Mechanisms and Programmes for Developing Transferable Skills

Graduates expressed the view that the development of transferable skills is a continuous and permanently unfinished process, whose construction ensues from a variety of experiences and contexts. The following comment illustrates this statement:

Olivia (29 years): All these skills can be continuously developed. I don’t think someone gets here and says: “I’m at this level, I’ve finished, and it’s over”. By other words, everything can be developed.

Various participants expressed the belief that the employer should invest in training programmes and actions to develop collaborator’s transferable skills, specifically the ones that are markedly relevant to the individual’s performance and, consequently, to the organization’s overall strategy and success. Examples were provided regarding training on customer service skills:

Maria (27 years, employed): The organization provides training on technical and transferable skills. [For example,] in emotional and conflict management, which is very important in the case of permanent customer service.

Teresa (26 years, employed): The hospital where I work also provides compulsory training in transferable skills, which is the case of communication with patients. This is compulsory for all professional categories.

Some of the respondents considered, however, that the lack of investment in transferable skills development programmes by employers constitutes no excuse for the employee to stagnate in this area. On the contrary, they referred that employees should play an active role in seeking the best means and mechanisms to develop transferable skills continuously, namely by resorting to external training:

Julia (29 years): The skills which are missing... I try to respond with training, for example in technologies, in languages...

Diana (35 years): Same opinion here: although I have no access to training at work, I can also look for training outside.

Lucas (34 years): I agree with you. You must have personal initiative (...) if you’re interested, if you have the initiative, you end up learning! If you don’t, you ’re going to stagnate in your career.

Furthermore, the participants in this study listed other mechanisms and sources which they believe to contribute to the acquisition and development of transferable skills. The replies underline the importance of the family context (useful in the acquisition of moral values), social interaction (e.g. with school or work colleagues), hobbies (e.g. the development of teamworking skills, resilience, and tolerance of stress through sporting activities), volunteer work, as well as other activities in the academic context (e.g. participation in student associations). The individuals added to this the development of transferable skills which ensued from any experience in the world of work, even if this was during a short period of time and very different from their academic qualification area (e.g. the development of customer service skills). This result is in line with the “discourse of experience” [59], which portrays the belief by students that any experience in the organizational environment contributes to the acquisition of transferable skills and positively differentiates the student from his colleagues. Two participants emphasized the conjugation of various experiences as being favourable to the development of transferable skills:

Maria (27 years): We are the sum total of everything around us, family, school, hobbies...

Lucas (34 years): Totally agree: Transferable skills are the result of experiences accumulated throughout life.

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