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  • Norman Brook

Sport developing Employability Skills for the Future of Jobs

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development[1] recognise that sport is an important enabler of sustainable development. Sport is making a contribution to the realisation of peace and development, promoting tolerance and respect, encouraging the empowerment of women and of young people, individuals and communities and contributing to health, education and social inclusion objectives.

The Commonwealth Secretariat published a guide titled “Enhancing the contribution of sport to the Sustainable Development Goals”[2] which seeks to provide direction for governmental policy-makers, and other stakeholders, to enable sport to make the fullest possible contribution to sustainable development. The guide considers the contribution that can be made by sport to Good Health & Well-Being (SDG 3), Quality Education (SDG 4), Gender Equality (SDG 5), Decent Work & Economic Growth (SDG 8), Sustainable Cities & Communities (SDG 11), Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions (SDG 16), and Partnerships for the Goals (SDG 17).


In this article, we consider how encouraging young people to participate in sport either as players or as young sports leaders might promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all (SDG Goal 8).

The Commonwealth Secretariat guide notes that “sport can contribute to the development of core skills such as communication, teamwork and problem solving.” Participation in sport as a player or young sports leader can help develop core and entrepreneurial skills and increase an individual’s employability.

Access to a good education is important especially as opportunities for unskilled work around the world are falling away due to increased automisation and jobs requiring specific technical skills increase.  Employers need people with appropriate qualifications and technical skills, but they also need people that have the soft skills required to fulfil the role and contribute to an organisation’s success.

Employers are increasingly seeking employees that possess core employability skills as well as specialist, technical skills and it is these soft skills that can be transferred between different jobs and different employment sectors that sport may be good at developing in young people.

Sport is recognised by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO)[3] as a useful means of engaging unemployed youth and working with those who have not attended or completed school.  It is also a means of teaching those in education core employability skills in an informal set outside of the classroom.

Young people who participate in sport are often more successful at gaining employment and tend to earn more money than those who do not.[4] [5] It would appear that participation in sport develops core skills that employers want to see in their employees and that these skills help individuals become successful in the work place.

Sport2Work Manual

In writing a multi-sport manual called “Sport2Work”[6] for the GIZ in Ethiopia designed to help young people transfer core skills developed through sport to the workplace, Norman Brook, Donny Jurgens and Nick Grau were informed by research undertaken by Karen Petry and Louis Moustakas.[7]  They selected the following core skills or competences as being important in the context of the Ethiopian labour market. Using a process called “connected coaching” coaches using the manual are able to help young people make an “intentional connection” with the core skills or competences they develop through participation in sport as a player or young sports leader and the application application of these soft skills in the workplace.

In the GIZ Manual the following core skills or competences were identified:

  1. Communication

  2. Leading a Team

  3. Decision Making

  4. Cooperation

  5. Goal Orientation

  6. Self-Responsibility

  7. Self-Discipline

  8. Adaptive & Creativity

The manual which used the sports of football, basketball, handball and volleyball to teach employability skills to young people can be accessed online using this link.

According to the World Economic Forum[8] come 2020, over one-third of skills (35%) of the core skills that were considered important in the workforce just a few years ago will have changed. New developments driven by the Fourth Industrial Revolution will transform the way we live and work. Some jobs will disappear, others will grow and jobs that don’t even exist today will become commonplace. The employees of the future workforce will need to develop key core skills if they are to keep pace with change in the labour market.

The following infographic illustrates the changing nature of these skills. The ten core skills projected by the World Economic Forum to become important by 2020 can all be developed through participation in sport either as a player or as a young sports leader.

Future of Jobs Skills

Complex Problem Solving

“The ability to find solutions to difficult or complex issues.”

Players need to make choices in games or competitions that help them or their teams perform well. No two games are ever the same, different environment, different opposition, different conditions, and even a different make up of your own team, present issues on the field that need to be solved if the player or team is to be successful.

Critical Thinking

“Disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence.”

Players learn from their experiences on the sports field by reviewing their performance and apply their learning to new situations.


“The ability to transcend traditional thinking and create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations.”

If players or teams keep doing what they have always done on the sports field they will quickly lose a competitive advantage. Players need to be creative, develop and try out new approaches to keep ahead of their opposition.

