Identifying abstract, soft, tacit or non-technical skills

Skills Recognition processes can be improved by greater recognition of what is referred to as abstract, soft, tacit or non-technical skills. This includes identifying informal learning associated with the development of abstract skills. Recognising the importance of abstract or 'soft' skills in the rail industry is a valuable risk mitigation strategy.


Ralph is a driver trainer and assessor with a passenger rail company. He highlights the importance of non-technical skills and the need to improve assessment of non-technical skills which he sees as crucial to rail safety. According to Ralph, ‘you can put anyone in the seat of a train and have them learn to drive it ... Where these non-technical skills come in is when things are not normal, so it’s not a normal day at the office, something happens and they have to start making decisions and thinking about what’s going on around them. They have to have that situation awareness, and they need to not only have the knowledge that they’ve now been taught and the practical skills, but they need to put it all together and come up with an outcome’.


Skills Recognition is used to identify abstract skills in one large rail organisation:


We run assessment centres for many of our entry level and operational roles. So within that we identify the soft skills particularly that can be transferred to the role, so you know, customer service, interpersonal skills etc. We deliberately run assessment centres for particular roles to specifically identify those soft skills. It’s [based on] experience predominantly … (Recruitment manager, passenger rail operator)