Career readiness is a concern for every student working to attain their degree and for employers seeking qualified employees. One of the difficulties in defining career readiness is that skill demands can change over time. Developing skills that apply to changing occupations and job demands is important for today’s students. From 1950 to 2010 the number of occupations grew from 270 to 840; the number of college programs increased from 410 in 1985 to 2,260 in 2010.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers surveyed employers, college career services and HR professionals to create a list of basic competencies that are essential to career readiness. These skills are the basic abilities that people need to work jobs today. They are not career specific. Instead, they are general abilities that employees need to be successful.
Professionalism/work ethic is the career readiness competency valued most by survey respondents. It is essential or absolutely essential to 97.5 percent of respondents. One component of professionalism, as defined by NACE, is to “act responsibly with the interests of the larger community in mind.” Employees who continue their education to gain new skills and knowledge demonstrate professionalism. These employees will contribute skills and knowledge to successfully complete tasks, benefitting the company.
Critical Thinking/Problem Solving is the career readiness skill that is essential or absolutely essential to 96.3 percent of survey respondents. Employees need to analyze issues, define problems and make effective decisions. An education that teaches employees how to research and interpret data in order to take effective action is important for employees today.
Oral/Written Communications is the career readiness skill essential or absolutely essential to 91.6 percent of respondents. It is important for employees to be able to express ideas clearly to people both outside and inside their companies. Communication with clients and customers is important for effective business dealings. Communication with co-workers is important for developing teamwork and collaboration with co-workers, the next highest ranking career competency.
Teamwork/Collaboration is the career readiness essential or absolutely essential to 90 percent of respondents. One of the reasons collaboration is so important says Benjamin Jones, strategy professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, is that our individual knowledge is becoming more specialized. Collaboration brings in multiple views, knowledge and talents for problem solving. It gives people an opportunity to learn from each other.
Digital Technology is the essential or absolutely essential career readiness skill to 72 percent of survey respondents. Employees who have digital technology skills can adapt to new technology as it becomes available. It is important for employees to develop these skills because jobs change fast today. Matthew Sigelman, CEO of Burning Glass Technologies says that more than 40 percent of job requirements are different from a decade ago.
NACE defines career readiness as attaining and demonstrating competencies that broadly prepare college graduates to be successful in the workplace. Both employers and employees can use their tuition assistance programs to build career readiness, in employees who are continuing their education. One important consideration is how quickly the needed skills can change, says Andrea Backman, chief employability officer at Strategic Education. Technology skills can change every six months. Career readiness skills such as teamwork, professionalism, critical thinking and communication are “evergreen.”
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