SCORE’s five-part SCORE Institute summer series on Preparing Students For Tennessee Careers highlights innovative approaches that connect education and the workforce. For the first event in the series, Today’s Workforce Skills, our partners at America Succeeds highlighted the power of durable skills in shaping Tennessee’s workforce. 

Last month, more than 65,000 Tennessee students proudly graduated from high school, yet many of these students will either attend a postsecondary institution or enter the workforce unprepared for success, lacking both the technical and sought-after soft skills necessary to succeed in the workplace. 

America Succeeds is dedicated to bridging this gap and empowering students with the tools they need to thrive in the modern job market. The reality is that a significant number of high school and college graduates lack these essential skills, which hinders their entry into the workforce and the beginning of their careers. In our rapidly evolving economy, the demand for durable skills has never been more vital. 

So, what exactly are durable skills? 

Durable skills are a combination of how you use what you know (skills like critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity) as well as character skills (like fortitude, growth mindset, and leadership). They are durable because they last a lifetime, benefiting individuals across various careers and industries.

In today’s economy, the key to achieving economic independence lies in developing a combination of sought-after technical and soft skills essential for jobs of the future. Nationwide, there are 11.4 million open job positions, yet 80 percent of human resources leaders struggle to find suitable candidates. As employers increasingly adopt skills-based hiring to create a broader and fairer talent pool, they often face challenges in recognizing “high-quality” nondegree paths, evaluating and translating skills, and assessing applicant readiness for the workforce.  

To empower employers with the tools to better evaluate applicant skills during hiring, America Succeeds is collaborating with CompTIA to develop a rubric that measures the acquisition of durable skills through various educational pathways. This rubric will encompass classroom-based learning for future workers and employee training for individuals already in the workforce, ensuring their preparedness for successful careers and contributions to their communities. 

Our goal is to ensure that every student in Tennessee — and across America — not only possesses durable skills but can articulate and leverage them effectively. This commitment is backed by concrete evidence — Lightcast’s extensive database of 1.6 million job postings from Tennessee employers over the past two years reveals that six out of the 10 most requested skills by employers are durable skills. 

The need for these skills was apparent long before the pandemic, but COVID-19 has significantly accelerated these existing trends. As we strive for economic recovery and address the exacerbated inequities of the past years, it becomes increasingly critical to equip individuals with the durable skills necessary for long-term success in the workforce.  

Employers, parents, state leaders, and policymakers are aligned in their desire to provide students a solid foundation for the future. Business leaders across industries are aligned around the skills demanded in every career. By prioritizing common competencies in addition to specific technical requirements, we can prepare young people for economic mobility in an increasingly complex world while ensuring businesses have access to the skilled talent they need. 

Tim Taylor is the president and cofounder of America Succeeds, a nonprofit education advocacy organization that engages business leaders in modernizing education systems to drive equity and opportunity.