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Transferable skills in the workplace

In 2018, the City of London Corporation commissioned Nesta to carry out an exploratory survey research project looking at UK employers’ perceptions of transferable skills in the workplace. The findings of the research were launched at the City of London’s Future Cities event in June 2019.

From previous research in our Future of Skills: Employment in 2030 report, we already know some of the transferable skills that are likely to be in demand in the future: from interpersonal skills to critical thinking and complex problem solving. The findings from our research with the City of London Corporation allow us to take stock of what employers value here and now – a timely snapshot of the skills they prioritise, and some of the challenges they experience when identifying these skills in job applicants.

The survey was conducted with 101 UK employers who had been responsible for hiring someone in the last three years. Some of the key findings from this research include:

  • Employers place considerable value on transferable skills. Three-quarters of survey respondents said they prioritised transferable skills equal to or above technical skills when recruiting new employees.
  • Transferable skills that are of high priority for employers include oral communication / presentation skills, teamwork / collaboration, initiative and problem-solving. Over 90% of respondents said these were a ‘high’ or ‘very high’ priority when recruiting new hires.
  • Employers often struggle to accurately assess transferable skills using traditional recruitment processes and report that candidates’ self-assessments of their skills are often unreliable.

More detail on the methodology and findings of this research can be read in the final report.

The results of this survey should speak to young people who are moving into the world of work and those stakeholders responsible for helping them get there. For young people to navigate the career paths of the future, it is essential they develop the transferable skills that employers value and broader skills to thrive in life. Given the rapid changes in the labour market, job-seekers also need to develop emotional resilience and learn to adapt to these changes.

At Nesta, we are already working to support young people to develop some of the skills highlighted in this research, like communication and teamwork. Through our Future Ready Fund we are supporting innovations that work to build social and emotional skills in young people, which we know to be important to employers. We’re also working to help teachers better understand skill demands by producing resources for use in the classroom.

Our research with the City of London aligns with one of Nesta’s key goals in education: to ensure that all learners are equipped with the skills needed to thrive in the future world of work. To do this successfully, we need to learn more about the skills that are in demand, both now and in the future.

Author

Joysy John

Joysy John

Joysy John

Director of Education

Joysy is the Director of Education in the Innovation Lab, bringing together Nesta's work in education across innovation programmes, research and investment.

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Emma Sutherland

Emma Sutherland

Emma Sutherland

Assistant Programme Manager

Emma is an Assistant Programme Manager in Nesta’s Education team.

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Nancy Wilkinson

Nancy Wilkinson

Nancy Wilkinson

Senior Programme Manager, Education

Nancy leads Nesta's work on technology and education, overseeing a partnership with the Department for Education to help schools make more effective use of technology.

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