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What are Durable Skills, and Why Do Our Students Need Them?

What are Durable Skills, and Why Do Our Students Need Them?

It’s a Monday morning and your supervisor calls to tell you she’s sick and cannot join you for an important meeting you have today with a potential new partner. She asks you to make the pitch an hour before the meeting starts. You’re a seasoned employee, and while this is not your ideal situation, you start setting yourself up for success – you reach out to a coworker for support, you review the slide deck, make notes, etc. While it may be stressful, you have learned to work under pressure and you complete the presentation, receiving stellar feedback from the soon-to-be partners to bring back to your supervisor.

In this scenario, you’ve used many ‘soft skills’ – PLTW has called them transportable skills, we call them Durable Skills – to propel you forward in your career. Skills like adaptability, tenacity, troubleshooting, analytical thinking, collaboration, communication, to name a few. While it is possible you spoke to all of these skills when you interviewed for this role, there are far too many recent high school and even college graduates who cannot, and it is limiting their ability to enter the workforce and start their careers.

We are committed to changing that.

Even while technical skills are evolving at an unprecedented pace, there is an important set of durable ‘soft skills’ that last throughout an entire career – how we use what we know (critical thinking, communication, etc.) and our character skills. America Succeeds’ Durable Skills initiative seeks to ensure every individual is prepared with the skills necessary for success in the workforce regardless of educational attainment, career path, or industry sector.

Of course, Project Lead the Way educators already know the importance of creating clear pathways for success for all students. By engaging students in hands-on activities, projects, and problems and empowering them to solve real-world challenges, PLTW educators are already teaching Durable Skills. Our goal is to ensure that every student in America knows and can speak to their strengths in Durable Skills, because we believe that every job in every sector requires Durable Skills.

It’s more than a belief though – the numbers tell the story. Based on Emsi Burning Glass's database of 80 millions of employer job postings from the past two years, we know that 7 out of the 10 most requested skills by employers are Durable Skills.

Although the need for inclusive, Durable Skills-based education and hiring was apparent long before the pandemic, COVID-19 greatly accelerated existing trends. As we look toward economic recovery – and overcoming the inequities exacerbated by these past years – it has become even more critical to ensure every individual is prepared or upskilled with the Durable Skills necessary for long-term success in the workforce. By focusing on common competencies instead of diverse technical needs, we have an opportunity to help a broader and more inclusive group of learners and workers advance in career pathways for employees’ and employers’ mutual benefit.

Currently, America Succeeds is collaborating with CompTIA on ways to measure the attainment of Durable Skills through various education pathways – from the classroom for future workers and to employee training for individuals already in the workforce – to prepare them for success in their careers and communities.

“We believe helping students better develop their innate durable skills at an early age will help them compete, contribute, and thrive in their careers,” - Todd Thibodeaux, President and CEO of CompTIA

Employers, parents, state leaders, and policymakers are aligned in their desire to provide students a solid foundation for the future and teach them the skills they need to succeed. Join them, and the Durable Skills movement, today.


About America Succeeds

America Succeeds is a 501(c)(3) non-profit committed to transforming the school-to-work pipeline to ensure every student has the opportunity to succeed in the competitive global economy and contribute to their local community.

About the Author

Tim Taylor is the Co-Founder and President of America Succeeds, bringing a unique background of executive, nonprofit, and public policy experience to the organization. Prior to launching America Succeeds, he served as the founding President of Colorado Succeeds.

Tim began his career on Capitol Hill as a Senior Legislative Assistant to Congressman Saxby Chambliss (GA). After relocating to Colorado in 1998, he served as an independent political consultant, Director of Public Relations and Government Affairs for the Colorado Health Care Association, and founder of Open Fairways.

Tim is a fellow of the 14th class of the Aspen- Pahara Education Fellowship and a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network. He was named one of Getting Smart’s “60 People Shaping the Future of K-12 Education”, has appeared on NPR’s Talk of the Nation, and served as a critical reader for the upcoming Good to Great and K-12 Education monograph by author Jim Collins.

Tim is a graduate of Randolph-Macon College in Virginia and earned a Master’s degree in International Affairs from The George Washington University. He is an avid outdoorsman and live music junkie. Tim lives in Denver, Colorado, with his wife Clare, son Macon, daughter Ellie and a Boykin Spaniel.