These unusual skills may seem like things to learn in college, but they should be taught long before…here’s why

skills-students-postsecondaryWhile the Common Core aims to teach students critical skills that can translate to college, career, and life (critical thinking, collaboration, and writing), a different set of skills can help prepare students to not just survive post-secondary education, but thrive. These skills should also be taught in high school, if not earlier.

There are growing movements in higher education of going beyond a professor’s traditional curriculum and, instead, learning skills that are vital not just to a specific major, but give students a leg-up in class, in internships, in careers, and in personal finance.

“It’s interesting to see, in these megatrends, what demographics are showing us: By 2050….22 percent of the world’s population will be age 60 or older. (Source: UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, Population Ageing and Development 2012, 2012)—a gap that many companies are nervous about filling due to concerns about student skills,” said Shannon Schuyler, partner and U.S. leader for Corporate Responsibility, PwC.

And while base skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, and the basics of STEM are crucial for students to master before entering higher education, a different set of skills could help students make an even easier transition to a rapidly evolving higher-ed atmosphere; where job and life skills are becoming better integrated into graduation necessities.

[Listed in no particular order]


1. Digital literacy skills

From learning how to master multiple devices (laptops, tablets and smartphones) to navigating web resources, digital literacy is becoming even more critical as colleges and universities begin to incorporate digital learning into classrooms and homework.

Beyond that, basic Word skills and the ability to take online assessments with ease are now must-knows when entering post-secondary education.

Thankfully, the Common Core requirements (as well as public libraries!) and the online assessments included with them will help students develop these skills as soon as possible; skills that “…include technology operational skills such as keyboarding and spreadsheets, as well as higher-order skills such as finding and evaluating information online,” said Nick Smith, director of marketing for

The Common Core testing brings a “new sense of urgency” to the teaching of digital literacy skills in school, Smith said. That applies everywhere, he said, but especially in lower-income communities where students aren’t learning these skills at home.

Schools interested in taking digital literacy skills a step further should also look into offering alternative competency pathways, through online options such as digital badges, online course credentials, and even MOOCs, since many colleges and universities are beginning accept these credentials and are even urging students to seek job-specific skills pathways.

(Next page: Skills 2-5)

Meris Stansbury

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