Skills Needed To Succeed in Workplace Outlined

By Peter West — November 15, 1995 2 min read

A familiarity with computers, collaboration, and the ability to process and safeguard information are among the most important job skills, according to a new survey of American workers conducted for the U.S. departments of Education and Labor.

The first phase of the National Job Analysis Study, conducted by researchers at American College Testing of Iowa City, Iowa, identifies skills that employees themselves said were most frequently required in their daily work.

They include using a computer to locate, process, or communicate information; determining the priority of tasks; collaborating with people in other departments; judging the importance, quality, and accuracy of information; and coordinating individual work with the activities of other workers.

Unlike other surveys of the skills needed to succeed in the job market, said Bonnie Friedman, a Labor Department spokeswoman, this inventory reflects the daily experience of average employees.

“It wasn’t asking the employers, `What do you require?’ ” she said. “It was asking the workers, `What do you actually do?’ ”

“We have known for some time that well-defined job skills are key to success in the workplace,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert B. Reich said in a statement. “Now, we have concrete evidence of specific skills areas which contribute to productivity.”

Although not specifically linked to the effort to develop a voluntary system of national skills standards for American students as mandated in the Goals 2000: Educate America Act, the survey should help further clarify exactly what capabilities workers are expected to demonstrate on the job, Ms. Friedman said.

“They’re totally independent initiatives,” she said. “Although obviously, at some point, those two overlap with each other.”

Educators Included

U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley noted in a statement that the survey’s findings should help schools develop curricula that emphasize the skills needed by employers.

“As educators restructure America’s high schools to make the important link between school and work, this study can help assure that the right skills are being taught and learned,” he said.

The study is based on a survey of 12,000 workers in 6,000 organizations, employed in 164 of the nation’s fastest-growing occupations. Approximately 3,000 workers from 1,600 organizations actually completed the surveys.

Participants were asked whether a particular activity is performed as part of their job, how important it is to their productivity, and how often they perform the activity.

Secretaries returned the largest number of surveys--191--but college faculty members, with 100 responses, and secondary school teachers, with 98 responses, were also strongly represented. Other professionals surveyed include educational administrators and librarians.

In the second phase of the study, which is to begin next year, a list of the skills identified as important by the first survey will be sent to 6,000 workers in similar occupations in an effort to verify that the list accurately represents workplace requirements in the nation’s most competitive businesses.

A version of this article appeared in the November 15, 1995 edition of Education Week as Skills Needed To Succeed in Workplace Outlined