Find here key and commonly used skills-related terms and concepts with their definitions.


School-to-work transition

The process of moving from education or training to employment, covering the period in which this change takes place


A group of companies with the same main economic activity (e.g. construction) (see NACE)

Sector-specific skills

Particular or specialised skills necessary to do particular jobs in specific sectors (see Job-specific skills)

Shortage (skills shortage)

Situation in labour market where the demand for particular type of skills is higher than the supply of workers with that type of skill


Refers to the ability to apply knowledge, use know-how to complete tasks and solve problems and carry out the tasks that comprise a particular job.

As an overarching/multidimensional concept/term, “skill” can be also used as a proxy measure on occupation, qualification, educational attainment (these measures have the benefit of being readily available in a range of quantitative datasets).  

Other abilities, used at daily work, such as teamwork and problem-solving, are also considered as skills (however it is not always easy to be measured due to their subjective nature) (see also Competence)

Skill assessments

Skill assessments or skill audits can take place at the national, regional, local, or sectoral level and aim at providing a comprehensive analysis of current skill needs and the implications of past trends for the future.  From a skills anticipation perspective, a skill assessment can offer information on emerging skills needs or likely future skill gaps.  This may be provided quantitatively (e.g. with reference to the changing number of people employed in an occupation, or with a certain level of qualification), or qualitatively (e.g. with reference to providing descriptive information about the changing skill profiles within jobs).

Source: Cedefop, Skills Panorama

Skills anticipation

Concerns the processes and activities that yield information about the current and future demand for, and supply of, skills, and the extent to which they are in equilibrium. Skills anticipation results can signal out future skill needs that policy makers can act upon. Skills anticipation usually regards the following exercises/tools: skill assessments; skills forecasting; skills foresight; and other types of activities, such as surveys of employers or learners which capture information on their skill needs or the skills they supply.

Source: Cedefop, Skills Panorama

Skills anticipation and matching system

A skills anticipation and matching system refers to the process of producing and building on available labour market and skills intelligence with an aim to balance the supply of and demand for skills and to provide an informed basis for further economic development via targeted skills investments by individual countries.

Source: Cedefop

Skills forecasting

Skills forecasting refers to systematic means of determining future skill needs. Typically skills forecasting is based on economic modelling of future labour demand in an economy from which estimates are derived about the level of skill demand associated with the change in labour demand.  Typically future skills demand is measured with reference to occupations or qualifications.

Source: Cedefop, Skills Panorama

Skills foresight

Skills foresight focuses on future developments, either the short-term (for example one year); medium-term (five or ten years ahead) or it may be over the longer-term (sometimes referred to as horizon scanning).  Foresight is based on evidence drawn from a wide-range of sources, often including participatory approaches that are synthesised in a variety of ways.  Relevant methods may regard commissioning papers by experts, round-table discussions, scenario development, Delphi-methods, etc.

Skills governance

The process of putting in place appropriate institutional structures (e.g. intermediary skills bodies), operational processes (regulation, management, financial and non-financial incentives) and dissemination channels (online or offline platforms) that may facilitate stakeholder interaction and policy reaction based on reliable labour market skills intelligence. 

Skills Intelligence

Skills intelligence is the outcome of an expert-driven process of identifying, analysing, synthesising and presenting quantitative and/or qualitative skills and labour market information. These may be drawn from multiple sources and adjusted to the needs of different users. 

To remain relevant, skills intelligence must be kept up-to-date and adjusted when user needs change. This requires the expert-driven process to be continuous and iterative.

Learn more in our blog article: Crafting skills intelligence

Soft skills

Skills that are cross-cutting across jobs (see Job-specific skills) and sectors (see Sector-specific jobs) and relate to personal competences (confidence, discipline, self-management) and social competences (teamwork, communication, emotional intelligence)

STEM skills

Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths skills - skills expected to be held by people with a tertiary-education level degree in the subjects of science, technology, engineering and maths

Supply (skills supply)

The types of skills and qualifications held by people in the labour market (see Demand)

Surplus (skills surplus)

Situation in the labour market where the number of people with particular type of skills is higher than the demand for that type of skill