5 Reasons Why Younger is Better for Career Awareness

To fulfill the demands of our changing workforce, there’s been a lot of discussion about the optimal age to start engaging kids in a more comprehensive career discovery than the traditional doctor/lawyer norm in school. While ‘younger is better’ is arguably a unanimous sentiment globally, the controversy lies in allocating appropriate resources to support earlier (than high school) intervention, with a more balanced emphasis on our most in-demand careers and skills. But, unfortunately here in the U.S., employers need employees now, making investing in tomorrow’s workforce seemingly feudal in alleviating their immediate pain. And on the educator side, schools are still reeling from the lowest reading and math scores in decades, relegating the less pressing ‘career exploration’ to the back seat. 

Meanwhile, our talent pipelines continue to dwindle to a prospective 85 million talent deficit over the next five years, and poverty cycles continue to persist, despite there being enough people to fill those pipelines. Earlier awareness to these in-demand careers isn’t just one answer to closing this gap, it’s the only answer. 

So what is the most impactful age to initiate meaningful career exploration in order to move that needle? Research suggests (and we agree) middle school, even as early as eleven years old.

  1. Enhanced Cognitive Development: According to Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, children typically enter the Concrete Operational Stage at around 11-12 years old. He considered this stage a major turning point in a child’s life, because it marks the beginning of logical or operational thought when they start to think more abstractly and consider hypothetical scenarios. At this stage, kids are equipped to understand the complexity and variety of different careers, as their ability to reason and make decisions are strengthened. 
  1. Strengthened Decision-making: Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development emphasizes the Identity Versus Role Confusion stage starting at twelve. According to him, this is important to the process of forming a strong identity and developing a sense of direction in life. Exploring various career options during this age can facilitate the development of a coherent identity and future career goals. 
  1. Increased Career Satisfaction: Those of any age who actively engage in career exploration tend to experience higher levels of career satisfaction based on clear expectations. Exposure to various careers can facilitate in children those same results – a clearer alignment of their interests with their future academic pursuits. Research published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior confirms that early career exploration aids in reducing potential conflicts between aspirations and realities.
  1. Improved Academic Performance: Educational psychology researcher Diana Raufelder published a study in the Journal of Education and Work revealing that middle school students who engaged in career exploration activities showed improved academic motivation and achievement, as well as increased self-efficacy in their academic pursuits. It essentially sets off a ripple effect: When students understand the relevance of their studies to potential future careers, they become more motivated and focused on their education.
  1. Reduction in Stereotype Bias: Early exposure to different careers can also help challenge gender and racial stereotypes and biases related to specific occupations. Providing children with a variety of role models and career options can eradicate misconceptions about certain jobs before they’ve ever learned them – some much younger than eleven – opening up a broader range of opportunities and promoting more equitable career choices.

 While thirteen is our magic number for initiating gamified awareness and access to local careers and opportunities –  specifically to under-served and underrepresented communities – in an ideal world:

  • elementary school should be reserved for career discovery;
  • middle school for awareness and planning;
  • high school for preparing. 

At what age do you start your job awareness and recruiting efforts?

Game On!: Fueling Gen-Z’s Self-Efficacy through Career Video Games

By: Aminata N. Mbodj

Introduction

During the training process, just as on the field, one crucial factor that greatly influences an individual’s continued motivation and positive learning outcomes is self-efficacy. Self-efficacy refers to a person’s belief in their own ability to succeed in specific tasks or situations (Bandura, 1997). Research studies have consistently revealed that individuals possessing high levels of self-efficacy exhibit enhanced persistence, increased effort, and improved performance when faced with challenging tasks (Chen et al., 2001).

Understanding Self-Efficacy

Self-efficacy, recognizing and fostering the belief in one’s own capabilities, is the secret ingredient to effective skill development and performance. Within the context of the manufacturing industry, self-efficacy significantly influences motivation, adaptability, and the ability of workers to navigate complex work environments (Lent et al., 2000). Consequently, by actively nurturing self-efficacy, organizations can effectively cultivate a more skilled and self-assured workforce.

