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What is the most important industry skill in VET?

April 23, 2021

According to the National Skills Overview and the IRC Skills Forecast, adaptability and learning skills are the top priority general skills.

The three main adaptability skills identified most frequently by industry include,

  • Emotional intelligence
  • Resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility
  • Self-management

Why are adaptability skills so important for the world of work?

As new technology is rapidly developing, job requirements are changing to reflect this — leading to demand for new skills. With artificial intelligence, automation, gamification and other technologies becoming more common in education, workers need strong flexibility and adaptability skills. 

With adaptability being identified as a crucial skill[1], AISC found industry needs workers to be able to show resilience and embrace change, adapt to new technologies and ways of doing business, maintain skill relevancy, show innovation and creativity and show a willingness to learn. 

How has COVID-19 affected the skills required by employers?

With the whole world needing to quickly adapt to new working environments since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, current job seekers need to be experts in being able to learn new tasks and thrive in different working environments[2]. Employers are now prioritising looking for adaptability skills in new employees, especially relating to emotional intelligence. Employers want to know that an employee will be able to handle any situation that is thrown at them, whether it be quickly transitioning to working from home, dealing with increased pressure, or adapting to new business strategies. 

According to Seek[3], more than ever hiring managers appreciate people who have taken the initiative to learn new skills and take new opportunities. They also value the ability for employees to respond appropriately to the emotions of others in difficult times, showing a need for employees who have a high level of emotional intelligence. In fact, according to LinkedIn, emotional intelligence has replaced time management in the ‘top five soft skills in demand’ list[4]. 

How are employers showing their need for adaptability skills in job ads?

Many job ads call for adaptability skills by using phrases such as:

  • Take initiative
  • A good problem-solving attitude
  • Develop new creative ideas
  • Demonstrated experience in change delivery
  • Fast learner

With many industries going through rapid change, including technology requirements and changes in demand, employers need workers who can not only cope with change, but also be leaders in dealing with change. 

employers need adaptability skills
Examples of occupations where adaptability skills are highly requested[5]

employers are looking for adaptability skills
The percentage of internet job posting in each occupation that requested adaptability skills[5]

What will the VET workforce look like in the next decade?

Generations Y and Z will account for over 60% of the workforce in the next decade. According to AISC[6], these generations are generally adaptive, open to opportunities, and responsive to innovation. They value workplaces that offer learning opportunities, collaboration, a good work-life balance and flexibility. These skills and values many of Gen Y and Z hold will mean they will have many lifelong learning opportunities and changing careers — with some predicted to have between 10 and 15 different jobs. 

However, many of the members of these generations don’t believe the current VET system can prepare them for work well enough, and want to see business and industry taking a more active role in training. This is where training organisations can take on new ways of training, such as implementing a work-based learning program. Work-based learning can: 

  • help the VET system achieve a better match between skills demand and supply
  • encourage flexible and relevant workforce development and learning
  • provide for the national recognition of the vocational outcomes of learning
  • guide and support individuals in their choice of training and career.

How can VET prepare the future and current workforce?

More and more workers and job seekers are taking responsibility for their own skills development, valuing soft skills just as much as technical skills. With the future and current workforce requiring exceptional adaptability skills, VET will need to offer more training opportunities covering these skills, including increased collaboration with industry.


  1. COVID-19: Reshaping Working Australia
  2. Employers’ Recruitment Insights COVID-19 update
  3. The 5 skills employers want now (and how to show them)
  4. 2021 Workplace Learning Report | LinkedIn
  5. Adaptability and learning skills: | National Industry Insights Report
  6. Priority skills | National Industry Insights Report

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