America Succeeds UpdatesEducation Policy and Advocacy

Defining Durable Skills

In an era when technical skills are evolving at an unprecedented pace, there is an important set of durable soft skills that last a lifetime. Durable Skills include a combination of how you use what you know – skills like critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity – as well as character skills like fortitude, growth mindset, and leadership.

Intangible and hard to describe, Durable Skills are useful and indispensable, but easily overlooked. While Durable Skills are prized by employers because they can enhance the productivity of workers, they are rarely given the same attention as more technical or specialized skills. 

It has always been easier to talk about objective tools and techniques compared to subjective characteristics and behaviors when speaking about skills. As big data has become increasingly available around skills – especially the skills required by employers in job postings – it has given us a clearer picture of what the labor market wants. Durable Skills are at the forefront. 

In order to meet the increasing demand for skill-scale education, data about skills has become more readily available in the past few years – industry certification programs, micro-credentials, and many other online learning options have emerged. Learning how employers request skills can help education providers better serve all types of learners, whether they are high schoolers, postsecondary students, job seekers, or employees in need of training. 

Regardless of an individual’s pathway, educational attainment level, or geography, Durable Skills are in high demand by employers and backed by research. We believe it is imperative for students to better develop these skills within K-12 education systems. By working together, we can ensure that students and communities become more resilient in the rapidly evolving world of work.

In an effort to classify one hundred of the most in-demand 21st-century skills (soft skills, employability skills, and human skills), we first identified ten major competencies: 

  1. Leadership: Directing efforts and delivering results
  2. Character: Personal and professional conduct
  3. Collaboration: Teamwork and connection 
  4. Communication: Information exchange and management 
  5. Creativity: New ideas and novel solutions 
  6. Critical Thinking: Informed ideas and effective solutions 
  7. Metacognition: Self-understanding and personal management
  8. Mindfulness: Interpersonal and self-awareness
  9. Growth Mindset: Improvement and aspiration 
  10. Fortitude: Constitution and inspiration

Watch for our latest report on Durable Skills next week and learn about our partnered research with Emsi Burning Glass that analyzed over 82 million U.S. job postings from the past two years (2019-2010) to assess the prevalence of Durable Skills at the national and state levels.

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