A new study released today by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce finds that the five most in-demand workforce skills are: communication, teamwork, sales and customer service, leadership, and problem-solving abilities.
The study, “Workplace Basics: The Competencies Employers Want,” found that strong communication skills are most in demand across the workforce. Employees earn 20% more if they use communication skills most intensively on the job. In addition, 77% of workers in this category have a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to 10% of workers who use strength and coordination skills more intensively.
In healthcare professional and technical occupations, high school-educated workers who use communication most intensively have higher median earnings ($52,300 per year) than the overall median for workers with some college or an associate degree ($49,200 per year).
Similarly, an increase in the intensity with which workers use problem solving and complex thinking is associated with an average earnings premium of 19%. The most intensive use of problem solving and complex thinking among blue-collar occupations is associated with an average earnings premium of 89% above the median.
Blue-collar occupations employed 40% of American workers in 1970 but provided only 21% of national employment in 2019, the study said.
“As professional and technical occupations have grown to replace blue-collar occupations as the leading suppliers of American jobs, demand for cognitive competencies such as leadership, teaching and learning, and problem solving and complex thinking has risen,” the report stated. “Meanwhile, demand for physical competencies like mechanical skills, fine-motor abilities, and vision and hearing has fallen.”
The study found higher levels of educational attainment are generally associated with more intensive use of the cognitive knowledge, skills, and abilities that are also typically used in higher-paying jobs.