Employability skills are “a group of essential abilities that involve the development of a knowledge base, expertise level, and mindset that is increasingly necessary for success in the modern workplace. Employability skills are typically considered essential qualifications for many job positions and hence have become necessary for an individual’s employment success at just about any level within a business environment.” Source: BusinessDictionary.com
Employability skills are sometimes also referred to as life skills or soft skills.
In 1990, the Secretary of Labor appointed a commission to determine the skills young people need to succeed in the world of work. The commission’s fundamental purpose was to encourage a high-performance economy characterized by high-skill, high-wage employment. Although the commission completed its work in 1992, its findings and recommendations continue to be a current source of valuable information for individuals and organizations involved in education and workforce development.
The Department of Labor’s (DOL) website includes several online documents about SCANS. One of the documents, Workplace Essential Skills: Resources Related to the SCANS Competencies and Foundation Skills, is a comprehensive report on necessary workplace skills. The report was developed by ACT, Inc. under the direction of the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration, and the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. It provides the results of a comparison of the workplace basic skills defined by SCANS with skills frameworks developed by a variety of national and international organizations. The comparison found a great degree of commonality in the skill definitions, yielding a comprehensive common language for the discussion and examination of workplace basic skills. The report is intended to serve as a guide for human resources personnel, trainers, educators, and researchers who are interested in workplace basic skills training.
The research also expanded the usefulness of the skill definitions by developing behaviorally-anchored scales for each skill. These scales can serve as a common standard and reference point for workers, employers, trainers, educators, and program administrators as they consider several work-related activities.
The Employability Skills Framework is a resource for information and tools to inform the instruction and assessment of employability skills. Featured resources include:
The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has developed the Wisconsin’s Employability Skills Certificate: Implementation Guide. The Employability Skills Certificate Program is designed to address the skills and behaviors that are critical in the 21st century.
In the report, Best Practices for Job Training Programs in Brownfields Redevelopment Initiatives, the EPA-funded Brownfields Job Development and Training pilot grantees identified the following as best practices in employability skills (#7 in the ten most critical components list).