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What key competencies will matter most in the future?

by Chloe Baird
Posted: September 26, 2020

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How can today’s job seekers make sure they have the right skills for tomorrow’s workforce? 

In our ever-changing, advancing world, where technology moves at an astoundingly fast rate and the jobs our children will be stepping into are nothing more than a concept at present, how do you make sure you’re ready to tackle the challenges of tomorrow? 

It can be a tough question to answer, especially in the wake of our changing economy. 

But the answer lies in developing your general capabilities and key competencies for the 21st century. Read on to find out how. 

What are ‘general capabilities’ and why do they matter?

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) puts it like this: 

“The Australian Curriculum is based on the belief that to meet the changing expectations of society and to contribute to the creation of a more productive, sustainable and just society… people will need a wide and adaptive set of knowledge, skills, behaviours and dispositions.”

To put it simply, general capabilities are core skills and knowledge that enable you to live and work successfully in the 21st century. 

General capabilities can be broken down into the following areas:

  • Literacy
  • Numeracy
  • Information and communication technology (ICT) 
  • Critical thinking
  • Creative thinking
  • Personal and social capability
  • Ethical understanding
  • Intercultural understanding

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General capabilities are an outcome of education. They’re what can help you improve your employability and ensure your skills are relevant in the ever-changing workforce. You might already possess some of these general capabilities naturally, but education is how you can advance these skills and knowledge and future-proof your career.

Teaching general capabilities is important because it’s how the workforce will continue to keep up with the social and technological changes that are occurring in our world. And while it’s impossible to predict exactly what jobs there will be in the future and what skills they’ll require, the idea here is that these generalised skills and knowledge will form a solid foundational base for further learning and advancement. 

In the Australian Qualification Framework (AQF) you can find out about the standards of educational qualifications for senior secondary, vocational and higher education. This can help you make a decision when it comes to pursuing further education and advancing your general capabilities. 

Job mobility and the need to upskill

The idea of having these general capabilities also feeds into the fact that Australians don’t stick to the one job over the entire course of their working career. 

According to McCrindle Research, the average Australian will stay in the same job for 3.3 years before moving on. 

This trend is influenced by a number of factors, but it also reinforces that fact that continuous upskilling is what’s needed to stay relevant. This, combined with the rate technology evolves at, is why it’s more important than ever to future-proof your career.

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Capabilities vs skills vs competencies: what’s the difference? 

What is the difference between skills and competencies, and how does this affect the idea of general capabilities?

A skill is something you learn in order to carry out a task or role. It is a learned ability that allows you to perform a job well. 

A competency is something made up of different but related skills, knowledge, traits and abilities that allow you to carry out a skill. 

Let’s use cybersecurity as an example. As a Cyber Security Analyst, your job may involve penetration testing. In order to carry out pen testing on a network, you need the skills to successfully scan for weaknesses in the network, gain access to the network by exploiting these weaknesses, and then analysing the results. In order to learn these fundamental skills, you’ll need to be digitally literate and have a thorough understanding of IT processes, have strong analytical thinking skills, and have a keen eye for detail. Mastering these competencies will allow you to perform the skills required to carry out a successful pen test, and can be transferred across to other aspects of your job (or different jobs in the future). 

And where do general capabilities come into all this? Let’s put it this way: by learning general capabilities as part of the IT or cybersecurity course that you studied, you’re now equipped with the key competencies to perform the skills required of your job. 

How to make sure your skills remain relevant in the 21st century

Education and study are the best ways to ensure your skills remain relevant and that you’re staying ahead of the curve. 

Open Colleges offers a number of online courses across a range of fields—whether you’re entering the workforce for the first time, are switching careers or want to upskill and get a promotion. 

If you’re ready to start learning, enrol today with OC. 


Chloe Baird

Chloe is an Open Colleges alumnus who now works full time for OC as a Content and Copywriting Specialist. She is passionate about encouraging others to pursue their goals through education.

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