What are vocational skills?

A vocational education teaches practical job training in a hands-on environment that is typically not in a classroom. Vocational school graduates have a variety of jobs, including mechanic, carpenter, mason, cake decorator and landscaper. While vocational programs vary by school, students usually leave a program with a specific set of skills they can apply to their future career.

Hard Skills

Hard skills form the specific skill set required of a job or trade that is connected to the central part of a company's business. For example, hard skills for automotive garage work include changing oil, fixing transmissions and air conditioning systems, repairing electrical panels and changing tires. Students learn these skills through an apprenticeship and on-the-job training. Typically, teaching these skills is simple because they are not based on concepts or academic theories. Hard skills are also easily measured and quantified.

Soft Skills

Soft skills, also known as "people skills," rely on relationships, interpersonal skills, dealing with customers and interacting with the public. People with a solid command of soft skills can think on their feet, solve problems, lead a group through teamwork exercises, give critical feedback, motivate fellow employees and set an example for the rest of the workforce. Soft skills are hard to measure and quantify; many soft skills are not learnt in a vocational setting and are developed through relationships long before formal education. Regardless, they are an important part of any job, particularly a vocational job.

Technical Skills

Technical skills focus on computer skills, including use of computer applications, how to program computers, how to use special software, networking, how to resolve server issues and how to fix broken computers. The ability to use a special piece of equipment within an industry also is a technical skill. A car dealership might hire someone with a vocational education and specialised technical skills in automotive electrical systems. People with technical skills should highlight them on their resume.

Living Skills

Vocational living skills -- or life skills -- help people with disabilities make the transition to independent living. Living skills programs help individuals develop the skills needed to gain employment and earn a paycheck. They teach good work habits, work responsibilities and what employers expect in the workplace. Individuals also learn the soft skills necessary to interact and communicate with co-workers and customers. They also learn skills to live on their own, such as how to cook, pay bills and manage a household budget.

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About the Author

Alex Barski began writing professionally in 2006. He is a former television news reporter now working in news management and has written for regional magazines and business journals in Pennsylvania. Barski has also served as a college professor, teaching courses in mass media and writing. He has a Bachelor of Arts in mass communications and English from King's College.

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