About Gen-Z

As the newest generation entering the workforce, Gen Z exhibits unique characteristics and preferences when it comes to learning and engagement. Growing up in the digital age, they have a strong inclination towards interactive and immersive learning experiences (Oblinger, 2003). By leveraging gaming, organizations can effectively capture the attention and maximize the learning potential of the Gen Z workforce by designing engaging, efficient, and effective learning experiences.

Integrating career video games in industry workforce development constitutes not only a cost-effective and scalable solution that aligns with Gen-Z learners’ preferences and maximizes their engagement (Sung et al., 2019), but also an asset to attract and retain Gen-Z talent by providing an innovative and effective learning experience (Reeves & Read, 2009). Career games can thus help you develop a vetted workforce capable of meeting industry demands and adapting to technological advancements.

Four (4) ways Skillsgapp’s Career Games can Engage a Vetted Pipeline

At Skillsgapp, their Skillionaire Games help you engage a workforce that excels in both individual and team settings.

1. Aptitude

First, their games enhance engagement and motivation by creating an immersive and interactive learning environment (Connolly et al., 2012). Their ability to capture the learners’ attention fosters a strong desire to actively participate in the learning process.

2. Action

Second, game-based learning promotes experiential training, allowing players to apply their skills in simulated real-world scenarios (de Freitas & Oliver, 2006). Through simulated environments, players can gain practical experience and develop their abilities in a risk-free setting, which translates into improved performance when faced with actual manufacturing challenges. 

3. Awareness

Third, video games provide immediate feedback and adaptive learning, enabling personalized skill development and addressing individuals’ needs (Plass et al., 2013). The timely feedback provided by the mechanics in Skillionaire Games allows players to understand their strengths and areas for improvement, facilitating a more tailored and effective learning experience. 

4. Access

Finally, video games facilitate collaborative and social learning opportunities, fostering teamwork and knowledge sharing (Squire & Jenkins, 2003). By incorporating multiplayer features or collaborative elements, the games encourage interaction and cooperation, enabling players to learn from each other’s experiences and build essential teamwork skills.

By providing progressive challenges, opportunities for skill development and practice, and promoting a growth mindset and perseverance, skillsgapp’s career video games contribute to building competence and mastery (Gee, 2003). The dynamic nature of their video games allows adaptive play tailored to Gen Z’s strengths and weaknesses; this, in turn, leads to increased self-efficacy and confidence (Papastergiou, 2009).

Conclusion

Through creating a sense of self-efficacy in your future workforce, game-based learning fosters  engaging and interactive learning experiences that enhance motivation, skill development, and performance. By investing in career gaming technology, you can revolutionize your recruitment methodologies, attract and retain Gen-Z talent, and ensure a highly skilled workforce capable of driving industry growth.

Aminata N. Mbodj, a First-Year Ph.D. Candidate in Human-Centered Computing at Clemson University, Aminata is deeply fascinated by the humbling process of learning. Three questions keep her up at night: “Which cognitive processes do we use to build mental models of the world as we experience it?”, “To what extent can we use algorithms to map these structures out?”, “What resulting computing solutions are accessible, so as to optimize our everyday learning?”



References:

Bandura, A. (1997). Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control. W.H. Freeman and Company.

Chen, G., Gully, S. M., & Eden, D. (2001). Validation of a new general self-efficacy scale. Organizational Research Methods, 4(1), 62-83.

Connolly, T. M., Boyle, E. A., MacArthur, E., Hainey, T., & Boyle, J. M. (2012). A systematic literature review of empirical evidence on computer games and serious games. Computers & Education, 59(2), 661-686.

de Freitas, S., & Oliver, M. (2006). How can exploratory learning with games and simulations within the curriculum be most effectively evaluated? Computers & Education, 46(3), 249-264.

Gee, J. P. (2003). What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy. Palgrave Macmillan.

Lent, R. W., Brown, S. D., & Hackett, G. (2000). Contextual supports and barriers to career choice: A social cognitive analysis. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 47(1), 36-49.

Oblinger, D. (2003). Boomers, Gen-Xers, and Millennials: Understanding the New Students. EDUCAUSE Review, 38(4), 37-47.

Papastergiou, M. (2009). Digital Game-Based Learning in high school Computer Science education: Impact on educational effectiveness and student motivation. Computers & Education, 52(1), 1-12.

Plass, J. L., Homer, B. D., & Kinzer, C. K. (2013). Foundations of Game-Based Learning. Educational Psychologist, 48(4), 243-259.

Reeves, B., & Read, J. L. (2009). Total engagement: How games and virtual worlds are changing the way people work and businesses compete. Harvard Business Press.

Squire, K., & Jenkins, H. (2003). Harnessing the Power of Games in Education. Insight, 3(1), 5-33.

Sung, Y.-T., Chang, K.-E., & Liu, T.-C. (2019). The effects of integrating mobile devices with teaching and learning on students’ learning performance: A meta-analysis and research synthesis. Computers & Education, 128, 1-18.

Gamification: The “It” Word in Workforce Development

The term gamification first appeared when Nick Pelling coined the “deliberately ugly” word in 2002, when tasked with developing a game-like interface for ATM and vending machines.

But gamification, while not a part of our lexicon until recently, has been around for centuries and played a role in significant advancements. The Periodic Table of Elements, an iconic symbol in science, was created by Russian scientist Dmitri Mendeleev. He wrote the names and properties of the sixty-five known elements on individual cards, hoping to predict new ones. After falling asleep at his desk while moving the cards around, he awoke to see the repeating pattern in the elements’ behavior, making him one of the first scientists to use gamification to complete an educational task. 

Gamification in Skills Development

Fast forward to this century’s technology, and the leap to gamified skills development is a natural one. As Dmitri Mendeleev demonstrated, games leverage the human tendency to influence one’s thinking process as a method to architecture human behavior to induce engagement, innovation, and productivity.

  1. According to the International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, gamification increased:
    • 12.23% in retention
    • 7.03% overall performance 
  1. The U.S. Department of Defense uses gamification to safely train soldiers due to an astounding:
    • 11% increase in knowledge recall 
    • 14% increase in procedural knowledge
    • 9% greater retention of knowledge
  1. Scientific studies show that students who learn with gamified content that includes prizes push course completion from under 20% to 90%.

Gamification in Workforce Development

Engaging youth about careers with mobile gaming has also already proven to be a valuable tool in workforce development, as it offers a unique opportunity to engage with the next generation in job exploration using their favorite form of entertainment. In fact, a mobile, gamified approach to workforce development checks just about every box in recruiting today’s sustainable, vetted talent pipeline. Here’s why:

  1. Mobile games reach a broader, diverse audience, including those who may not be interested in or have access to traditional career exploration resources, including rural and inner-city communities.
  2. Players can engage in experiential career discovery, allowing them to engage in simulated work environments and learn about different career paths in a hands-on experience. 
  3. Industry-relevant skills are developed, including problem-solving, critical thinking, and teamwork. 
  4. Mobile technology can directly connect players with post-secondary pathways and employers around them based on interest and proficiencies and their location.

What more?

  • 95% of Gen Z have access to smartphones
  • It’s where they spend more than 7+ hours a day 
  • 90% of them classify themselves as mobile gamers

Mobile gaming presents an unprecedented opportunity for industry to reach their future talent pool wherever they are, on their phones, with gamified content that engages, influences and skills. Industry videos watched only once, annual job fairs, or overly-tasked educators with limited time to invest in career awareness are not enough to fill the talent shortage estimated to cost industry a $1.2 trillion loss this decade. By making career exploration fun, accessible, and interactive, mobile games can inspire young people to pursue careers in a variety of industries and build a strong, diverse workforce for the future.

Interested in a workforce game demo? See how states are using free-to-play mobile gamification to create awareness and access for youth to skilled careers in their own backyard.

Winning at Workforce: Career and Pathway Awareness Starting in K-12 is the Competitive Advantage

In today’s ever-evolving labor market, there are more jobs available than ever for young adults to pick from depending on the type of career that best suits them. However, this is only possible if we start equipping young adults with the right tools earlier so they can better understand the wide range of careers available to them, and just as importantly, how they can access and prepare for them, especially careers within the in-demand fields of cybersecurity, manufacturing, and the life and health sciences. This will ensure the future workforce has the skills needed to remain competitive globally. 

The Benefits of Career Awareness and Pathway Access at an Earlier Age 

There are many benefits to starting early when it comes to career and pathway awareness. First, it helps young adults explore their passions as they understand more about the different types of jobs available. This leads to better decisions about which classes to take in high school, where to go to college or trade school, or whether college or trade school is even necessary for the desired career path.  

Additionally, it helps young adults develop confidence as they pursue their chosen field, be better prepared to answer questions about their chosen field or navigate job prospects without feeling lost or insecure. Finally, it gives students an advantage when entering the job market because employers know that these candidates have an understanding of what’s out there and are ready to hit the ground running from day one, minimizing costs associated with both training and attrition. It also leads to more diversity in the workforce since students from all backgrounds can benefit from career and pathway awareness in K-12. 

The Role of Technology in Career and Pathway Awareness 

One way to foster career and pathway awareness is by leveraging technology as part of the learning process. Technology can provide students with virtual experiences in different industries through videos, interactive games, or simulations that allow them to explore different roles from right where they are. This can help give them valuable insight into potential careers before they even enter college or join the workforce! Additionally, technology can provide teachers with resources, such as lesson plans or online courses designed to introduce students to different fields in engaging ways, while still following curriculum guidelines set out by their school district or state board of education. 

A Meaningful ROI

By introducing kids to various career paths earlier, we can create a generation of engaged learners who understand how their skills fit into the larger job market upon graduation—and employers will reap the rewards too. Utilizing technology as part of students’ learning process allows us to reach far beyond traditional methods used for teaching about careers; this helps us ensure that all students have equal access, regardless of background or location. As leaders in our organizations, it’s our duty to invest in these future generations now so that we create a well-rounded, sustainable workforce for tomorrow!

On a scale of  1 – 10, with 10 being the best, what score would you give your state, region or industry for your career and pathway awareness efforts with students in K-12?

Site Selection Magazine: 2023 Workforce Guide – featuring skillsgapp’s Skillionaire Games, Rad Lab, and South Carolina

Workforce has been cited in Site Selection Magazine’s annual survey of corporate consultants as the No. 1 factor in site selection decisions for several years in a row. The 2023 Workforce Guide is a special report providing insight into workforce development partnerships and practices across the U.S.

Skillsgapp and South Carolina’s Life Sciences Industry Feature: A Workforce Gaming Initiative, Rad Lab, is having a positive impact on the future workforce: Wanna Be A Skillionaire?

Members of a South Carolina industry association say a fun online game with prizes could put young people in line for prized STEM careers.

The industry is life sciences, the fastest-growing industry among South Carolina’s knowledge economy sectors, having grown by more than 42% since 2017. The organization is SCBIO, a statewide life sciences organization representing more than 1,000 organizations statewide employing more than 87,000 professionals across the sector’s entire range of disciplines. In early November 2022, it partnered with Skillionaire GamesTM — the business-to-consumer side of Greenville-based education technology firm skillsgapp — to announce the recent launch of Rad Lab, a mobile phone game that provides organizers with trackable geographic data and customizable incentives based on a player’s location, performance and proficiencies as they compete to gain ever-higher levels of skill in various STEM-based life science areas.

Read More Here.

Value Inspiration Podcast #243: Tina Zwolinski, CEO Skillsgapp – on game-changing workforce development

A story about using technology to connect youth to life-changing careers.

This podcast interview focuses on product innovation that has the power to help manufacturing and cybersecurity businesses to attract and grow a sustainable workforce pipeline.

During this interview, you will learn four things:

  1. How to find transformative innovation opportunities by zooming out to the global picture
  2. How to create a flywheel for growth when there’s no real owner of the problem. 
  3. How you can solve a global challenge by approaching it locally.
  4. The power that unlocks when purpose and technology blend.

Listen here:

Meet Workforce Development’s Secret Ingredient: The Avatar

Do you know one reason so many jobs continue to go unfilled? Kids can’t “see” themselves working in them. They don’t know what opportunities exist, as we discuss here, and even when they do, certain careers might feel unachievable, unreachable. When a student can insert a representation of themselves into environments that exemplify industries like cybersecurity or the life sciences, they understand that they can have a place there.

Serita Acker, an internationally recognized creator of academic programs to increase underrepresented students in the STEM fields believes it is imperative that we meet our youth where they are when it comes to career awareness, specifically in minority populations. “Where do our youth spend most of their time? Snapchat, TikTok, YouTube, video games, anywhere their phone goes. However, do our youth realize that computer scientists develop the software for these platforms and that computer engineers create and design the electronics that they enjoy so much?” The overall lack of STEM role models of color in media and entertainment is in part to blame, according to Acker. “The last time I watched a movie or TV show about a person of color who was a scientist, engineer, or mathematician was ‘Hidden Figures’ and that came out in 2016. Students need to see people who look like them portrayed in these fields.”

Enter the Avatar

The Proteus Effect describes a phenomenon in which the behavior of an individual, within virtual worlds, is changed by the characteristics of their avatar. This change is due to the individual’s knowledge about the behaviors typically associated with those characteristics. Like the adjective protean (meaning versatile or mutable), the concept’s name is an allusion to the shape-changing abilities of the Greek god Proteus. The Proteus effect was first introduced by researchers Nick Yee and Jeremy Bailens at Stanford University in June 2007, as an examination of the behavioral effects of changing a user’s embodied avatar.

In another study conducted this year, researchers “consistently found … high degrees of congruence between the respective characteristics of the avatar, the actual self, and the ideal self.” Similarly, a 2019 study found that “people balancing the motives of self-verification and self-enhancement design their avatars to be similar to their real selves.” The fact that digital avatars most often reflect the user is critical knowledge for gamified technology designed to connect kids to careers and pathways—provided with the chance to present themselves how they wish, players take on an active role and self-realize in the game, especially within a safe environment void of biases or judgment.

This agency and expression is especially important for young players in minority groups who are often underrepresented in the workforce. Kids learn by watching and mimicking, so if they never see anyone who looks like them in a particular field, the possibility of that future is not easily imagined. Equipped with a DEI-minded avatar creator like in Cyber Watchdog or Rad Lab, though, students have the ability to visualize themselves in career environments, which puts them one step closer to attaining success and narrowing the skills gap.

When you play video games, do you customize your avatar to look like you, or someone different?

America’s Workforce: In Need of a Rescue, or a Reset?

By Tina Zwolinski, Co-Founder and CEO, skillsgapp //

Long before the pandemic, there was a need to ‘reset’ the systems we have in place for preparing our future workforce with the critical skills needed to meet industry demand, specifically within advanced manufacturing. COVID recovery certainly sped up this conversation, and funding, but an actionable focus is still needed if we’re going to fill the ever-growing skills gap America currently faces.

Thinking earlier in the workforce pipeline should be priority one for all of us, including the policymakers who represent us. Focusing on in- and out-of-school development opportunities is imperative, but this can’t be left on the shoulders of educators alone. Silos need to be leveled in order to allow collaboratives to thrive in rethinking current workforce development initiatives. And those initiatives need to be a lot more innovative than the traditional websites, videos and career fairs.

A Call for Collaboration  

The innovation and collaboration I’m calling for, one that can have the greatest impact, will ultimately be forged between education, industry, and government. 

The U.S. Department of Education’s Secretary Cardona recently shared a vision on improving our education system by promoting newly accessible pathways through higher education, inevitably leading, it was argued, to successful careers. This involves reimagining the connection between K-12, higher education, and the workforce by in part collaborating to a greater degree with the Department of Labor and Department of Commerce, to invest in career preparation programs that meet the needs of today’s economy. 

This is exactly the kind of collaboration, from the federal to state level, that needs to be replicated – one working in harmony for a successful reset. While much of the funding from the America Rescue Plan appears to be focused on post-secondary education, which is needed, there is also a great need for workforce development-oriented programming in elementary, middle, and high schools; this is mission-critical if we are going to get a chance to impact post-secondary success.

Leveraging Technology 

In late 2020, a survey of Gen Z (ages 19-24) was conducted by Ernst & Young, in collaboration with JA Worldwide, where students were asked “how the education system could be improved” – 59% of Gen Z respondents suggested that there should be more focus placed on real-life work; 57% said there should be more focus on professional mentorship. This actionable intelligence reveals a generational demographic that values true-to-life work experiences as a means for them to embrace the changing working world. With technology, they are already able to navigate a lot on their own. And with the right, innovative tools, they could even advocate for their own futures if they are connected to pathways into these careers. 

The up-and-coming workforce craves career awareness and ultimately, guided access to pathways and industry. Technology is the answer. Funding is needed to support broader CTE programming, in-class career learning driven by industry, and funding supported by the government. There also needs to be an open-minded approach to trying new approaches with novel technology, both in and out of the classroom, as this is a digital generation that learns best via immersive experiences and by doing things with their hands.

Earlier this year, during a Congress-led Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Workforce Development Subcommittee hearing, Eric Fanning, President and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), stated that there are several ways in which Congress could address America’s workforce challenges – One way is investing more in STEM education. Fanning then asked Congress to “think differently” about “…establishing a program where activities conducted by contractors to support STEM education be considered as allowable community service activities, for the purposes of determining the allowability of cost on a government contract.” 

Fanning agrees that reaching students and families earlier on regarding career exploration and pathway access, even in elementary school, could make a tremendous impact. 

Let’s face it – our youth are on their phones for up to 7 hours a day – providing engaging and yes, educational tools that they can use in and out of school on those phones would be a big step in the right direction in setting up, from the classroom to the household, modules spotlighting career pathways.

Dedicated  focus on the under-served 

After-school programming provides a key actionable area of focus with an opportunity to engage the under-served, particularly in career awareness and pathway access.  There is currently a bill in Congress, the Youth Workforce Readiness Act of 2021, that, if passed, could provide much-needed momentum for the reset I’m calling for, from Washington and across the country.  Approval of this bill will impact the most needed, the underserved, which would then have a dynamic and correlative impact on filling our skills gap.

2022-era Public-private-partnerships (PPP) between the federal government, industry and State by State academia will move the needle for our next generation. The most cost-effective and efficient means to broker positive disruption in our workforce’s development is no question, through technological innovation.

As students move up the pipeline, closer to entering a workforce already afflicted by ‘Great Resignation’, one that now direly needs them, access to apprenticeships and career pathways rectifies our broken workforce supply chain, forming a singular bridge to connect students into our economy and in doing so, boosting our economy, with vigor.

Let’s think differently about the age that we start career awareness, alongside the tools and technology we embrace – in and out of school – and allow for the funding of innovative initiatives that can close the skills gap and connect youth, especially the underserved, to their own life-changing careers. 

But more importantly, let’s together ‘hit reset’, by moving on some of these conversations that are before Congress right now, so that workforce and skills gaps can shift from a state of challenge to solution.

Any additional solutions or ideas for an effective “reset” of America’s workforce plan?

Skillsgapp Co-Founder And Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Cynthia Jenkins Joins Girls Inc.’s Project Accelerate

Cynthia Jenkins, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of skillsgapp, a company that develops free-to-play mobile gaming apps that help middle and high school-aged+ youth achieve life-changing career awareness and localized pathway access, as well as develop the soft skills necessary to pursue jobs in skills-based industries through game-changing play, has announced a strategic partnership with the Girls Inc.’s Project Accelerate mentorship program, a pilot undertaken in Orange County, California.

The Girls Inc.’s Project Accelerate mentorship program seeks to close the gender equity gap by supporting young women through post-secondary education and networking into the workforce, ensuring that they can achieve influential leadership positions in the process.

Project Accelerate was funded by Equality Can’t Wait, an initiative launched by Pivotal Ventures, Melinda Gates’ investment and incubation enterprise, to expedite progress toward gender equality in the U.S. The initiative garnered additional support from Mackenzie Scott and The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, awarding $40 million to the organizations or coalitions of organizations offering the most compelling proposals to help expand women’s empowerment and influence in the U.S. by 2030. Read More.

“Durable” Skills vs. Soft Skills: Is There a Difference?

The term “soft skills” has always been somewhat of an oxymoron, as these skills are arguably the hardest to attain. The most sought-after professional capabilities in just about any industry—problem-solving, leadership, critical thinking, and personal skills like teamwork, flexibility, adaptability, and creativity—are hard to measure and even harder to teach. 

That’s why this misnomer has been given a new name: durable skills. 

They’re desired everywhere. An analysis of 82 million job postings conducted last year by America Succeeds reveals that 7 of the 10 most requested skills are durable skills. The report goes on to say that “employers seek durable skills … 3.8x more frequently than the top 5 technical or hard skills” in every location, every industry sector, and every educational attainment level.

“Skills aren’t soft or hard[;] they’re durable or perishable.” –Matthew J. Daniel, Guild Education

On top of that, durable skills have staying power (as their name suggests). Research shows that the half-life of a learned skill is 5 years, while the more technical skills start to fade at half of that. Bottom line: skills like programming or digital media will never remain current. That doesn’t mean they should be avoided or relegated, but it does mean that they can’t be the only talents in a person’s career arsenal. Due to the very nature of progress, they will never be able to keep up with constant industry changes, forever requiring periodic updates to stay abreast. Meanwhile, durable skills like critical thinking, collaboration and communication will never go out of style—no matter the profession nor the year. Take the cybersecurity sector, for example—arguably one of the most consistently transformative—those particular soft skills have become known as the “Three Soft C’s” … and considered by some the best defense against cyber attacks.

America Succeeds explains that their 2021 market insights “clearly demonstrate workforce demand for durable skills.” The pandemic has underscored the importance of students’ development of soft skills in addition to academic knowledge and technical skills. An emphasis on durable skills will continue to strengthen our workforce and society, especially as technology rapidly innovates yet continually fails to emulate humanity’s dynamic capacity to feel and respond. As Forbes indicates in a recent article, machines still can’t replace “human” skills.

Now—more than ever—we need complex communication skills that enable us to work with individuals from diverse cultural and lingual backgrounds. We need acknowledgment of and appreciation for diversity in all its forms. We need awareness of talent, skills, and interests. We need the ability to find purpose, recognize talents, set goals, and proactively seek opportunities to pursue those ambitions. All of these skills represent a human-to-human aptitude, and that’s because durable skills are the skills “that technology cannot displace,” the ones that are “critical to creating positive work environments.” These are skills that are truly built to last. 

What durable skill do you value most in your employees?

  • Discover ways to engage with your workforce pipeline earlier
  • Scale career awareness and pathway access, especially for the underserved
  • Gain a competitive advantage for recruitment supported by meaningful data