanded as often – if not more – than technical skills
    Transferable skills were specified in 20% more early-career job advertisements in 2015 than technical skills (those specific to a particular task, role or industry).
  • in increasing demand
    The proportion of jobs demanding critical thinking increased by 158%, creativity by 65%, presentation skills by 25% and teamwork by 19%.
  • associated with higher-paid jobs
    Compared with jobs that do not list these skills, jobs that requested presentation skills paid an additional AU$8,853 per year, digital literacy an additional AU$8,648, problem solving an additional AU$7,745, financial literacy an additional AU$5,224 and creativity an additional AU$3,129.

What does this mean for your employability?

Even for graduates, providing evidence of transferable skills beyond their degree requirements is important to gaining opportunities.
Graduates are provided with an academic transcript as evidence of the achievement met during their degree. However, the grades and subjects captured provide little information about the standards met or the graduate’s ability to apply knowledge and skills in the workplace.
The subjects identified also tend to focus on discipline-specific knowledge and rarely capture achievement related to the transferable skills that employers require.
As a result, some employers have actually removed degree requirements from their entry criteria altogether and are instead making hiring decisions based on a candidate’s ability to evidence the specific skills needed in the role – regardless of whether these have been gained through formal or informal study, work or life experiences.
That isn’t to say that degrees do not have value in the employment market.
The fact is, graduates still have a higher rate of employment than non-graduates (eg Australia, UK) and a wider range of jobs now require a bachelor’s degree as a minimum.
However, graduate opportunities and career pathways are no longer as straightforward as they once were. In other words, where a degree was once a differentiator, it is now a prerequisite for many jobs, which means even graduates need to highlight additional achievement and experiences to set themselves apart in an increasingly competitive job market.
For this reason, both graduates and non-graduates are increasingly looking for new ways to differentiate themselves, such as through gaining workplace experience, postgraduate qualifications or additional credentials.

Your task

What do you think about this shift towards a more skills-based assessment of employees?
What could you do to leverage this shift to your advantage?
Discuss your thoughts with other learners in the comments.
© Deakin University
This article is from the free online

Career Credentials: Evidence Your Expertise in Problem Solving

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education