People Management

“The ability to lead, motivate, train, inspire, and encourage others.”

Sport provides the opportunity for players to become leaders. All players in a team have the opportunity to lead, motivate, support and encourage their team mates not just the Team Captain.

Coordinating with Others

“The ability to work with others to achieve a common purpose.”

In team sports it is obvious that successful teams learn how to work together to achieve a common goal, but even in individual sports there it is likely that the player will be surrounded by a team that supports their participation in the sport.

Emotional Intelligence

“The ability to recognise, understand and manage our own emotions.”

Participation in sport can help young people to recognise, contextualise, and learn how to manage their different emotions. Players experience highs and lows in performance, winning and losing, and through such experience learn how they react and how to manage how they feel.

Judgement & Decision Making

“The ability to make a decision after careful thought.”

Through playing sport, young people learn how to analyse situations and make quick decisions. The decisions they make on the field will impact the outcome of the game so they need to learn to make wise decisions even when they are under pressure.

Service Orientation

“To have empathy for a customer’s needs coupled with the desire to meet those needs.”

A player’s customers may be his/her teammates, their supporters, sponsors, etc. Players learn how to best support their teammates on and off the field. They learn how to communicate with their supporters often using social media to stage engaged with them. They learn how to promote the brands of their sponsors.


“The ability to engage with others to reach an agreement.”

Especially in team sports, players will develop negotiation skills as they seek to agree how they will play together on the field.  When challenges arise they need to be able to discuss issues and agree the way forward. In individual sports, players will have these types of conversations with other players, their coaches and support team.

Cognitive Flexibility

“The mental ability to switch between thinking about two different concepts, and to think about multiple concepts simultaneously.”

Sport is fast moving and involves interpreting multiple cues. Players need to deal with the here and now, but also be cognisant of what will be coming next. Sport helps develop cognitive flexibility as players have to deal with a fast changing set of circumstances on the field.  There is also some research that suggests that high levels of fitness improve cognitive flexibility.

Sport can contribute to the full and productive employment by helping young people develop core employability skills that are going to be a prerequisite for future employment. Sports based programmes aimed at preparing young people for future work should consider the ten core skills identified by the World Economic Forum and develop approaches that help young people make an intentional connection between the skill they are using on the sports field and its importance to future employment

[1] Kerry Allen, Steve Bullough, Doug Cole, Simon Shibli and Jayne Wilson. The Impact of Engagement in Sport on Graduate Employability; Final Report. Sheffield Hallam University, Sport Industry Research Centre, 2013, downloaded from  Accessed 1 May 2013.

[1] Pete Coffee and David Lavallee. Winning Students are Employable Students. University of Stirling, School of Sport, 2014 downloaded from   Accessed 1 May 2016.

[1] UN General Assembly, Transforming our world : the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, 21 October 2015, A/RES/70/1, available at: %5Baccessed 21 November 2017]

[2] Iain Lindsey and Tony Chapman, Enhancing the contribution of sport to the Sustainable Development Goals, Commonwealth Secretariat 2017, downloaded from Accessed 19 November 2017.

[3] International Labour Organization (ILO) (2013), Global Employment Trends for Youth 2013: A Generation at Risk, available at:–en/index.htm Accessed 20 November 2017

[4] Kerry Allen, Steve Bullough, Doug Cole, Simon Shibli and Jayne Wilson. The Impact of Engagement in Sport on Graduate Employability; Final Report. Sheffield Hallam University, Sport Industry Research Centre, 2013, downloaded from  Accessed 1 May 2013.

[5] Pete Coffee and David Lavallee. Winning Students are Employable Students. University of Stirling, School of Sport, 2014 downloaded from   Accessed 1 May 2016.

[6] Norman Brook, Donny Jurgens, and Nicholas Grau. Sport2Work Manual. Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, Bonn and Eschborn, Germany, downloaded from…/giz2017-en-sport2work-manual-ethiopia.pdf Accessed March 2017.

[7] Karen Petry and Louis Moustakas,. Development of a Sport2Work Manual in Ethiopia: Analysis, Recommendations and Conception. Institute of European Sport Development and Leisure Studies, Cologne, 2016.

[8] World Economic Forum. Future of Jobs Report 2016. Downloaded from Accessed 20 November 2017.

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