For Careers Professionals

The research behind SkillsMap® proposes that learners are using and developing a huge range of transferable skills in every subject they study. But that’s a relatively unorthodox idea for all of us because education and qualifications are normally described as being about the acquisition of knowledge, and not of transferable skills. Curriculum, syllabus and assessment all tend to focus on testing that knowledge acquisition. Approaches – like SkillsMap® – that surface the language of transferable skills from curriculum have been successfully delivered in UK higher education and are now increasingly common. They are, however, new in pre-18 education.

You can use this video with your learners to introduce them to SkillsMap®

You may also be wondering:

What’s the employer point of view?

We know from the Institute of Student Employers’ annual surveys that the vast majority of graduate recruiting employers often don’t look for learners of any specific subjects, particularly at post-16 and post-18, and even after higher education. That’s because in many cases, they don’t have any use for the knowledge that learners acquire. They will teach their new employees all the knowledge they need to learn to do the job. But in order to acquire that new knowledge and pick up new specialist skills, all employers are looking for transferable skills, sometimes also described as competences. In fact, most roles are defined in terms of transferable skills or competences, and those are the key areas they assess applicants on in recruitment, and in the early stages of their careers. So we need to help learners understand that they are already developing these transferable skills before they start thinking about jobs and careers and their future pathways. We also need to help learners understand that these transferable Skills are what they need not only to do a job, but also to learn the new knowledge required for any job.

Learners – and their parents and carers – are also likely to be worried about having ‘the right skills’ for an uncertain future. The research behind SkillsMap® proposes that instead of trying to make a best guess of the skills that will be important in the future, the wicked problems that shape our world are best solved by using different combinations of transferable skills that learners are already using and developing. This is how many workplaces function already, bringing together people with different combinations of transferable skills, such as analytical, innovation, critical thinking and problem-definition skills for example. And this is only going to become more important. So it’s reassuring for learners to know that these same transferable skills that are developed through their academic studies enable every individual to work in diverse employment settings, with diverse teams, and underpin their ability to acquire and apply new knowledge and specialist skills.

What impact does this have on learners choosing subjects to study?

Understanding the relationship between education and transferable skills helps learners immediately understand better how all their subject study and qualifications are relevant and valuable, at pre-16. pre-18 and post-18 levels. It takes the fear away about choosing the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ subjects, and helps them focus on studying what they enjoy, which we know is really essential to helping them succeed. Seeing their subjects as also being ways to develop transferable skills can help them recognise the relationships between subjects as similar or complementary and support key decisions about subject choice.

There is a lot of rhetoric about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ subjects and ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ choices. Very rarely is a subject choice the wrong one for a learner; if they drop something they need later, it just means taking a slightly longer route to the same destination, but that is rarely a poor outcome for the learner as they gain useful experience along the way. When we recognise that all subjects develop transferable skills that are relevant to future work, no subject is a ’bad’ or ‘wrong’ subject, because they are still using and developing valuable transferable skills. Understanding that can be incredibly reassuring to learners.

SkillsMap® therefore does not make a case for any one subject being more valuable for future employment than another. On the contrary, SkillsMap® actively and intentionally celebrates subject diversity and value across all subject areas and disciplines. Diversity of learning and learners is fundamental to social justice, and key to solving the big and small problems of our future. And the more transferable skills a learner develops, the better prepared they are for whatever their future holds. So the core takeaway message from SkillsMap® and the research behind it is that all subjects are valuable from an employability point of view, and that is the most inclusive position we can take on subject choice. The work we need to do as careers professionals is in helping learners recognise and realise that value, and use it to make decisions about their futures. SkillsMap® is here to help you start that conversation with your learners.

When we make it possible for learners to recognise these new ways to understand the value of education, we can open up new conversations with them about their future. And that has to be a good thing for everyone.

Further Information

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