Skills employers want

Interesting article from Bloomberg Businessweek on the skills employers hire for. The magazine polled more than 1,300 corporate recruiters of business school graduates on what were the skills that they most looked for in hiring. The bottom line: “The most commonly named asset was good communication, which 68 percent of recruiters sought, followed by analytical thinking (60 percent) and the ability to work collaboratively (55 percent). On the flip side, only 8.9 percent of recruiters listed entrepreneurship as one of their must-haves, 12.3 mentioned a global mindset, and 15.2 picked industry related work experience.”

The article continues: “Three skills—creative problem-solving, strategic thinking, and leadership skills—were named as both important and hard to find by more than 40 percent of recruiters. If you made a New Year’s resolution to get a competitive edge in your job search, figuring a way to lead groups at unraveling complex challenges in a creative way (become an Eagle scout leader?) would be a good start.”

What’s interesting about this list is how consistent it has been for years when employers are asked about the skills that they most look for in new hires. Unfortunately these broad skills are not what we increasingly want as student outcomes from our schools. Where we are focused either on content specific skills or even more worrisome narrow job specific skills. Big mistake both for our kids and the future prosperity of the country.

We have previously explored the approach to student outcomes that the Partnership for 21st Century Skills takes. Its the best description I have seen of what our education system should be focused on. Check out their web site here for the specifics as well as information on schools across the country that are building those broad skills.

Also worth reading is a 2005 David Brooks New York Times column. Brooks too believes that broad skills are what matters most. He writes: “But skills and knowledge — the stuff you can measure with tests — is only the most superficial component of human capital. U.S. education reforms have generally failed because they try to improve the skills of students without addressing the underlying components of human capital. These underlying components are hard to measure and uncomfortable to talk about, but they are the foundation of everything that follows.”

And for those wanting more on the skills that we and our kids will need for a successful forty year career check out a list of the ten most important work skills developed by the Top Ten Online Colleges as reported by Inc.

Although the specific skills listed in each is somewhat different, what all of them have in common is an understanding that the combination of people living and working longer; smarter and smarter machines; and globalization increasingly means the employers need workers with broader skills, not narrow job specific skills. Its these broad skills that we should design our education system to build.

 

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Lou Glazer

Lou Glazer is President and co-founder of Michigan Future, Inc., a non-partisan, non-profit organization. Michigan Future’s mission is to be a source of new ideas on how Michigan can succeed as a world class community in a knowledge-driven economy. Its work is funded by Michigan foundations.

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