- The skills needed in the workplace are increasingly oriented around expertise many workers lack, explains a new report from Burning Glass and the Business-Higher Education Forum (BHEF).
- Skills in three areas — human, business and digital — are needed across the job market, though fewer than one-fifth of job seekers and employees claim all three on their resumes, according to the report, which encourages colleges and employers to develop them in their students and workers.
- To isolate these areas, Burning Glass and BHEF, which includes higher ed and business leaders, analyzed more than 150 million U.S. job postings since 2007 as well as 56 million resumes.
These competencies are not limited to technology professions, the report notes, explaining that "most actually fall outside of the digital economy." Workers who combine skills can increase their value to companies and earn higher salaries and have a greater likelihood of advancement, it notes.
The three areas of focus were whittled down from 17,000 skills identified in the modern workplace. Human skills include creativity, communication and critical thinking. Business skills include communicating data, project management and understanding business processes. And digital skills include analyzing and managing data and computer programming.
The soft skills spelled out in the report should be familiar to college administrators from the steady stream of reports saying that employers increasingly want them. Beyond that, some higher ed advocates have made the case for college — and the liberal arts, specifically — by saying it provides the best space for students to acquire and develop these skills.
Like this report, others have suggested the need to combine soft and digital skills. A November report from the Strada Institute for the Future of Work and labor market analytics firm Emsi said there is "discernible labor market demand" for workers that combine liberal arts-oriented skills such as leadership, communications and problem-solving with basic technology abilities. The number of jobs requiring hard and soft skill sets are on the rise, meaning demand should only increase.
In response, colleges are rethinking the credential pathways they offer with an eye toward shorter-term options and lifelong learning opportunities. Last summer, the nonprofit Education Design Lab announced it was partnering with credential specialist Credly to develop new ways to assess such soft skills, which could be rolled out to colleges and universities.
Along those lines, the University of Utah offers a "degree-plus" certificate program that allows liberal arts students to gain technology-based skills in areas such as project management, data analysis, web design and digital marketing. Other two- and four-year colleges are embedding industry certifications into the curriculum to help students obtain skills they can trade on in the job market prior to graduation.