Cross-Sector Competencies Matter in the Changing Workplace


“32 million working-class Americans at risk of being left behind by the future of work.” - Working Nation

“Our country has an oversupply of low-skilled workers but 10 percent fewer workers trained for middle-skill jobs than the number of those jobs available.” - The 74 Million  

“Despite technical roles making a strong showing on this year’s Emerging Jobs list, soft skills - like oral communication, leadership and time management - make up nearly half the list of skills with the largest skills gaps.” - LinkedIn

“Students will need skills for future job and labor markets, and they will need the ability to navigate the increasing uncertainty and potential precariousness of the gig economy.” - OECD

“Employers, politicians, and educators are hammering the message that people need to continuously upgrade their skills because of advancing technologies.” - Wall Street Journal

These are just a few of the statements made in recent weeks by leading experts, journalists, and reports on the future of work.

As the above articles show, significant economic shifts are happening — and happening fast. Rote skills (those that involve memorization and repetition) are becoming increasingly unnecessary because machines can easily take over those types of tasks. Instead, companies are eagerly seeking employees who can communicate effectively, collaborate with diverse groups of people, and think critically and creatively. These skills are necessary in a world of work where we are globally connected, experiencing rapid shifts in technology, and required to readily and creatively adapt to new demands.


At America Achieves, we refer to these types of skills as cross-sector competencies, meaning that regardless of one’s industry or career path, certain skills are crucial to possess in order to be successful in the 21st century. And as a new report from Brookings Institute points out, schools are being called on to help students develop these competencies.

According to the Brookings report, “To develop a workforce prepared for the changes that are coming, educational institutions must de-emphasize rote skills and stress education that helps humans to work better with machines—and do what machines can't.”

So how can schools begin this process? How do they know if they are adequately preparing all students for success in the changing world of work?

The first step is to clearly define WHAT students need to know and be able to do to be successful in 21st century careers and life. What does a career-ready graduate look like? This short video provides schools suggestions on how to start the process and develop their vision:


As schools get real about career readiness and work to develop this vision, they can start the process by considering these questions:  

  1. How will your key stakeholders be involved in developing and implementing the vision of a career-ready graduate?

  2. How can cross-sector competencies be interwoven with existing standards and academic and technical skills?

  3. How can we ensure against different sets of expectations for different students?

  4. To what extent do schools have a developmental vision and approach to mastery of the competencies?

  5. To what extent is multilingualism and multiculturalism built into the competency framework?

  6. How do selected competencies set students up for life success and help them become productive citizens?

  7. How is success defined and measured?

Have you ever been labeled as “unmotivated?”

Preparing Students for In-Demand Jobs in Louisiana