Our Mission

Empowerment Through Education

Skills for Success

21st Century Skills

Recently, concern about a “skills gap” has been a common topic. Whether in K-12 education, higher education, or the business sector, the message is the same: The nature of work has changed, there is a widening gap between the skills employers need and the capabilities of the workforce, and the issue is very important for our future. How do we best describe the skills individuals need for success in an economy that is in transition?

A team of of Ohio State University Extension professionals from across Ohio with expertise in youth development, workforce development, and community developmentcreated a framework of skills that support successful employment in the knowledge economy. Drawing from the current literature and programming experience in Ohio, six general categories of skills were identified. 


image_thinkingskills1. Thinking Skills

Thinking skills include critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, and innovation. These skills involve the ability to:

• Evaluate relevance, assess accuracy, and use information to solve problems.
• Think creatively and to generate new ideas and innovative solutions.
• Understand how systems (e.g., social, organizational) work, how to operate within them, and make improvements.


image_communication 2. Communication

The ability to communicate effectively using the range of methods and tools available in today’s environment. Communication skills include an ability to:

   • Listen, interpret and convey information to others.
   • Articulate thoughts/ideas clearly and effectively orally and in writing (e.g., one-on-one communication  and larger group/public speaking skills, write memos and reports).

image_teamwork3. Teamwork and Leadership

 The interpersonal skills to work effectively in a team and provide leadership include the ability to:

• Work cooperatively with others and contribute to a group effort.
• Build collaborative relationships, work with diverse teams, negotiate and manage conflict.
• Motivate an individual or group.
• Bring out the best in those around them to inspire innovation and performance.
• Leverage the strengths of others to achieve common goals; use interpersonal skills to coach and develop others.

image_lifelonglearning 4. Lifelong Learning and Self-direction

Continually improving capabilities by:

 • Taking responsibility to set goals and improve skills through mentoring, training, formal education, or other learning activities.
 • Showing initiative by soliciting and receiving feedback, and learning from one’s mistakes.


image_technology5. Technology Adoption and Application

 A firm foundation of technology skills includes:

• A sound understanding of technology concepts, systems, and operations.
• Selecting and using appropriate technology to accomplish a given task.
• Identifying and solving problems with technology.


professionalism6. Professionalism and Ethics

The ability to maintain an appropriate level of professionalism and ethical behavior through:

• Demonstrating accountability and effective work habits (e.g., punctuality, working effectively with others, time and workload management).
• Ethical behavior (e.g., acting responsibly with larger community in mind).



Increasingly Important Skills & Content Areas

When asked about skills that will become more important and emerging content areas most critical for the future, employers frequently cite the skills for success described above and add:

• Foreign Languages – as a tool for understanding other cultures.
• Health and Wellness – nutrition, exercise, stress reduction, and work life balance.
• Personal Financial Responsibility – managing finances and planning for the future.
• Entrepreneurial Skills – enhance productivity and expand career options.
• Diversity – ability to learn from and work with individuals representing diversity in its broadest sense.

Sources & Recommended Reading:

American Society for Training and Development. (2006). Bridging the skills gap: How the skills shortage threatens growth and competitiveness…and what to do about it. Retrieved from http://www.astd.org

Business-Higher Education Forum. (2003). Building a nation of learners: The need for changes in teaching and learning to meet global challenges. Retrieved from http://www.bhef.com/publications/2003_build_nation.pdf

Casner-Lotto, J., & Barrington, L. (2006). Are they really ready to work? Employers’ perspectives on the basic knowledge and applied skills of new entrants to the 21st Century workforce. The Conference Board, Inc.

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). (2007). National technology education standards for students: The next generation. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/inhouse/nets/cnets/students/pdf/NETS_for_Students_2007.pdf

Levy, F., & Murnane, R. J. (2006). Why the changing American economy calls for twenty-first century learning: Answers to educators’ questions. New Directions for Youth Development, 110, 53-62.

The Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills. (1991). What work requires of schools: A SCANS report for America 2000. Washington DC: