Skills Area

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Employability skills prepare individuals for work rather than for a specific occupation. They include a great number of skills, behaviours, attitudes and personal attributes that help make you employable. These are generally hard to assess. For example, employers desire future employees to have an understanding of what working life entails and have a positive attitude towards work. These are characterised by low absence rates, good time-keeping, a sense of responsibility to the employer, and a positive attitude to career development and training. These are often referred to as “core” skills and/or “essential” skills and/or “generic skills” and/or “soft” skills and/or “transferable” skills. For example, oral communication, problem solving and team working.

The Value of Wider Key Skills in Work-based Learning (DfES) makes an interesting distinction between threshold employability (the skills needed to start a job and get on the first step of the ladder) and sustainable employability (the skills needed to perform really well in a job, remain in employment and progress through a career).

To include information about all of these skills is out of the scope of this resource. Instead, some of the most important skills that are desired by most employers, are transferable between different jobs and which help make your employability sustainable have been selected.

Skills across the curriculum


Curriculum for Excellence - general abilities and attitudes

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Successful Learners Confident Individuals Responsible Citizens Effective Contributors
Generic soft employability skills

The National Children’s Bureau publication Measuring Employability Skills (March, 2012), the authors categorise and define soft employability skills that are largely relevant to a range of jobs.

Soft employability skills and attributes

PersonalInterpersonalSelf-managementInitiative & delivery
ConfidenceSocial/ interpersonal skillsSelf-controlPlanning
Self-esteemCommunication skillsReliabilityProblem-solving
MotivationTeamworkPositive attitudePrioritising


Definitions of soft employability skills and attributes

Skill/ attributeDefinition
(Self) confidenceBelief in oneself or one’s own abilities
Self-esteemA positive or negative orientation toward oneself; an overall evaluation of one’s worth or value
MotivationInterest/ engagement, effort and persistence / work ethic
Self-efficacyBelief in one’s ability to succeed in a particular situation
Social/ interpersonal skillsAbility to interact appropriately with other people, without undue conflict or discomfort
Communication skillsAbility to convey information effectively so that it is received and understood; appropriate verbal/ nonverbal communication with colleagues, managers and customers/others
TeamworkAbility to work cooperatively with others
AssertivenessAbility to confidently express views or needs without either aggression/ dominance / undue submissiveness towards others
Self-controlAbility to control own emotions and behaviour, particularly in difficult situations or under stress
ReliabilityAttendance, time-keeping, consistent standards
Positive attitudeKeen to work, learn, accept feedback and take responsibility
PresentationConsistently clean, tidy and appropriately dressed, with a polite and professional manner
PlanningAbility to plan tasks and monitor progress
Problem-solvingAbility to identify problems and devise solutions
PrioritisingAbility to identify and focus on priority tasks