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supporting welfare to work providers

Identifying transferable skills

Section image for Finding work - workman standing on a question mark shadow

50+ jobseekers sometimes find it hard to work out what skills they have and what they could use them for in a different context. They confine their thoughts about this to very narrow parameters which relate to previous training or job roles.

The key to unlocking these skills is to ask ‘trigger’ questions and, in feeding back the responses you hear, explore the transferable skills your customers have.

Teasing out skills demands good listening as well as skill in giving feedback.

It is useful to use key competencies as a framework for this as many job descriptions and specifications are based on these.

Key competencies

  • Communicating
  • Coping with pressure
  • Working as part of a team
  • Being flexible
  • Organising
  • Solving problems
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Technical skills

This approach is particularly helpful when you are working with someone who has been out of the workplace for some time. The workplace they left has probably changed a great deal and frequently people find matching what they did before to what they might do now very challenging.

It is possible to demonstrate any of these competencies in a work or non-work setting so that a person who has been a carer could have evidence of skills in:

  • coping with pressure
  • being flexible
  • organising
  • solving problems
  • interpersonal skills.

“I have to organise the appointments with health professionals, be able to respond to my mother’s health needs and be ready to change any arrangements without warning.”

A person who is no longer able to do a manual job because of an injury might need some prompts to help them identify any transferable skills. For example:

  • talk me through what you did on a daily basis
  • how did you organise the work schedule?
  • how did you let everyone know what they had to do?

These questions might reveal that they had skills in communication, organisation, and working as a member of a team. The important thing is to ensure that they have evidence to back up any transferable skills you help them identify.

This case study illustrates how a Heavy Goods Vehicle Driver moved into a training job.

Case study 1: identifying transferable skills (Highways to Opportunities)

This case study has been provided by Highway to Opportunities, based in Oldham.

A customer we saw last year at H20 was extremely positive about the support we gave him.

After more than 20 years as a HGV driver, Jim was made redundant in early 2009. At his first appointment he was quite unsure of the direction he wanted to take but explained that he would like a career change as he no longer wanted the long driving hours and nights away from home. He was worried that his age (55) might be a barrier. After several appointments we found out that he had worked as a volunteer at his local cricket club for the last 15 years, coaching and training the children. Jim attended our CV Workshop and further appointments which enabled him to identify the full range of his skills and experience which included six years’ service in the British Army, HGV Licence, HIAB (RITTB) Licence, ADR Licence, FLT Licence, along with over 20 years’ experience operating this equipment.

Six months after his first appointment and a couple of weeks after his last, Jim came in to thank all the advisers who had worked with him and to say he had found work at a large training company that helps people gain various licences related to transport and distribution. He added that his new employer was going to invest over £2,000 to train him in how to train people

After several months of support and from not knowing what he wanted to do and believing his age was against him, he found a job close to home that offered new challenges. His employer took into account the value of his experience and transferable skills and as a result was willing to invest in his ongoing development.

Having a clear idea of what jobs consist of can assist the customer in identifying transferable skills. Some current job titles do not give many clues to what they mean in practice especially if they are new to the jobseeker so any work they can do to explore this is useful.

This first case study below (2) describes how a carer was helped to identify her transferable skills to find work. Case study 3 shows how a careers adviser helped a retired NHS employee identify her transferable skills and draw up an action plan to find less demanding work but work which would enable her to achieve her goal of continuing to contribute to society.

Case study 2: identifying transferable skills (Age UK Milton Keynes Employment Services)

We support quite a few mature carers looking for work.  One of the things they often share is a sense of isolation and as a result a lack of confidence, particularly in being able to find work.  This is especially the case when they have been carers for much of their lives. We get a lot of “How can I write a CV when all I’ve ever done all my life is care?” Of course it’s not easy, but we start talking about them as a person with a unique set of skills and knowledge and it comes as a real surprise that they do indeed have many skills that would be real use to employers. So what transferable skills do carers have? Well, we’ve found that most have strong evidence of:



           communication skills

           great dedication and loyalty

           nursing skills

           sense of humour

           organisational skills (consider having to administer complex drug regimes and dealing with NHS and social services staff, for example).


We also have to work on job search, interviewing and IT skills.  Because of many carers’ lack of exposure to interviews, we find role play a good way of practising the different types of interviews they may experience.  As well as asking them to play the role of the interviewee, we also ask them to play the role of the interviewer, working out what questions to ask and developing an awareness of the kind of answers employers like to hear.  



It’s not unusual to see a great transformation in some carers.  One of our customers who had cared for her severely autistic son for many years was in a position where she was able and wanted to work.  But she had very little work experience of any kind, although she had spent some time doing voluntary work at a hospital. When she started with us she lacked confidence and had no idea of what she could do. Over a period of time we helped her to identify her transferable skills and to understand her strengths.  At the same time, we coached her on job search skills, interview skills and helped her to write an interesting CV which brought out her gentle, patient nature , her sense of humour and her affinity with children. It was amazing to watch her grow in confidence as the weeks went by, and her improvement in interview skills brought her a spontaneous round of applause at the job club.

Case study 3: identifying transferable skills (New Challenge)

After 44 years' service as a midwife in the NHS, Miriam decided that the time was right to retire and she took a well-deserved extended break to visit family and friends in her native West Indies.

Four years slipped by and Miriam came to thinking about what to do next with her life. She'd reached her 66th birthday and although returning to her previous occupation was out of the question, Miriam felt she still had something to contribute to society and was considering returning to a less stressful job.

A few weeks before Christmas 2010 Miriam was browsing her local Harrow People magazine when the Experience Counts 50+ advertisement jumped out at her. A project funded by the London Councils and European Social Fund, it was the description of the personalised support on offer to older people that caught her eye.

Miriam duly booked a one-to-one appointment with a careers adviser at New Challenge. During this first exploratory meeting it became apparent the wide range of skills and experience that Miriam could offer. Miriam realised that being 66 and in good health, she might still have many years ahead and wanted to commit to something serious. Together with her adviser they looked at the possible opportunities open to her and drew up an action plan needed to achieve her goal.

Given Miriam's extensive experience in healthcare, her adviser suggested that the health and social care sector could make good use of her skills. A short time later Miriam came across an advertisement from the Harrow Shared Lives Scheme, looking for a long-term carer. Those who want to participate in the Shared Lives scheme as carers open their home to a vulnerable adult, someone who is able to live independently with support but who would otherwise have to live in a residential care setting.

Miriam felt that her long career with the NHS had equipped her with the right balance of skills. She had enough room in her home to share with one other person and could offer a safe and comfortable environment. And it would be companionship for both ...

Once committed, Miriam proceeded with the comprehensive screening needed by the Council to enrol in the scheme, including a Criminal Records Bureau check to ensure she was a suitable host for a vulnerable adult.

The combined support provided by New Challenge and the Head of Adult and Community Care in Harrow Council helped Miriam to compile a successful application to the Harrow Shared Lives Scheme, which opened the doors to a new later life ‘career' as a long-term carer.







This site is for help and information only. It is not meant as an authoritative guide. It is not meant as an authoritative statement of the law, and future changes in the law and other programmes and initiatives could make it less accurate at times. TAEN, the Department for Work and Pensions and the European Social Fund take no responsibility for your use of the information. You should always take professional advice on any specific legal or financial matter.