August 2019

 Contributors:Luis Fernández-Sanz, Universidad of Alcalá and Laia Subirats, Eurecat (Spain)


The project’s General Objective is to develop and demonstrate a European-wide assessment and learning, guiding technology, which will help users to adapt their skill assets to the demands of labour market focusing on the support of Non-Cognitive Skills (NCS). The proposed solution will integrate and improve the development of NCS by providing functionality to enable the assessment and evaluation of such skills and recommending users’ actions for bridging the gap between their skills profile and the one recommended for their target occupations. Moreover, the solution will provide options for measuring NCS development linked to open badges to provide recognition of the new learning and skills.

Research on Non-Cognitive Skills

As a first step, the SkillsMatch project focused on the research of NCS, their frameworks and models and the methods for assessing them. The researchers reached a general consensus on the relevance of the NCS for employment when reviewing literature, research projects, scientific studies and business reports (LinkedIn, Deloitte, Human Age Institute, to name a few). There are also proposals from institutions like UNESCO, OECD and the European Union especially focused on suggesting lists and models of the NCS most relevant for employment, career development, education and training.

Working with NCS such as teamwork, communication, adaptability or organization has represented a big challenge for the research team of SkillsMatch. The task, led by the University of Alcalá, had to cope with the heterogeneity in terminology and methodological approach and a general lack of standardisation: our analysis of 8 selected EU projects, 18 reports from reputed entities, the review of 385 publications with more than 2700 mentions to skills using up to more than 700 terms was not easy. However, the iterative process with the help of semiautomated text mining and semantic procedures combined to the direct opinion of specialists, enabled us to define a consistent and empirically supported framework, named as NCSF, with 36 NCS integrating which represent the compendium of the most relevant initiatives up to the moment.

Names of the 36 NCS such as communication, teamwork, problem-solving, adaptability, personal development, ethical behaviour, and motivation among others are complemented by clear descriptions and set of hundreds of representative “buzzwords”, or semantically close terms or expressions, allocated to each of them (21 in average to each NCS). NCSF has been also enriched with the definition of seven graphical clusters for a better general overview: the structure of NCSF and its usefulness were confirmed by 52 skills and HR Experts throughout Europe, who were surveyed after sharing with them the detail of our proposed framework. Once the framework was defined, additional research on existing methods for NCS assessment was addressed by researchers leading to an extensive report on the existing methods.

Research on the supply and demand of NCS

The developed NCSF, Non-Cognitive Skills Framework, has provided a solid foundation for the analysis of supply and demand of NCS. The specific intended results were the determination of the relevance of each NCS as recommendation for employment in each occupation and the detection of availability of learning resources such as MOOC or OER for developing each of them. This information is essential for feeding the final system for users.

The specification of our NCSF has provided the basis for, using semiautomated methods for analysing hundreds of different document sources about NCS, measuring the relevance of each NCS in hundreds of studies and contributions (as commented before) combined with direct analysis of labour market coming from direct web scraping of job portals (with more than 32.000 job ads analysed) and from EU sources like EURES and the OVATE tool from CEDEFOP (with 32 million of job vacancies). All this information was combined with analysis of more than 1.200 of MOOCs from web repositories thus allowing the comparison of supply and demand of NCS leading to relevant differences between them.

Supply of NCS is mainly characterized by the availability of training and courses for each NCS, e.g. courses for the development of NCS, such as “leadership” and “entrepreneurship” or to improve the capacity for “teamwork”. On the demand side, the key indicator is the interest in each NCS for occupations expressed by companies through their job ads and by experts in reports and in our survey. Integrating both sides leads to interesting conclusions. For example, for some competences such as “communication” and “teamwork”, the demand and supply are high at the same time and are important for companies with specific courses available.

Very different situations appear for some NCS for which a large number of courses are offered but they are not clearly demanded by companies, such as “personal development”. The opposite case is the one for skills such as “adaptability” and “self-control”, which are highly demanded by companies, but one can hardly find any courses to develop them. The huge amount of information compiled and the capacity of detail analysis of it is the cornerstone for the guiding and recommendation services to be offered by our system to job seekers.