To start, let's dive into the three categories that 21st Century skills fall into.
The Three 21st Century Skill Categories
Each 21st Century skill is broken into one of three categories:
Learning skills (the four C’s)teaches students about the mental processes required to adapt and improve upon a modern work environment.
Literacy skills (IMT)focuses on how students can discern facts, publishing outlets, and the technology behind them. There’s a strong focus on determining trustworthy sources and factual information to separate it from the misinformation that floods the Internet.
Life skills (FLIPS)take a look at intangible elements of a student’s everyday life. These intangibles focus on both personal and professional qualities.
Altogether, these categories cover all 12 21st Century skills that contribute to a student’s future career.
Media literacy is the practice of identifying publishing methods, outlets, and sources while distinguishing between the ones that are credible and the ones that aren’t.
Just like the previous skill, media literacy is helpful for finding truth in a world that’s saturated with information.
This is how students find trustworthy sources of information in their lives. Without it, anything thatlookscrediblebecomescredible.
But with it, they can learn which media outlets or formats to ignore. They also learn which ones to embrace, which is equally important.
Last,technology literacygoes another step further to teach students about the machines involved in the Information Age.
As computers, cloud programming, and mobile devices become more important to the world, the world needs more people to understand those concepts.
Technology literacy gives students the basic information they need to understand what gadgets perform what tasks and why.
This understanding removes the intimidating feeling that technology tends to have. After all, if you don’t understand how technology works, it might as well be magic.
But technology literacy unmasks the high-powered tools that run today’s world.
As a result, students can adapt to the world more effectively. They can play an important role in its evolution.
They might even guide its future.
But to truly round out a student’s 21st Century skills, they need to learn from a third category.
Category 3. Life Skills (FLIPS)
Life skills is the final category. Also called FLIPS, these skills all pertain to someone’s personal life, but they also bleed into professional settings.
The five 21st Century life skills are:
Flexibility: Deviating from plans as needed
Leadership: Motivating a team to accomplish a goal
Initiative: Starting projects, strategies, and plans on one’s own
Productivity: Maintaining efficiency in an age of distractions
Social skills: Meeting and networking with others for mutual benefit
Flexibilityis the expression of someone’s ability to adapt to changing circumstances.
This is one of the most challenging qualities to learn for students because it’s based on two uncomfortable ideas:
Your way isn’t always the best way
You have to know and admit when you’re wrong
That’s a struggle for a lot of students, especially in an age when you can know any bit of information at the drop of a hat.
Flexibility requires them to show humility and accept that they’ll always have a lot to learn — even when they’re experienced.
Still, flexibility is crucial to a student’s long-term success in a career. Knowing when to change, how to change, and how to reacttochange is a skill that’ll pay dividends for someone’s entire life.
It also plays a big role in the next skill in this category.
Leadershipis someone’s penchant for setting goals, walking a team through the steps required, and achieving those goals collaboratively.
Whether someone’s a seasoned entrepreneur or a fresh hire just starting their careers, leadership applies to career.
Entry-level workers need leadership skills for several reasons. The most important is that it helps them understand the decisions that managers and business leaders make.
Then, those entry-level employees canapply their leadership skills when they’re promoted to middle management (or the equivalent). This is where 21st Century skill learners can apply the previous skills they’ve learned.
It’s also where they get the real-world experience they need to lead entire companies.
As they lead individual departments, they can learn the ins and outs of their specific careers. That gives ambitious students the expertise they need to grow professionally and lead whole corporations.
True success also requires initiative, requiring students to be self-starters.
Initiative only comes naturally to a handful of people. As a result, students need to learn it to fully succeed.
This is one of the hardest skills to learn and practice. Initiative often means working on projects outside of regular working hours.
The rewards for students with extreme initiative vary from person to person. Sometimes they’re good grades. Other times they’re new business ventures.
Sometimes, it’s spending an extra 30 minutes at their jobs wrapping something up before the weekend.
Regardless, initiative is an attribute that earns rewards. It’s especially indicative of someone’scharacterin terms of work ethic and professional progress.
That goes double when initiative is practiced with qualities like flexibility and leadership.
Along with initiative, 21st Century skills require students to learn about productivity. That’s a student’s ability to complete work in an appropriate amount of time.
In business terms, it’s called “efficiency.”
The common goal of any professional — from entry-level employee to CEO — is to get more done in less time.
By understanding productivity strategies at every level, students discover the ways in which they work best while gaining an appreciation for howotherswork as well.
That equips them with the practical means to carry out the ideas they determine through flexibility, leadership, and initiative.
Still, there’s one last skill that ties all other 21st Century skills together.
Social skills are crucial to the ongoing success of a professional. Business is frequently done through the connections one person makes with others around them.
This concept of networking is more active in some industries than others, but proper social skills are excellent tools for forging long-lasting relationships.
While these may have been implied in past generations, the rise of social media and instant communications have changed the nature of human interaction.
As a result, today’s students possess a wide range of social skills. Some are more socially adept than others. Some are far behind their peers. And some lucky few may be far ahead, as socializing comes naturally to them.
But most students need a crash course in social skills at least. Etiquette, manners, politeness, and small talk still play major roles in today’s world.
That means some students need to learn them in an educational setting instead of a social setting.
For them, it’s another skill to add to their lives.
Now that we’ve established what 21st Century skills are, let’s answer the next big question.
Do employers actuallywantpeople with 21st Century skills?
What’s the Demand for 21st Century Skills?
While 21st Century skills have always been important, they’ve become essential in a worldwide market that moves faster by the day.
These skills all double back to one key focus.
Someone’s ability to enact and / or adapt to change.
This is because any industry is capable of changing at a moment’s notice. Industries are now regularly disrupted with new ideas and methodologies.
Those industries that haven’t been disrupted aren’t immune though. They just haven’t been disruptedyet.
With that in mind, the world has entered an era where nothing is guaranteed.
As a result, students need to learn to guide the change that’ll inundate their lives. At the very least, they need to learn how to react to it.
Otherwise, they’ll be left behind.
This is especially true as customer demand accelerates in all industries along with expectations for newer features, higher-level capabilities, and lower prices.
In today’s marketplace, falling behind means becoming obsolete.
That’s a familiar concept to all of today’s students as tomorrow’s advancements make today’s miracles quaint or unimpressive.
Today, the only consistency from year to year is change.