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Preparing your MSCA-DN proposal? Don`t forget the transferable skills.

28th October 2021 at 1:54 pm

Transferable skills are skills and abilities that are relevant and a “must-have” for university graduates and academics when planning their next steps within an academic career or applying for jobs in companies and transitioning to industry. Across sectors, employers often look for candidates who can demonstrate a good set of transferable skills, to round-off the technical expertise. Luckily, most universities offer a broad range of transferrable skills courses for their students and early career researchers, ranging from communication and scientific writing skills to more general technical knowledge such as statistics.

Transferable skills training in H2020 Innovative Training Networks and Horizon Europe Doctoral Networks

Training in transferable skills is an important element of the training programmes included in the EU-funded Marie Curie research and training networks for early-stage researchers and doctoral candidates. It`s become a standard in all of the more than 600 Innovative Training Networks (ITNs) that were funded under H2020. If you are in the process of preparing your MSCA Doctoral Network (DN) proposal for the upcoming submission deadline in November this year (call topic HORIZON-MSCA-2021-DN-01-01), you have probably already started thinking of or have already defined some transferable skills courses to include in the training programme. Having been involved as a so-called partner organisation in nearly two dozen funded ITNs, we at accelopment would advise you to first check with your project partners, notably the universities, what kind of transferable skills courses they offer as part of their local PhD programmes. In many cases, some of these courses will even be mandatory for those research fellows enrolled in the local PhD programme, so that there will be no need to organise the same course at the network level for the entire consortium and all 10 to 15 doctoral candidates that are typically recruited.

Pandora`s box of transferable skills

However, when taking a closer look at the large variety of courses advertised on the Web and when opening Pandora’s box of transferable skills, we were surprised to see that virtually any skill that is not scientific can be considered a transferable skill. The term “transferable skill” is often used interchangeably with “generic skill”. However, this seems to be incorrect because Generic and Transferable Skills (GTS) are sometimes combined in one category. We tried to figure out the difference between hard, soft and transferable skills. Hard skills like data management are measurable and are often displayed through technical knowledge and commonly linked to particular jobs or professions, while soft skills are personality traits and habits that are more innate and unique to us as individuals. Soft skills are less measurable than hard skills and often relate to how we interact with other people, commonly referred to as “people-skills”. Examples are empathy, teamwork, adaptability and confidence. However, soft skills are more commonly transferable but hard skills can be too.

As if the definition and categorisation of skills were not complicated enough, we have come across 21st century skills in one of our ITNs; these comprise skills, abilities and learning dispositions that have been identified as being required for success in 21st century society and workplaces, notably in a rapidly changing, digital society. Examples are analytic reasoning and complex problem solving. To get an overview of the many different skills that can be conveyed to early career researchers, we have assembled a list of the most common or most popular ones in several previously and currently funded ITNs.

What transferable skills courses are best for your DN?

This is a difficult question because your choice of transferable skills courses depends on several factors, including the needs of the job market and the future employers of your PhD graduates, as well as the educational and personal background of the research fellows to be recruited by you and your network partners. We have put together a rather long list of transferable skills that could be relevant to your researchers.

AdaptabilityDigital designProactivity
Big data analysisEntrepreneurshipProgramming
Business model developmentEthics in researchProject management
Collaborative researchEthics in science communicationPublic engagement
CommunicationFunding knowledgePublic speaking
Complex problem solvingGender-sensitive research practicesQuality assurance
CreativityGrant writingResearch project management
Critical thinkingInnovative thinkingResilience
Data managementIP managementScience communication
Data visualisationLeadershipSelf-direction
Decision makingMentorshipTeamwork
DelegatingNetworkingTime management

Perhaps you can identify or even pick and choose some that you wish your DN to cover, and why not talk to us. We at accelopment have developed a series of transferable skills online modules and trained hundreds of early-stage researchers, sharing with them the wealth of knowledge gathered from our extensive experience in EU-funded projects and combining the diverse and specific expertise of our highly qualified staff. Additionally, we invite you to check out our transferable skills quiz covering our currently available online training modules to help you decide on which courses to include in your DN`s training programme.

Where to find transferable skills training providers at such short notice?

With less than one month to go, our team at accelopment Switzerland might be able to fill some of the gaps in your draft training programme and can also advise on suitable complementary training providers. We have a wealth of knowledge, experience and tips to share with your research fellows thanks to our long-standing experience as a partner organisation (now called associated partner) for transferable skills training as well as for project management and dissemination support in dozens of ITNs. These include the more recently-started European Training Networks (ETNs) AGePOP, CAPSTONE, CONSENSE, InPharma and NATURE-ETN, the ongoing EuroNeurotrophin, ImmerSAFE, LightDyNAmics, MUSIQ, NanoCarb, Train2Target, the completed ClickGene, EXCILIGHT, PEARRL and the current European Industrial Doctorates (EIDs), MORE, MOSAICS and STACCATO. We have been a sparring partner for doctoral research and training networks since 2008 and are looking forward to supporting the new Horizon Europe Doctoral Networks.

Dr Emily Rose Ciscato

Dr. Emily Rose Ciscato
Project Manager Communications