Ask yourself this question: is the world you’re now in the future you prepared for when you were in High School? If you’re like me, everything has changed, and keeps changing. The jobs are different. The skills are different. And the future, except for the fact it will change, seems unpredictable. How then, should we be preparing our children for a future that we can’t foresee?
As usual, the world of work is ahead of education. Education doesn’t change all that quickly. Employers are looking for transferable skills, not just buckets of curriculum. The top skills, according to a survey of employers who hire college graduates conducted by the National Association of Collegiate Employers, shows the skills sought by more than 50% of respondents:
|Related Attributes & Percent Sought by Employers|
|Ability to work in a team (79%) & Interpersonal skills (58%)|
|Communication skills: written 70% & verbal (69%)|
|Problem-solving (70%), Analytical/Quantitative Skills (63%)|
|Strong work ethic (69%), Initiative (66%), Flexible/Adaptable (61%), & Detail Oriented (53%)|
|Technical (60%) & Computer Skills (55%)|
The high percentages of employers seeking these skills imply that they are transferable between many jobs. And in that sense, they are likely also to be useful in an uncertain future. And, while technology and computer skills constantly refresh, they are not going away. Comparing these to the Common Employability Skills (the subject of another post) with a few notable differences. Employers expect leadership skills in college graduates. Though it didn’t show up in the survey, they also expect business fundamentals and customer focus of all employees.
How to Help Learners Succeed in an Uncertain Future
We see in the introduction that the most demanded skills are also transferable. Let’s look deeper so we can determine how to best teach the skills.
A simple analysis of the skills shows a hierarchy of learning. The pinnacle skill is leadership. It involves teamwork, interpersonal skills, communication and problem solving. The truly smart people over in the department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration grappled with this problem and came up with the Competency-Model Clearing House Generic Building Blocks Model, shown at the top.
The Employment Training Administration helped build the common employability skills, so the two models are similar. What this model adds is structure showing how one layer depends on another that gives clues to scaffolding for teaching. Tiers 1 through 3 are transferable skills that are industry independent. Tier 4 introduces industry wide skills, that are more specialized, and shown below.
Lifelong Learning and Adaptability & Flexibility in Tier 1 future proof learners because learners use them to continuously improve existing skills and acquire new ones.
The recommendation for helping learners prepare for the future is to ensure that they are learning transferable skills and getting strong at learning skills. As educators, we can blend these skills within other curriculum as general education skills in both high school and college.
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The National Association of Collegiate Employers (NACE) Employer Survey from 2016 is described at their site.
The Competency Model Clearinghouse provides many models for different occupations. I’ve chosen to focus on the transferable skills in this article, so only used the Generic Building Blocks Model, the picture of which is in the public domain.
The Common Employability Skills are available as a 4-page PDF from the National Business Roundtable.