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Building Durable Skills for College, Career, and Life Success

Building Durable Skills for College, Career, and Life Success

Many of us have jobs that didn’t exist when we were children. The Internet was accessible on a sole computer in my school’s computer lab when I was in 5th grade, so I couldn’t imagine then that writing a blog post would be part of my job description a few decades later because blogs didn’t exist yet. To better prepare students for the future job market, filled with roles that we don’t even have names for yet, many educators are beginning to prioritize durable skills.

America Succeeds defines durable skills (also known as soft skills) as “skills we use to share what we know, like critical thinking, collaboration, or communication, as well as character skills like fortitude and leadership.” These skills are not easy to measure and are not seen on state summative assessment tests, but employers overwhelmingly share that they are what they look for when hiring new employees.

Edmentum welcomed Tom Burton, superintendent of Princeton City Schools in Ohio; Dr. Mary Cooke, director of curriculum and assessment and grants at Harvard Community Unit School District 50 in Illinois; and Tim Taylor, cofounder and president of America Succeeds, for a virtual discussion on why durable skills are important and how they have seen these skills brought into K–12 schools.

As always, the panelists were full of wisdom for those just thinking about teaching durable skills in their schools, as well as for those who have been focusing on them for a long time:

We should not consider these “soft” skills; soft has a connotation of being weak, and durable skills are essential. Multiple employers told our experts that durable skills are more important to them when hiring than technical skills; technical skills can be taught more easily.

Durable skills can be embedded in every subject area, but it takes an intentional effort by educators to make sure that they are emphasized consistently. Teachers are the ones who see opportunities to teach these skills, and they do an amazing job of nurturing them. Panelists provided some examples of how they’ve seen embedding work. One school assigns team-based challenges so that students learn collaboration. One teacher asks students to solve problems after reading a passage rather than merely checking for comprehension. Some teachers have students choose a skill from the durable skills wheel to be embedded in future lessons.

These are the skills that last a lifetime. No matter what path students choose in life, they can always use these lessons, so it is essential that they are developed throughout their life.

Check out the full recording of the discussion to hear more durable skills success stories, especially if you are looking for ways to get the local business community involved in your school or district. One district is not only working with employers to place students in jobs, but also to create a feedback system so schools and employers can learn about the employee experience. In one school district, students gave feedback to local employers after being hired, and together created a conversation within their community on the importance of a healthy work culture.

If you’re looking for support in helping students prepare for college and careers readiness and build durable skills, Edmentum can help. We offer a large library of career and technical education (CTE courses) that span from introductory through certification preparation. These include popular career clusters like business and communication. These courses can be utilized by educators, or you can offer them through our virtual school, where we have dedicated CTE teachers. We also have academic courses with embedded development of the skills that help students better understand the things they’re learning, such as critical-thinking skills and writing skills.

We look forward to bringing you additional “Perspectives” series content every month. This virtual event series gathers insights from top education industry leaders on the important topics impacting schools, students, and educators. Check out our events page for details about the next conversation in the series!'s picture
Lauren Martinez

Lauren Martinez is a first-generation college graduate and a lifelong Houstonian. The idea that educational opportunities can completely change someone's trajectory has kept her working in the education space for over a decade in hopes of advocating for educational opportunities for those who don't even know what's available to them. She joined Edmentum in 2022 to tell the stories of our work via live experiences.