Are transferable skills really transferable?

When is a telecommunications design engineer, not a telecommunications design engineer?

A friend of mine recently told me how he had came across a great job advertised online. Reading the job specification, he was able to put a big tick against every skill, responsibility and evidence of experience listed. The job was written for him. The job was his! It was now a question of applying. However, on the very last point of the job specification he was thrown a major, if not fatal blow. The candidate needed to be fluent in Korean!

Grrrrrrrrr..............Why was this not made clearer at the top of the job specification? He had just spent the best part of 25 minutes reading the job specification carefully, getting excited, calming down, making notes and preparing his covering letter. My friend was livid and has changed his opinion on Korean mobile phone manufacturers.

Clearly, there are some jobs where transferable skills alone will never be enough.

The value of transferable skills

Getting a new job can be a challenge. The effort, time and preparation required to secure the role is enough to put you off. Some candidates however see this very differently. They see it as an opportunity.

Typically, having the right skills, level of experience and qualifications are what employers look for. The 'smart' candidates apply for jobs knowing they do not fulfil the entire job description but will apply for the job regardless. They know they can do the job. After all, a job description is a wish list.

With some training, mentoring and a lot of hard work, they know they will do a great job and become an industry expert in no time at all.

Sharing the risk, exploring the potential

Candidates are prepared to take big risks. They are prepared to make the switch from one industry to another to further their careers, bringing with them great experience, knowledge, bags of enthusiasm and new ideas too. In fact, the smart candidates do not see any risk is being taken at all. Who said bringing in a fresh perspective was not a positive move for both the candidate and employer?

However, some employers are simply not prepared to take such risks, albeit calculated ones. Equally, they do not have the time, investment or training programmes in place to facilitate 'outsiders'.

That said, it is well known that many highly regulated industries consider candidates from other highly regulated industries. They see this ‘experience’ as an asset. The rail industry seems to be stuck in the past however. Some rail organisations continue to be risk averse and do not offer even apprenticeship schemes despite a growing rail industry and ageing workforce.

Rail contract jobs, Rail permanent jobs

In previous Resourcing Solutions blogs we have looked at alternative methods to ease the rail industry's scarce skills crisis. Tier 2 visas, candidate engagement initiatives and considering the benefits of working with a specialist recruitment consultancy are all excellent measures to help ease the scarce skills crisis. More recruitment initaitives are urgently required however to fill our rail contract jobs and permanent jobs too.

Telecommunication engineers work in many highly regulated industries like airports, defence and power sectors. It seems however, an engineer with at least ten years' CCTV, public address, customer information and public help point systems experience would fall flat on his or her face at the first hurdle if they applied for a similar position within the rail industry.

So, as an example, how is airport security, passenger safety and customer communication technology any different to rail security, passenger safety and customer communications? Or am I missing the point?

Spot the difference

In the picture below, there are six 'differences'. Can you spot them all? (Answers at end).

Spot the difference

The UK rail industry is of immense importance to the British economy. The rail network will only get bigger as the economy continues to grow. Let's not throw it all away and its history too. The candidates that the rail telecommunications industry urgently need are much closer than you think. Their skills, experience and knowledge are not to be ignored.


1. Slightly different keypad access devices
2. A train in one picture and an aeroplane in the other
3. Slightly different CCTV units
4. Slightly different customer information boards
5. Slightly different customer help points
6. Slightly different customer public address systems

Resourcing Solutions is a specialist rail recruitment agency and we can help you find your next role. You can search the latest rail communications jobs at our dedicated page.

This entry was posted on 22nd September 2014. It was filed under the Rail Communications, categories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. What's RSS?.