What Employers Want

There is no shortage of articles exposing the skills employers want from young workers but can’t find.

Blomberg’s skills gap report surveyed over 1,000 recruiters to find employers want but can’t find the following skills in young people:

  • communication skills
  • leadership skills
  • creative problem solving
  • strategic thinking

Ernest J. Wilson III’s recent article for Fortune explored the needs of almost 2,000 executives to find the following skills that companies need but can’t find from recent graduates:

  • intellectual curiosity
  • 360-degree thinking
  • cultural competence
  • empathy
  • adaptability

The Economist’s Zoe Tabary (@zoetabary) wrote a piece on their survey of global business execs, teachers, and students that found the following were skills needed but lacking in young people (Google’s Chief Edu Evangelist Jaime Casap — @jcasap — also cited this article recently):

  • problem solving
  • team working
  • communication
  • critical thinking
  • creativity
  • leadership

I could go on, but I think we get the point. The skills most sought after today are generally non-academic competencies.

We’ve tasked high schools and colleges with closing this skills gap. But I’m going to argue that we have a largely unrecognized resource that has been cultivating these skills for decades. Out-of-school youth programs and community-based organizations have been building these very competencies in young people across the nation for years.

The power of youth programs to transform learning for young people, and particularly teens, is well recognized. Even 20 years back Reed Larson noted in an article for American Psycologist that young people had greater levels of concentration and motivation in informal youth programs than in school.

After school programs, service learning programs, summer camps, and career development programs have all been working under the proverbial radar to prepare our youth for a world in which pure academic success means increasingly little. They’ve been working on the holistic development of children and families for quite some time and with impressive results.

Research demonstrates that these programs are achieving great gains for youth. One such study from National Collaboration for Youth points to the following improvements for participants of out-of-school programs:

  • positive self concepts
  • creative thinking abilities
  • decision making skills
  • problem solving capabilities
  • social self efficacy
  • conflict resolution skills
  • civic engagement
  • positive peer and adult relations

Go ahead and take another quick look at the skills employers want but can’t find above. Pretty close to the competencies youth development programs are cultivating right?

After school, summer, and community programs are often an untapped, and largely unrecognized resource that we have at our disposal to prepare youth for the future. I for one applaud their efforts and would like to see them getting more of the spotlight as we navigate the future of work and education as a society.

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