Skip to content
Global competencies, or durable skills, and classroom rules in a Global Leaders classroom
Global Education

The Essential Bridge: Durable Skills in the Classroom and Beyond

Imagine a young professional, Alex, sitting in a brightly lit conference room, nervously tapping their foot under the table. Across from them sits a panel of potential employers, poised with a list of questions that will determine Alex’s future with their company. As the interview progresses, it becomes clear that the panel is less interested in Alex’s ability to recall specific historical dates or solve complex mathematical problems, skills they spent years honing in school. Instead, they’re focused on identifying Alex’s durable skills—those intangible, “soft” skills that are crucial in today’s workforce. This scenario is not unique; it’s a universal experience for young professionals entering the job market, highlighting a significant gap in our approach to education.

What is a durable skill?

In an age when technology and industries evolve at breakneck speed, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, along with those of several other states across the country, recognizes the importance of preparing students not just academically, but also for life beyond the classroom. Its “Portrait of a Graduate” and its various, state-specific iterations emphasize that while academic success is vital, so too is the development of durable skills like adaptability, collaboration, communication, critical thinking, empathy, lifelong learning, and personal responsibility.

What is the difference between durable and perishable skills?

Durable skills, often called “doable skills” by some educators to make them more relatable, are the cornerstone of career readiness. They are the skills that enable individuals to navigate the complexities of modern work environments, work effectively in teams, solve unexpected problems, and adapt to new challenges and technologies. Unlike perishable skills—specific, technical skills that can become obsolete as industries rapidly change—durable skills are evergreen, serving individuals throughout their careers across various roles and sectors and even benefiting individuals in their personal lives.

Durable skills in demand in the workforce

Let’s delve back into Alex’s interview scenario to explore the importance of these skills:

  • Problem-solving: When asked about a time they faced a challenge, Alex recounts a group project from college, emphasizing their role in navigating team conflicts and finding innovative solutions. This response highlights their ability to tackle issues head-on and work toward a resolution, a key trait employers seek.
  • Taking initiative: Alex shares an example of a group project in which they saw an issue and devised a strategy with classmates to address it school-wide and get others involved. This initiative demonstrates leadership and a proactive mindset, qualities that are invaluable in any professional setting.
  • Teamwork: Reflecting on their experience working in diverse teams, Alex discusses how they learned to value different perspectives and collaborate effectively, a testament to their ability to work well with others.
  • Creativity: Asked about a time they had to think outside the box, Alex describes a creative marketing strategy they devised for a class project, showcasing their ability to innovate and think creatively.
  • Adaptability: Alex talks about a time they had to quickly adapt to remote learning, highlighting their flexibility and resilience in the face of change.

These scenarios underscore the critical role that durable skills play in a young professional’s ability to thrive in the workforce. Yet the development of these skills often takes a backseat in traditional education settings, where the focus remains heavily on academic achievements and the mastery of perishable skills.

Teaching students career-readiness skills

The narrative of Alex’s interview serves as a compelling argument for the integration of durable skills into classroom settings and school-wide cultures. By prioritizing these skills, educators can better prepare students for the realities of the modern workforce, where technical knowledge is just one piece of the puzzle. Schools must create learning environments that foster critical thinking, encourage teamwork, stimulate creativity, and cultivate adaptability. This approach not only prepares students for their first job interviews but also equips them with the skills necessary to navigate a rapidly changing world.

As the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s Portrait of a Graduate suggests, a balanced education that includes both rigorous academic content and the cultivation of durable skills is essential for student success in the post-secondary world. By bridging the gap between K-12 education and career readiness, we can ensure that students like Alex are not just academically proficient but also prepared for the challenges and opportunities of the future and capable of applying their skills in meaningful, impactful ways.

With Global Leaders, students experience learning that goes beyond mastery of specific academic skills. If your school or district is interested in preparing students for their future careers by teaching global issues, contact us below to learn more.

For updates on the amazing Global Leaders work happening at our partner schools, stay tuned to our blog and follow us on social media.  #UnitingOurWorld #GlobalLeaders

Share this Post

More on the blog