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UNESCO-RCP Workshop: Transferable Skills in TVET

Regional Cooperation Platform News (online), 13 December 2013 - The UNESCO-RCP research workshop on transferable skills in TVET took place on the 26th October at Tongji University in Shanghai, China.

During the workshop, senior education officials, academics and TVET practitioners discussed transferable skills in TVET policies, in particular, policies dealing with TVET teacher education, and their practical implementation. There is an overall agreement that to create sustainable socio-economic development, transferable skills have to be fostered in both TVET students and teachers. However, questions regarding their practical implementation and assessment remain.

The workshop was based on the ongoing UNESCO-RCP regional study on transferable skills. Researchers from twelve countries in Asia and the Pacific presented initial findings of their country studies and discussed challenges in incorporating transferable skills into TVET in their own countries.

Given the lack of a clear definition of transferable skills, participants agreed that there is clear need for further elaboration. These so-called transferable skills, which include the ability to solve problems, communicate ideas and information effectively, to be creative, show leadership, conscientiousness, and entrepreneurial capabilities (UNESCO 2002), need to be further discussed and adapted to region- and country-specific contexts. In some countries, traditions, beliefs and moral values play an important role and are considered an integral part of transferable skills. These different dimensions make it more difficult to establish a definition and define the scope of transferable skills. Despite regional differences, however, there are similarities from which each country and region can benefit.

At implementation level, many TVET teachers are unclear about transferable skills and how to foster them through TVET. To overcome shortcomings in TVET teacher training and support, workshop participants agreed, all the relevant TVET stakeholders have to be involved in defining transferable skills in national policies and curriculum frameworks.

Furthermore, workshop participants expressed the need for clear guidance at a policy level, which goes beyond rhetoric and called for support at school levels.

After presenting their findings, the participants were divided into groups to discuss the complexities of transferable skills. The following lists some of the outcomes:

  • Enhancing transferable skills could increase employability of TVET graduates;

  • There is need to explore teaching practices that could foster transferable skills;

  • There is need for clear guidelines at a policy level and a support system at school level;

  • Curricula have to be updated to include transferable skills;

  • Parents play a crucial role in developing transferable skills outside of schools;

  • There is a need for industry involvement in developing the concept of transferable skills;

  • A workforce with well-developed transferable skills can make countries in the region more appealing to foreign investment;

  • Some questions remain:

    • Everybody agreed that transferable skills are very important, but what is next? What should be focused on in further research of the topic?


One important outcome of the workshop was the recognition that more research on transferable skills is needed. Research is particularly important regarding the ongoing global debate on the role of skills development in improving livelihoods, diminishing disparities and reducing poverty. The debate on transferable skills is based on the recognition that these skills are vital for the socio-economic development of countries and play a crucial role in improving peoples’ lives.

The ongoing UNESCO-RCP research will contribute to advancing the debate on transferable skills among academics, and more importantly among policy makers. It will form a basis for further research and result in policy recommendations.


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