Bucks Employment Support

Bucks Employment Support

Supporting the Bucks community reach employment and learning goals

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What are transferable skills, why are they important and how can I gain them?

Transferable skills (or employability skills as they are sometimes called) are a group of ‘soft’ skills which employers look for when recruiting. The reason they are called ‘transferable’ is because they can are required in many different careers, allowing you to adapt to the labour market or your own desires to change career or move sideways into related careers. Learning about them now, and doing your best to develop them will help you stand out and give you a head start!

You may have heard of the term ‘skills gap’. In fact, universities and employers consider transferable skills to be the largest skills gap overall. The World Economic Forum estimates that 65 per cent of children today will end up in careers that don't even exist yet. So by developing your transferable skills now and in the future you will be better placed to meet future employment needs.

There are six skills, identified by the educationalists Pearson:

So, how do you go about developing these skills?


Well, you will already have started developing many of them, either through academic study or extra-curricular activities. The key is identifying them and understanding how you can build on them and also be honest with yourself about the gaps you may have.

Imagine a funnel, with all sorts of experiences going in the top and the relevant skill coming out of the bottom!

Critical thinking

Critical thinking funnel diagram


Critical thinking is a crucial skill which involves analysing disparate information in order to make sense of it. It's about working on a relationship between facts, coming to a conclusion, creating a strategy or argument and/or evaluating processes. It's basically problem solving!

Critical thinking can be gained mainly through academic study although some other activities can also help develop it.







Did you know that strong communication skills are linked to higher grades and graduation rates? Additionally, employers recently ranked communication as the second most important skill for employees to have.

Communication takes many forms — from writing a paper or reading a book to delivering a presentation, listening and engaging in conversation or debate.

Communication skills can be developed both in and outside the classroom.





Social, economic, and scientific innovations have increased hugely in recent years, and creativity skills will help you participate and succeed as you join the workforce of the future. 

It’s about producing novel and useful ideas and depends on your level of expertise, ability to think ‘out of the box’, and a tolerance for ambiguity and risk taking.

Creative skills can be developed in a variety of ways.





When you start work you are very likely to be collaborating with others as part of a team.

So, if you have experience in this area and have developed good interpersonal communication, conflict resolution and task management skills you will be in high demand by employers.

Collaboration skills can be developed in the classroom in any subject as long you’re working in a group towards a common goal, but via outside interests too.




Leadership is something you will develop throughout life, but it’s never too early to start developing it. Pearson have defined leadership as consisting of eight core skills:

• Challenging assumptions
• Establishing vision and possibilities for the future
• Fostering collaboration by promoting communication and cooperation
• Respecting and acknowledging followers’ contributions
• Empowering followers to complete high quality work
• Maintaining accountability
• Providing mentorship and support to help followers achieve their goals.

Leadership skills can be developed in the classroom through volunteering to lead a piece of group work, but you could also gain it through the following activities:



Can you believe that skills in self-management is twice as strong a predictor of a learner’s final grades than your IQ? This means being good at planning, organisation, time management, persistence, progress monitoring, control and attention to detail.

Self-management skills can be developed throughout your time in school and through all your studies any extra-curricular activities you do. It’s about being organised, determined and diligent. Why not create your own personal funnel for this skill?


In addition, employers are also looking for evidence of Social Responsibility.

Participating in social responsibility at a young age can lead to higher life satisfaction, higher educational attainment, and more civic engagement and a skill employers increasingly expect. Pearson has identified four key areas:

- Multicultural
- Environmental
- Ethical
- Civic

Employers are very serious about their own social responsibility, so will be looking for similar traits in their employees. Volunteering is also a great way to develop the skills discussed above! You can develop these skills through fundraising, volunteering, Duke of Edinburgh Award, Church activities, campaigning and activism.

How can I communicate my skills?

When applying to college or university it’s vital to bring your transferable skills as well as your academic skills into your application.

Click below for a link to a personal statement prepared for a UCAS university application. How many transferable skills are mentioned, either explicitly or implicitly?

Personal Statement

When applying for an apprenticeship or job, you may just need to fill in an application form. Often however, will need to prepare a Curriculum Vitae (Latin for ‘Course of One’s Life’).
The CV we recommend for School, College or University Leavers is a Skills Based CV – in short, a summary of your transferable skills and any employment you have done.

The important thing to remember is that for every job you apply for the CV will be adapted to suit the skills required for the job – editing your profile and moving sections around to match the job specification as perfectly as possible.

Case study 1:

Maggie is a year 11 student who would like to start an apprenticeship after her GSCEs. She enjoyed Business GCSE and has decided to work in digital marketing as she enjoys social media and already has quite a good TikTok following. Maggie also enjoys baking and drama and has been in a number of school productions. Last summer she also did some work experience at a local events agency. She has played the piano since she was 7 and has just passed grade 6.

The Digital Marketing Apprenticeship she wants to apply for describes its desired skills as:

• Good communication skills
• Good teamwork skills
• Good understanding of digital social media platforms and email marketing
• Good creative skills
• Motivated and eager to learn work towards an Apprenticeship

And desired qualities as:

• Professional
• Punctual
• Organised
• Hardworking
• Enthusiastic
• Presentable

and desired qualifications as:

GCSE, or equivalents, Maths and English at grade 4/C and above

For this job, Maggie's CV could look like this:

Her cover letter could look like this:

Case study 2:

Elijah is 17 and wants to apply for a Civil Engineering Degree Apprenticeship. He is studying for A Levels in Physics, Maths and Design & Technology. He is a prefect at school and has been involved with Young Enterprise and has his Duke of Edinburgh Bronze and Silver Award. He also plays tennis at his local club, where he also volunteers to teach younger children. At home he enjoys cooking, and has recently taken a job washing up in a local pub.

The apprenticeship he wants to apply for describes its desired skills as:

• Teamwork
• Excellent communication, mathematics and IT skills
• Good literacy skills
• Ability to work independently without the need for close supervision
• Required to work to deadlines, with good time management skills
• Organised and have good attention to detail

And desired qualities as:

• An interest in civil and structural engineering and a desire to pursue this as career
• Reliable and enthusiastic
• Must be ambitious and willing to learn under supervision
• Based within a busy environment, candidates will be expected to work using their own initiative
• Must have a methodical approach to new tasks and problems
• A helpful and friendly approach is essential

and desired qualifications as:

• A Level: AAA grades at A level, to include Mathematics and a Physical Science.
• BTEC Extended Diploma grade DDD including the two Mathematics units.

His CV for this job could look like this:

His cover letter could look like this:

Have a go at creating your own CV. Just remember to adapt it for each job you apply for so that it matches their desirable skills and qualities perfectly. You will also have to communicate your skills at interview.

For further information on transferable skills also see Barclays Life Skills

Now that you've learned what transferable skills are, use this workbook to see how they can be integrated into a great CV. You will also learn how to create a great cover letter and prepare for interviews. 

Click on our booklet below to view, print and start planning your application: