ELA Research Findings for UCSD Extension, 2010
Important Note: Bold typed font indicates specific skills identified in sources

U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (2003). Occupational outlook handbook, 2002–03 edition, Job outlook 2003.

This report found that the economy’s accelerated need for more highly educated workers is not being met. The report also discussed how employers are looking for strong communication skills and honesty or integrity when they evaluate college graduates as potential new hires. In fact, every years from 1998 to 2003, employers have placed communication skills at the top of the their wish list for employees. In addition, the employers’ value job candidates who show experience in teamwork, interpersonal skills, motivation and initiative. The employers also reported that recent graduates are not adept at speaking or writing.

National Association of College and Employers (2010). Job Outlook Survey 2010.

This report, based on a survey of 177 employers of various sizes nationwide listed top qualities and skills employers seek: Communication skills (verbal, written, and presentation), interpersonal skills (relates well to others), strong work ethic, initiative, problem-solving skills, teamwork skills (work well with others), analytical skills, flexibility/adaptability, computer skills, detail-oriented, leadership skills, organizational skills, self-confidence, tactfulness, friendly/outgoing personality, creativity, strategic planning skills, entrepreneurial skills/risk-taker and sense of humor.

The employers in this study also ranked their top 5 skills/qualities: communication skills, analytical skills, teamwork skills, technical skills and strong work ethic. (2005). Top Hiring Criteria for College Graduates.

According to these survey results, the criteria that the employers ranked as the most important when hiring are: the student’s major (35%), the student’s interviewing skills (24%), the student’s internship experience (21%), other miscellaneous qualifications (7%), the student’s GPA (5%), the college the student graduated from (3%), the student’s personal appearance (3%) and the student’s computer skills (2%).

Furthermore, this study found that employers want their hires to have the attributes and skills that are difficult to train, among these are communication skills, interpersonal skills, solid work ethic and a drive to achieve. These attributes apply to almost any corporate environment as well.

Employment Development Department Labor Market Information Division (2007). California Labor Market and Economic Analysis 2007, Occupational Information Network (O*NET). Washington, DC.

This analysis discusses how today’s high-performance workplace requires different employee skills than were needed in the past. This new view of basic skills incorporates the skills requested most often by employers:

  • Basic skills (developed capacities that facilitate learning or the more rapid acquisition of knowledge) – active learning, active listening, critical thinking, learning strategies, mathematics, monitoring, reading comprehension, science, speaking and writing.
  • Complex problem solving skills (developed capacities used to solve novel, ill-defined problems in complex, real-world settings) – complex problem solving
  • Resource management skills (developed capacities used to allocate resources efficiently) – management of financial resources, management of material resources, management of personal resources, time management.
  • Social skills (developed capacities used to work with people to achieve goals) – coordination, instructing, negotiation, persuasion, service orientation, social perceptiveness
  • System skills (developed capacities used to understand, monitor, and improve socio-technical systems) – judgment and decision making, system analysis and systems evaluation
  • Technical skills (developed capacities used to design, set-up, operate and correct malfunctions involving application of machines or technological systems) – equipment maintenance, equipment selection, installation, operation and control, operation monitoring, operations analysis, programming quality control analysis, repairing, technology design and troubleshooting.

Employment Development Department Labor Market Information Division (2007). Labor Market and Economic Analysis 2007, Occupational Information Network (O*NET) skills database. Washington, DC.

This occupational analysis indicates the top occupations in the High-Growth Job Training Initiative industries in California examines the typical skill requirements for the various occupations and the shared skills required. The report also indicates certain skills that are commonly required across a wide range of industries: active listening, coordination, critical thinking, judgment and decision-making, mathematics, reading comprehension, speaking and time management.

This full range of skills required across industries is consistent with the still applicable workplace competences and foundation skills identified in 1992 by the Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS) report (see preceding citation).

The Secretary’s Commission On Achieving Necessary Skills (1992). Learning a Living: A Blueprint for High Performance, A SCANS Report for America 2000. Washington, DC.

The SCANS Report identified five workplace competencies and three basic foundation skills and personal qualities that are needed for job performance. The five-workplace competencies that effective workers must productively use are:

  1. Resources (they know how to allocate time, money, materials, space, and staff)
  2. Interpersonal skills (they can work on teams, teach others, serve customers, lead, negotiate and work well with people for culturally diverse backgrounds)
  3. Information (they can acquire and evaluate data, organize and maintain files, interpret and communicate, and use computers to process information)
  4. Systems (they understand social, organizational, and technological systems; they can monitor and correct performance and they can design or improve systems)
  5. Technology (they can select equipment and tools, apply technology to specific tasks, and maintain and troubleshoot equipment)

The three basic foundation skills and personal qualities competent workers in the high-performance workplace need are:

  1. Basic Skills (reading, writing, arithmetic and mathematics, speaking and listening
  2. Thinking Skills (the ability to learn, to reason, to think creatively, to make decisions, and solve problems)
  3. Personal Qualities (individual responsibility, self-esteem, and self-management, sociability and integrity)

The Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, Partnership For 21st Century Skills & Society for Human Resource Management (2006). Are They Really Ready to Work? Employer’s Perspective on the Basic Knowledge and Applied Skills of New Entrants to the 21st Century U.S. Workforce.

This report details an in-depth survey conducted during 2006 and interviews with a sampling of a dozen HR and other senior executives. These employers articulated the skill sets that new entrants – recently hired graduates from high school, two-years colleges or technical schools, and four year-year college – need to succeed in the workplace. Among the most important skills cited by the employers: professionalism/work ethic, oral and written communications, teamwork/collaboration and critical thinking/problem solving.

These findings indicate that applied skills on all educational level trump basic knowledge and skills, such as reading comprehension and mathematics. Furthermore, nearly three-quarters of survey participants cited deficiencies among incoming employees in applied skills, such has professionalism and work ethic.

Looking toward the future, nearly three-fourths of the survey participants ranked creativity/innovation as among the top five applied skills projected to increase in importance for future graduates. In addition, the study mentioned that knowledge of foreign languages, cultures and global markets will become increasingly important for future graduates entering the U.S. workforce.

AOL Time Warner Foundation (2003). Survey Finds Americans Concerned Young People Are Not Adequately Prepared for 21st Century Success (conducted by national research firm Lake, Snell, Perry and Associates and Market Strategies).

This national survey found that Americans overwhelming believe today’s students need to be taught an array of 21st century literacy skills beyond reading, writing, and math to be successful in an information century. While the majority of the people surveyed felt that young people are learning basic skills, only 48% believe young people are learning communication skills. In addition, only 37% think young people are getting critical thinking and decision-making skills, which are required to succeed in today’s workplace.

The National Commission on Writing (2004). Writing: A Ticket To Work… Or A Ticket Out – A Survey of Business Leaders (conducted by National Governors Association).

This report discusses the findings of a survey of 120 major American corporation employing nearly eight million people. The report concludes that in today’s workplace writing is a “threshold skill” for hiring and promotion among salaried (i.e., professional) employees. Estimates based on the survey returns reveal that employers spend billions annually correcting writing deficiencies. They report also noted that people who cannot write and communicate clearly will not be hired and are unlikely to last long enough to be considered for promotion.

National Commission on Writing (2005). Writing: A Powerful Message from State Government. College Board.

In an additional report, the National Commission on Writing found that state governments place a high value on the writing skills of their employees, often providing training for professional employees deficient in writing skills. This survey found that at least two-thirds of professional employees at the state level have some writing responsibility. The report concludes that writing is an even more important job requirement for state employees than for the private sector employees studied in the commission’s previous survey of major U.S. corporations.

The Manufacturing Institute/Center for Workforce Success and Deloitte Consulting LLP (December 2005), 2005 Skills Gap Report – A Survey of the American Manufacturing Workforce.

Although this study primarily looks at the manufacturing industry, the findings and list of skills are consistent with the other included sources’ findings.

When asked which types of skills their employees will need more of over the next three years, the manufacturers most commonly reported technical skills (53 percent). Beyond this, there are a number of related skills that will be needed over the next several years that are characteristic of high-performance workforces, such as the ability to work in teams (47 percent), strong computer skills (40 percent), the ability to read and translate diagrams and flow charts (39 percent), and strong supervisory and managerial skills (37 percent). Basic employability skills (attendance, timeliness, work ethic, etc.) essentially tied with technical skills came next on the list. Following that are reading/writing/communication skills, where 51 percent of the respondents said they will need more of these types of skills over the next three years.

Gabric, D. & McFadden, K. L. (2001). Student and Employer Perceptions of Desirable Entry-Level Operations Management Skills. Mid-American Journal of Business, 16(1), 51-59.

The purpose of this study was to determine whether there is a significant difference between employers and student on their perceptions of the importance of skills and traits critical for securing a job. The report found that both employers’ and students’ rated the value of general skills such as working in teams, problem solving, and effective communication higher than the value of technical skills. The employers ranked the following skills at the bottom of the list: global awareness follows structured format/method, and negotiation/ conflict- resolution skills. Students felt that the following structured format/ method, working independently, and appreciating diversity were the least important skills.

The report also noted that one of the major differences between employers’ and students’ was how highly they ranked the skill of conscientiousness. In a ranking of 34 personality traits, “being conscientious” was ranked sixth most important by employers but eighteenth by students, suggesting that students may not realize how important employers consider conscientiousness to be in employees.

Association of American College and Universities. (2007). College Learning for the New Global Century: A Report from the National Leadership Council for Liberal Education & America’s Promise.

This report identifies the essential aims, learning outcomes, and guiding principles for a 21st century college education. It is based on extensive input both from educators and employers and responds to the new global challenges today’s students face. It describes the learning contemporary students need from college, and what it will take to help them achieve it.

Almost two-thirds of employers surveyed said college graduates lack essential skills to succeed in today’s global economy. The report says that college graduates will need much more cross-disciplinary knowledge and an advanced set of communication and analytical skills to apply that knowledge to real world problems. It also urges a more thorough application of liberal education in American universities.

The report also stated that 76 percent of business leaders want colleges to place more emphasis on teamwork skills in diverse groups; 82 percent want emphasis on science and technology; and more than 70 percent of employers want colleges to emphasize critical and analytical reasoning, as well as creativity and innovation.

Hartman, D. B., Bentley, J., Richards, K., & Krebs, C. (2005). Administrative Tasks and Skills Needed for Today’s Office: The Employees’ Perspective. Journal of Education for Business, 80(6), 347-357.

This study sought to determine the most important skills and tasks that entry- level employees use and perform in today’s office and to find out if these skills differ from those of experienced employees. The results showed that both groups use some common skills frequently. For example, using the telephone, photocopying, processing mail, and maintaining records. Experienced employees performed some skills at a much higher rate than did entry-level employees. Those skills included making decisions, using critical thinking, planning and coordinating projects, training employees, supervising employees, using accounting procedures, and planning and coordinating meetings.

The study also looked at how computer- related tasks varied between the two groups and how dependent employees are on emerging technology. A high percentage of each group used electronic mail and word processing. However, experienced employees used other computer tasks such as spreadsheets, data- base, electronic presentations, Internet research, and software integration at a higher rate than entry-level employees. Overall, emerging technology was found to be used by both groups at varying levels, but knowledge of how to use the technology seemed to be more important than years of work experience.

Gatz, J (1997). What You Need To Succeed In The Workplace. Journal of Career Planning & Employment, 57(4), 3.

This article elaborates on the primary characteristics or traits that employers are looking for in their employees. The top traits cited are: maintenance of an orderly personal life, value-added demonstration and documentation, presence of a good working attitudes, acceptance of change, and commitment to lifelong learning.

Council of Chief State School Officers (1995). Consensus framework of workplace readiness, 1995 revision. Washington, DC: Author.

Similar to the primary findings of SCAN, this citation covers generic skills and qualities that workers must have in order to learn and adapt to the demands of any job. The article points out interpersonal skills, critical thinking and problem solving, communication, and information technology skills as keys to success in the future workplace.

Bayer Corporation and the National Science Foundation. 2001. The Bayer Facts of Science Education VII: The State of America’s New Workforce. Merriam, KS: Market Research Institute.

The Bayer Foundation conducted a survey and found that new employees in America’s workforce and their managers say that today’s workers need to be flexible and adaptable, able to solve unforeseen problems, and work well in teams. The survey also found that when asked to choose, both groups selected skills associated with “working smart” over traditional “working hard” kind of skills.

An overwhelming majority of both groups also believe science literacy is important for success in today’s workplace. Most employees believe the U.S. will maintain its global science and technology leadership, but the U.S. will face increased competition for jobs from students who live in countries with stronger science and math skills.

Bass, E. & Davis, A. (2007). The Future Workplace: Views from the Floor. Future Survey, 29(12), 23.

This article analyzes a 2003 Internet survey of master of business administration degree graduates and other workers on their perceptions of the current and future workplaces. The results found that the future workplace is deemed as high-tech, virtual, global, diverse, competitive, and autonomous, with people organizing their own work patterns to fit their desired lifestyle. Subsequently, functional flexibility, the development of new skills, abilities, or competencies was seen as a necessary skill to deal more effectively with the uncertainty that characterizes today’s work environment.

