This is the "21st Century Skills: So What?" page of the "21st Century Skills in Education" guide.
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Last Updated: May 15, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

21st Century Skills: So What? Print Page

Our Student's Future

“The current and future health of America’s 21st Century economy depends directly on how broadly and deeply Americans reach a new level of literacy—21st Century literacy—that includes strong academic skills, thinking, reasoning, teamwork skills, and proficiency in using technology.”

-21st Century Workforce Commission National Alliance of Business


  • Seven Skills Students Need for their Future video of Tony Wagner
    Tony Wagner from the Harvard Graduate School of Education published Seven Survival Skills as a result of interviewing more than 600 CEOs at multiple organizations. Wagner survival skills include the 4Cs plus more -agility and adaptability, accessing and analyzing information, and curiosity and imagination.

    Skills discussed in this video:
    - Critical thinking and problem-solving
    - Collaboration across networks and leading by influence
    - Agility and adaptability
    - Initiative and entrepreneurialism
    - Effective oral and written communication
    - Accessing and analyzing information
    - Curiosity and imagination
  • Rigor Redefined
    Read Tony Wagner's article on
  • Tough Choices or Tough Times Executive Summary
    Published by the New Commission on The Skills Of The American Workforce

Are Your Graduates Ready to Work?

The workforce is rapidly changing. Think about a travel agent, a typist or a photo processor technician. Are these jobs still in high demand? The answer is obviously no. The workforce is rapidly changing and some jobs are disappearing. Creative jobs, on the other hand, are in high demand and they all require skilled workers. Creative jobs require complex communication skills, interacting with other people to acquire information, to explain it or to persuade others of the need for action, creative thinking to solve problems without being directed. To find out what jobs have a bright outlook as well as the knowledge and skills required, search the ONet Online website of the U.S. Department of Labor.

Most young people entering the U.S. workforce are unprepared. (source:
Employers expect new employees to be equipped with critical knowledge and the ability to apply skills in the workplace, and what they are finding out it that their expectations are not met. The consequences are very straight forward. Unless the education system produces graduates ready for the workforce, companies will not invest in unskilled workers and risk losing revenue and competitiveness. They will eventually move to other states or countries, or outsource their work, which will significantly hurt the local and national economy. Employers project hiring less high school graduates and more 2 and 4-year college graduates in the future. 

The most important deficiencies are:

  • English writing skills, including grammar and spelling
  • Professionalism
  • Work ethics
  • Critical thinking and problem solving

The most valued skills when entering the workforce are:

  • Creativity and innovation
  • Foreign languages
  • Understanding cultures and global markets
  • Health and wellness

On the other hand, most high school graduates possess good diversity, teamwork and technology skills, which are also essential in the 21st Century workforce.


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