Key Skills

There is a reasonable consensus around the key skills that are most essential to be effective members of the workforce. Originally developed by the National Council for Vocational Qualifications, the list includes:

  • Communication
  • Application of Number
  • Information Technology
  • Working with Others
  • Improving Own Learning and Performance
  • Problem Solving

Specifications exist for each of these skills, describing each in terms of five levels, extending from the equivalent of GCSE to first degree.


Employability, Institute for Employment Studies, 1998, found that individuals' employability - their capacity to gain employment and to maintain themselves in it - depended on:

  • their basic "employability assets" in terms of knowledge, skills and attitudes;
  • their ability to use and deploy those assets through, for example:
  • career management skills, including awareness of opportunities in the labour market;
  • job search skills, including the ability to use formal and informal networks;
  • a strategic approach to labour market opportunity, including the willingness to be occupationally and physically mobile;
  • the way in which the relevant assets are presented to employers, including through CVs and interview;
  • their personal circumstances, including any family circumstances that might affect their ability to seek employment; and
  • external factors which individuals have almost no capacity to influence, like macro-economic demand, benefit rules and employer behaviour and selection procedures.

Skills for life

The skills that people have - or lack - have an importance that goes over and beyond their utility in helping to secure and maintain employment. Skills also have a critical impact on:

  • people's self-esteem and their self-confidence;
  • their sense of connection with the wider society in which they live and their ability to participate fully in it;
  • their ability to contribute to the local community in which they live;
  • their ability to perform a range of everyday tasks which most people take for granted;
  • their ability to be effective parents and otherwise to care for members of their family.