Report details key skills needed to earn more at work

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INDIANAPOLIS — High-earning careers take more than a degree, according to a new report.

The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce has compiled a list of in-demand skills and abilities, and found that communication skills are the most valuable across all industries. The report said these can boost wages as much as 20%. Other important skills include teamwork, sales and customer service, and problem solving and complex thinking.

Charlee Beasor, communications director for the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, said the report is especially timely, because the pandemic is reshaping the labor market.

“Anything that students, learners, employees can do to make sure that they have the skills that are being sought by employers is just going to help them as they continue to re-skill and up-skill and change for an evolving economy,” she said.

Researchers looked at 120 knowledge areas, skills and abilities, using the Occupational Information Network database, which includes the competencies needed for more than 1,000 occupations. The report authors noted each occupation requires a specific combination of these skills in order to pay off.

Beasor said Indiana launched a strategic plan for higher education at the beginning of 2020. One of the key metrics they’re analyzing is how well institutions are preparing students for work.

“We’re actually currently working on an audit of all of Indiana’s academic programs,” she said, “to find out how many really have the opportunities ‘baked in’ for work-based learning and career relevance.”

While skills such as leadership led to higher earnings, the report also found a decline in the need for physical abilities. But Indiana’s economy is diverse, and Beasor said the state still is focused on preparing people for work in industries such as manufacturing. One avenue for that is apprenticeships.

“The most important thing,” she said, “is really the connection between education and employers.”

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