Study on Basic Employability Skills of Low-Skilled Adults for Labour Market Inclusion

A wide literature is already available about the skills that are most valued by employers. However, they usually embrace a large range of competences, which are not all necessarily relevant for the job opportunities offered to low-skilled adults. This research aims to understand what are the ‘basic employability skills’ needed by low-skilled adults to better integrate into the labour market in Spain, Romania, United Kingdom, Italy and Slovakia, in order to develop tailored tools for the intermediary professionals working with them.


The methodology used combined both quantitative and qualitative methods of data collection and analysis among different profiles of professionals working with low-skilled adults which included university professors, educators, vocational education counsellors, recruiters, HR experts, social workers, trainers, career advisors/coaches. Two tools have been used to collect information: questionnaires on the key competences low-skilled adults need and the difficulty of assessing each of them were completed and focus groups and semi-structured interviews to deepen and explain the data gathered in the questionnaires and explore issues that needed further clarification.


In total 61 professionals took part in both research phases to understand the key skills for low-skilled adults and the main challenges faced by professionals. The findings highlighted the importance of soft skills and across the 5 countries indentified, 45 soft and 11 hard skills have been identified as necessary by professionals. Furthermore, 15 soft (in addition to which 21 others were indicated as very important) and 4 hard skills at national level were identified. Professionals indicated skills belonging to the categories of social, personal, digital and professional skills. A list of hobbies was also established that they thought could be useful in order to discover some low-skilled adults’ competences that may not yet be known or utilised.


In addition to the identification of soft and hard skills, the research also documented the main challenges faced by professionals during competence assessment with low-skilled adults. Findings revealed that they consisted of:

  • lack of time;
  • difficulty to assess soft skills;
  • lack of tools adapted to low-skilled adults;
  • difficulty to understand which skills shall be evaluated when it comes to low-skilled jobs for recruiters;
  • low-skilled adults’ difficulty to understand if they have the competences or not and what they exactly consist in;
  • lack of professionalism;
  • very low tolerance level to any frustration or stress factor, resistance to change and rejection to new challenges;
  • poor understanding of the language and requests of the assessor.

The importance for low-skilled adults to develop soft skills to better integrate into the labour market and the availability of tools tailored to them that can support intermediary professionals to assess their competences effectively as been indentified as a key area for development for interventions supporting the labout market inclusion of low-skilled adults. Based on the expertise of professionals who have extensive experience in working with adults defined as low-skilled, this research has allowed the identification of most relevant key competences requested by employers for recruiting candidates for low-skilled positions in the national contexts of Spain, Romania, United Kingdom, Italy and Slovakia.  


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