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The Workforce Readiness and 21st Century Skills Initiative

Business leaders in the United States and around the world continue to struggle in hiring prepared and skilled employees. At a time when many in the baby boom generation are approaching retirement, employers need a pipeline of qualified new workers so they can continue to compete and fuel the global economy.

ETS is working toward solutions to this complex worldwide issue through our research on workforce readiness and skills needed for the 21st century. Our objectives are to:

  1. identify the critical skills necessary for success in today's workforce
  2. develop methods to assess those skills
  3. provide information to guide current and future workers worldwide to improve their job skills

A major focus of this initiative is to determine the relationship between the skills required for the workforce and those being taught in schools. These skills include both cognitive (e.g., proficiency in mathematics) and noncognitive factors (e.g., personality, attitudes, values, beliefs). It is essential that the educational system — K–12 as well as higher education — assesses job skills so that students will be prepared for the workplace and its demands.

Although cognitive skills assessments continue to be important in predicting academic and workplace success, educators and employers have recognized the growing impact and influence of noncognitive assessment. We are focusing our research on this exciting area to provide a more complete picture of an individual's abilities and potential.

Since 2000, ETS has advanced the field by conducting research, publishing papers, and giving presentations on workforce readiness and 21st century skills. As we explore innovative methods and constructs, our goal is to bring these innovations to noncognitive skills assessments for both learners and workers.

Learn more about ETS workforce research projects and activities, publications, and presentations.

Comprehensive and far-reaching in scope

Broad in scope, the workforce readiness and 21st century skills initiative comprises four major areas of study:

  • 21st century skills development and use in higher education
  • Global workforce readiness constructs for credentialing
  • New measures and methods in global workforce readiness assessments
  • The impact of policy on global workforce readiness

We are exploring many potential applications for this work, both in the United States and globally.

ETS's commitment to lifelong learning

ETS is committed to the study and advancement of lifelong learning and professional development. We are examining the impact of education and learning on workforce readiness and the potential for success. Understanding the skills and abilities that are most predictive of occupational success will help us to develop fair and valid assessments, ensuring that the students of today will be the capable employees of the future.

In addition, ETS can help identify current workers who today do not have the skills necessary for success on the job. Interventions to strengthen their skills can then be developed and effectiveness of remedial training can be measured.

Through the workforce readiness and 21st century skills initiative, ETS is addressing the needs and demands of the domestic and global workplace while advancing quality and equity in education for people throughout their lives.