Business Computer Information Systems Advisory Board (2004). Minutes of meeting at Utah Valley State College, Orem.

Employers that attend a March 2004 business advisory committee meeting reinforced that an internship or cooperative work experience while in school was one of the most important factors that they consider when hiring new graduates.

National Center for Education Statistics (1997). Education and the Economy: An Indicators Report. U.S Department of Education Institute of Educational Sciences.

This report discusses a 1992 study that tested the performance of U.S. adults on three scales of literacy-prose, document and quantitative, and categorized adults into five literacy levels according to their test scores (level 1 being the lowest literacy level and level 5 being the highest). The study reported that workers with higher literacy scores are unemployed less and earn more than workers with lower literacy scores. In addition, Forty percent or more of the adult labor force perform at the two lowest levels on each of the literacy scales, suggesting that many workers lack the skills needed to interpret, integrate, and compare or contrast information using written materials common to the workplace These workers appear to be unable to perform the types of tasks typical of certain occupations that demand high skills, such as professional, managerial, technical, high-level sales, skilled clerical, or craft and precision production occupations.

The report also discusses that although the United States leads almost every other industrialized country in college attainment, U.S. students still tend to lag behind students in other countries with respect to some measures of achievement. In particular, the mathematics and science scores of U.S. students, especially older students, are lower than those of their counterparts in other industrialized countries. U.S. students do, however, perform relatively well on reading tests. Overall, the report declared that adults in the United States may not be as skilled in some areas as their counterparts in other countries.

American College Testing (2004). High Skills and High Pay-2004 Update. Act Information Research Briefs.

American College Testing (ACT) developed WorkKeys®, a national system for teaching and assessing workplace skills that enables education and business to work together to strengthen achievement of workplace skills. In consultation with employers, educators, and experts in employment and training requirements, ACT has identified key generic employability skills: skills crucial to effective performance in most jobs. The following critical skills form the basis of the WorkKeys® system: reading for information, applied mathematics, listening, writing, business writing, teamwork, applied technology, locating information and observation.

Clagett, C. A (1997). Workforce Skills Needed by Today’s Employers. Market Analysis MA98-5. Largo, MD: Prince George’s Community College, Office of Institutional Research and Analysis.

This particular resource defines essentials skills needed by current and future employees in today’s workforce: knowing how to learn; competence in reading, writing, and computation; effective listening and oral communication skills; adaptability through creative thinking and problem solving; personal management with strong self-esteem and initiative; interpersonal skills; the ability to work in teams or groups; leadership effectiveness; and basic technology skills.

Partnership for 21st Century Skills (2008). 21st Century Skills, Education & Competiveness: A Resource and Policy Guide.

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills has emerged as the leading advocacy organizations focused on infusing 21st century skills into education. This particular report discusses 21st century skills that will increase Americans marketability, employability and readiness for success. The following skills extend beyond the assessment of reading, mathematics, and science: thinking critically and making judgments; solving complex, multidisciplinary, open-ended problems; creativity and entrepreneurial thinking; communicating and collaborating; making innovative use of knowledge, information and opportunities; and taking charge of financial, health and civic responsibilities. This report asserts that theses skills will withstand the test of time, fluctuations in the economy and marketplace, and dynamic employment demands.

Autor, D., Levy, F. & Murnane, R. (2003).“The Skill Content of Recent Technological Change: An Empirical Exploration. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 118(4), 1279-1333.

This study from Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that, beginning in the 1970s, labor input of routine cognitive and manual tasks in the U.S. economy declined and labor input of non-routine analytic and interactive tasks rose. As businesses take up technology, computers are beginning to substitute for workers who perform routine tasks—but they complement workers who perform non-routine problem solving. Hence, computerization of the workplace has raised demand for problem solving and communications skills, such as responding to discrepancies, improving production processes, and coordinating and managing the activities of others.

Martin-Young, N. (1996). Communication Skills in the Workplace Employers Talk Back. North Carolina Conference of English Instructors: CEI Fall Conference.

This article discusses a study that comprised of interviewing twenty employers to identify the communication skills and technical skills entry-level workers need. The results of these interviews also mirror national trends reported in business and trade magazines. The employers highlighted three skills needed by all workers: teamwork, flexibility, and communication. Critical thinking and the ability to function as part of a problem-solving group are also skills that employers look for.

In addition, the employers mentioned simple conversational skills are also important in the workplace as well as the ability to interview to get important information. Lastly, the employers reported that although written and oral communication skills are very important in today’s high-powered workplace, employees must also be able to use modern technology to communicate.