Essential Skills Are in Demand, but Lacking

In today’s quickly evolving world, students need a strong combination of content knowledge and essential skills to do well academically and in the workplace. But there is a gap between what students, educators, and employers want and the current reality…

Top Skills Employers Seek

% of managers who feel
recent college graduates lack:

  • Critical Thinking 60% 60%
  • Problem Solving 60% 60%
  • Attention to Detail 56% 56%
  • Communication 46% 46%
  • Writing Proficiency 44% 44%
  • Public Speaking 39% 39%
  • Interpersonal Skills/Teamwork 36% 36%

Source: PayScale (2016) survey of ~64k managers

Career Readiness Requires More Than Content Knowledge

Oral and written communication, collaboration, and problem solving skills are in high demand by employers.
Rios et al (2020)

The core work-related skills with the greatest growth in demand across all industries include cognitive abilities (e.g., logical reasoning, cognitive flexibility, quantitative reasoning), system skills (e.g., judgment and decision making), and complex problem solving.
The Future of Jobs, The World Economic Forum (2016)

93% of survey respondents agree that a candidate’s demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than their undergraduate major.
Hart Research Associates (2013)

The Skills Gap Is Real


of students entering colleges and universities are not proficient in essential success skills — yet these skills are predictive of positive outcomes.


of exiting students are not proficient in essential success skills — yet these skills are predictive of
positive post-higher education outcomes.

The Jobs of Tomorrow Require Skills That Students Need to Build Today

Critical thinking and problem solving top the list of skills that employers believe will grow in prominence in the next five years. (World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2020). These have been consistent since the first report conducted in 2016. These skills are also mentioned in the top 10 Skills of 2025, according to the same report.

Students’ future career opportunities may
not exist today. Therefore, we need to teach
them the skills they will need for success no
matter what the future holds.

Download this infographic for a look at in-demand and emerging careers alongside the essential skills you can help your students develop before they graduate.

Measuring Students’ Essential Skills
Is the First Step in Improving Them

Entering students who perform better on CAE’s assessments are more likely to have higher cumulative GPAs at the end of their senior year when compared with traditional higher education entrance assessments (Zahner et al., 2016).

Students who perform better on CLA+ are more likely to have positive post-higher education outcomes as measured by employment, salary, and graduate school enrollment (Zahner, James, & Lehrfeld, 2022).

Students who perform better on CLA+ are more likely to have higher evaluations from their managers and advisors (Zahner, James, & Lehrfeld, 2022).