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Transferable Skills: a Key Ingredient for Future Prosperity

Everyone agrees – transferable skills are in high demand and should to be imparted through technical and vocational education and training (TVET). For this to happen, policies need to be adjusted and implemented in practice. How to achieve this outcome was one of the challenging questions discussed at the UNESCO-RCP workshop on transferable skills on 26 October 2013 at Tongji University, Shanghai, China.

In fact, changes are happening. There is emerging agreement that transferable skills are a key to unlocking peoples’ potentials, increasing their employability and improving their livelihoods. Countries are increasingly realizing that transferable skills are indispensable for ensuring employees and workers are equipped with the right skills for a changing world of work. Despite regional differences, policy reforms related to transferable skills are happening across the region.

But what are transferable skills? Defining transferable skills in national contexts and agreeing on their scope across the region is a challenging task. It should however not be an obstacle in addressing this ever-more pressing issue of skills development that is fundamental for sustainable economic and social development in the region.

In spite of important shifts happening in TVET across the region, implementation remains patchy and could be improved through:

• Policy guidance: More government support is needed to guide TVET teachers in the implementation of policy directions regarding transferable skills.

• Participatory approach: Involving relevant TVET stakeholders in the policy debate and reforms is fundamental for ensuring understanding and ownership of the transformational process.

• Capacity building: Pre- and in-service training needs to be geared towards promoting transferable skills to ensure that TVET teachers are adequately equipped to meet requirements placed on them.

Everyone also agrees that TVET teachers play an important role in fostering transferable skills in their students. But how can they effectively teach these skills if they themselves where taught in the traditional chalk-and-talk method? Many TVET teachers lack the understanding of transferable skills and the capabilities necessary to foster these skills in their TVET students. Even if capable, they face institutional obstacles like lack of pedagogical guidance and inflexible curricula. These concerns need to be addressed and tackled if progress is to be made in this area of skills development.

Finally, policy effectiveness can only be ensured if there is alignment between needs, curriculum, pedagogy and assessment. Without a clear link between these four aspects, policy reforms will have only limited impact on TVET practice. Creating the link might be easier said than done but efforts to define and implement transferable skills in TVET need to continue. In the end, these skills play a crucial role in ensuring everyone’s well-being and prosperity in the future.

For more information, please contact Mr. Gwang-Chol Chang [gc.chang(at)] at the Education Policy and Reform Unit.

Written by Barbara Trzmiel [b.trzmiel(at)]

Related Links:

•  Regional Perspective on Transferable Skills in TVET

•  UNESCO-RCP Workshop

•  TVET Teachers and Transferable Skills

•  Of Transferable Skills, Teachers and TVET