Key Work Skills

Industrial and Commercial Training

ISSN: 0019-7858

Article publication date: 1 June 2000



Megginson, D. (2000), "Key Work Skills", Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 32 No. 3.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

Key Work Skills

Key Work Skills

Rosie Bingham and Sue DrewGowerAldershot1999ISBN 0 566 08 183 0£14.95 (paperback); £150.00 (looseleaf with photocopying licence)

Bingham and Drew describe key skills as "those skills which are relevant in any work situation". They point out that the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (which develops NVQs and GNVQs) has identified six of them:

  1. 1.


  2. 2.

    working with numbers;

  3. 3.

    working with others;

  4. 4.

    improving one's own learning performance;

  5. 5.

    problem solving; and

  6. 6.

    information technology.

This book deals with the first five but not with IT. The approach is to specify sub-skills within the five areas and for each one to:

  • say why it is important;

  • specify the learning objectives for the chapter;

  • provide a diagnostic device to assess current skill levels;

  • present the content of the skill (typically with several activities for the reader to complete);

  • conclude with another diagnostic for reviewing and improving skill levels; and

  • give references and a brief bibliography.

The book is extraordinarily thorough and detailed. It also has a thoughtful pedagogy, and provides lots of opportunities for learners to think through their own responses to issues. It gives advice and direction as well. This direction can go into great detail, so some of the advice offered gets a bit banal or over-detailed ("Can you find equipment quickly, e.g. pens, calculator, paper-clips?", p. 13).

There are also occasions when I felt the need for more contextualising information. For example, in the chapter on negotiating and assertiveness, the diagnostic to identify goals asks, inter alia, "What do I want to happen? What is my responsibility? What is their responsibility?" (p. 185). These are fine questions, but I wonder how a user of this book would have the resources to decide the answers. What effect does blame of others have on dealing with these matters? Or self-blame for that matter? What would be the effect of assuming for a moment that one was responsible for everything that went wrong? There is some splendid work that has been done in Gestalt therapy that would give sharp focus to some of the issues hinted at in the book, but there is no room to explore them. There is room for a practical and jargon-free introduction to some of the theory around assertiveness training and this is useful and elegantly presented.

I started my reading of this text feeling irritated by the literal detail for each skill, but I ended being impressed with the thoroughness of the authors' approach and the helpful way in which they present material to the reader.

The book is well laid out and clearly printed, but if you have difficulty reading small print, you may need to get the much more expensive looseleaf edition. Like many books of a practical kind, this one does not have an index. This is almost saying, "Follow our framework and you won't need to find your own way round this material". It would be a more useful self-learning resource if it were indexed. It could also have a macro-diagnostic at the front to help readers think about in which areas they had particular needs and in which they already performed well.

Having said all this, if you are in the business of helping others to acquire these core skills, this is a hugely valuable resource.

David Megginson Research Leader, Sheffield Business School

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