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The Importance of Transferable Skills Versus Technical Skills

The study participants assessed the technical skills as indispensable to competent job performance, yet they believed it was important to conjugate these with transferable skills. They thus evaluate them as complementary, and such has been advocated by the literature [30, 54, 55]. These results are different from those obtained by Cabral-Cardoso et al. [47] a decade ago, when it was found that students tended to underestimate transferable skills and to consider technical skills as being more essential. The following excerpts illustrate this current perception of the complementary relationship between transferable and technical skills:

Samuel (27 years): They go hand-in-hand. As you acquire more technical competence, you will get to develop your technical skills better.

Bruno (35 years): You must have deeply-rooted technical skills to be able to develop your transferable skills. One thing complements the other, but each one on its own is not really valued. You must have them together.

Some participants commented that the real understanding of the importance of transferable skills only occurs during professional experience. This was expressed by Helena (32 years): “The professional experience I now possess is what showed me the importance of having transferable skills too”. This result corresponds with the study undertaken in New Zealand by Rainsbury et al. [55], which revealed that whereas business graduates attribute equal importance to transferable and technical skills, business students without professional experience assess transferable skills as being less relevant. During the discussion of this topic, a participant exemplified the important use of transferable skills when exercising her professional activity:

Helena (32 years): More than giving the customer an impression of the technical skills I possess, it will be my use of transferable skills that will convince him to buy.

Several respondents revealed the perception that while technical skills are expected and required at any organizational level, mastering transferable skills is especially relevant in higher job positions and crucial in building a career:

Maria (27 years): I agree with that view [the great relevance of transferable skills] when talking about a higher job position.

Lucas (34 years): They [in the organisation] focus on technical skills when we ’re in lower job positions but if you want to climb the ladder, then transferable skills are essential.

The results therefore suggest that the students without professional experience at this faculty of Economics and Management may be less sensitive to the great importance of transferable skills in the current corporate world [43, 56]. This aspect could limit their participation in initiatives developed by this institution, namely those of the Transferable Skills Development Programme.

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