4 In-Demand Skills for the Future and What Learning Institutions Need to Do to Prepare

While it’s impossible to predict the future, we can confidently say that the workforce will continue to develop and change. The advent of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) continues to change the way organizations provide goods and services. Jobs are restructured or—in some cases—eliminated altogether, and the changes aren’t stopping any time soon. Researchers predict that as much as 50% of the workforce will need to be reskilled by 2025.

With unending changes on the horizon, it’s imperative that higher learning institutions are preparing students today for work in occupations that don’t even exist yet. It’s the learning institution’s job to help these students acquire the skills they’ll need to be successful and productive members of our ever-evolving workforce.

Universities and trade schools might not be able to train people for specific careers that don’t yet exist, but they can teach students the hard and soft skills necessary for adapting to a changing work environment.

Below, we’ve outlined which skills are predicted to be in high demand for future careers. We also take a look at what learning institutions can do to ensure their students master these skills.

What Skills Will Employers Seek the Most in the Future?

To find success in the workforce, employees will need to hone their hard and soft skills, but there’s another area that’s gaining traction among employers: attitudes.

It won’t be enough for employees to have certain abilities anymore. They’ll also need to have a progressive mindset that helps them stay self-aware and recognize the needs of others in their organization. According to research conducted by the World Economic Forum and the McKinsey Global Institute, there are 56 foundational skills and attitudes that are expected to be in high demand, and many of these skills involve a person’s attitude toward their work.

Also referred to as distinct elements of talent (DELTAs) by the World Economic Forum, these skills and attitudes span four categories and cover a range of competencies. We cover those four categories below, along with what we believe will be the most sought-after skills for the future.

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1) Jobs Will Demand Cognitive Skills and a Willingness to Learn

Employers will gravitate toward people who demonstrate a willingness to be innovative and learn new skills. Efficiency is the name of the game here. Cognitive skills like problem-solving, time management, and the ability to recognize biases will be highly sought after in the coming years. With an increasing number of jobs being automated, more value will be placed on a person’s ability to conceptualize and find solutions to complex problems.

A person’s willingness to adapt to their surroundings or even adopt a new perspective are two attitudes that employers will seek and encourage. Employers will value these attitudes because they require a person to be introspective and recognize their own shortcomings or areas for improvement. People who are already open to this mentality are often also willing to engage in meaningful collaboration and discourse with others.

Another cognitive skill that’s on the rise is storytelling. It’s a necessary, universal skill used to make connections between organizations and their clients, but it’s also useful at work. Sometimes people need convincing before they’re willing to make a change. A good story helps illustrate why a change is necessary and beneficial to a department or organization, so hiring managers will be on the hunt for people who can tell a story well.

2) Interpersonal Skills Will Become Even More Valuable

Mentorship and collaboration among colleagues are key factors in developing and improving an organization’s culture, so employees will need to hone their interpersonal skills to be successful.

Organizational leaders will seek interpersonal skills such as empathy, humility, and sociability. They’ll also seek individuals with strong abilities to:

  • Foster inclusiveness
  • Resolve conflicts and collaborate
  • Empower and motivate others—especially those with differing personality types


More companies will continue to push their diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, so it’s essential that they hire teams with attitudes geared toward building relationships and lifting up others.

3) Employers Will Seek Those With Strong Self-Leadership Skills

It’s yet to be seen if the uptick in remote work is here to stay for good, but that doesn’t mean that we’re bound to return to the days of a rigid, 40-hour work week. It’s actually quite the opposite—workers are demanding more flexibility in their jobs.

As such, employers will need to put a lot of trust in their workers to get jobs done efficiently. That means self-leadership skills will continue to be in high demand. Organizations will seek people who are goal-oriented and intrinsically motivated. Likewise, those with entrepreneurial mindsets will be highly-valued in the job market because they’re typically very driven and willing to try new things.

Organizations will also seek people who have a strong ability to self-regulate and manage both their time and emotions. Employees who are able to identify and effectively manage their own triggers and weaknesses will likely show a willingness to develop and grow—a plus for organizations looking to maintain their headcount.

4) Digital Fluency and Awareness Will Remain a Top Priority

Technology isn’t going away, so prospective employees will need to keep abreast of technology trends and maintain at least a baseline level of digital literacy. While every job of the future won’t require specific computer or technology skills, it’s a good idea for people to keep pace with updated technology and demonstrate a willingness to learn.

These specific digital skills are rising in demand:

  • Programming literacy
  • Cybersecurity literacy
  • Computational and analytical thinking
  • Data analysis and statistics


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How Can Learning Institutions Prepare Students for the Future Workforce?

As the world of work continues to evolve, the structure of postsecondary learning has largely remained unchanged. In order to prepare students for their future careers and imbue them with the in-demand skills mentioned above, learning institutions will need to make some big changes.

While it’s true that many skills can be learned through traditional classroom collaboration and active learning, employers are gravitating more toward candidates with work experience over those with certifications or degrees. That’s partly because there just aren’t university programs for some of the specific digital skills that are needed today.

For example, there are no postsecondary programs as of this writing that offer Epic certification, even though it’s the most widely-used health records system in the United States. Likewise, there’s an extremely limited number of higher learning institutions that offer SaaS courses or certifications in programs like Salesforce, an extremely popular and in-demand skill set.

It would be helpful for more learning institutions to offer courses and certifications in these high-demand areas, but that still likely won’t be enough to prepare students for the future. Real life and work experiences are still the most likely to catch a hiring manager’s attention. That’s why we recommend that higher learning institutions implement more experiential learning into their curriculums.

This learning style depends on learners having hands-on experiences and the opportunity to reflect on and learn from their mistakes. Experiential learning also encourages deeper levels of learning and understanding as opposed to surface learning, which is more likely to be forgotten with time or disuse.

When students can demonstrate their work experiences, they will be more likely to develop the necessary hard and soft skills—and attitudes—that employers will seek in the future. That’s why it will be important for higher learning institutions to offer their students opportunities to participate in more internships and other forms of experiential learning.

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The World of Work Is Changing. Higher Education Should Too!

We’re quickly approaching a moment in history where the old ways of educating will no longer be relevant—or useful.

Universities and other institutions will need to consider what changes they must make to ensure that they continue to serve their students and teach them the skills they’ll need to achieve professional success.

If you’re a higher education institution, evaluating the effectiveness of your digital tools is a good first step. Open LMS offers a multitude of learning services, so you can continue to provide excellent education to your students—now and in the future. Contact us today to learn more!

Rebecca Potter
About the author

Rebecca Potter

Rebecca is a content writer for Learning Technologies Group plc. Prior to writing, she was an educator for seven years. She earned her Master’s of Education from Bowling Green State University and holds degrees in English and Spanish from The Ohio State University.

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