A new Gallup study sponsored by Microsoft Partners in Learning and the Pearson Foundation provides clear evidence linking 21st century skills and student engagement in school with higher quality of work later in life.

Gallup explored the relationships between 21st century skills developed in the classroom, student aspiration in schools, and perceived quality of work later in life. Using a 21st century skills index to measure seven specific areas--collaboration, knowledge construction, skilled communication, global awareness, self-regulation, real-world problem-solving, and technology used in learning--Gallup polled 1,014 individuals aged 18-35 who were either employed or students. 

21st Century Skills + Student Aspirations: The Formula for Work Success

The results confirmed that developing 21st century skills in the last year of school positively correlates with future work success. In fact the study found that those who have 21st century skill development are twice as likely to have higher work quality compared to those who had low 21st century skill development. In addition, 59% of those polled strongly agree or agree that they developed most of the skills they use in their current job outside of school.

The study also found that student aspirations play an important role in future success: Americans who have teachers who care about them and know their aspirations and dreams were much more likely to have developed the key 21st century skills.

The study validates Microsoft IT Academy’s mission to provide industry-leading technology skills to help bridge the skills gap and Microsoft’s overarching education message: 21st Century teaching and learning that provides students with real world problem solving and the right kind of technology experiences are what students of today need to prepare them for successful future life and work.

Snapshot of Findings:

  • The majority of respondents (59%) reported that they agree or strongly agree that they developed most of the skills they use in their current job outside of school. Only 15% disagree or strongly disagree, indicating they felt that they developed these skills in school.
  • Developing 21st century skills in the last year of school is positively correlated with higher perceived work quality later in life. In fact, those who have high 21st century skill development are twice as likely to have higher work quality compared to those who had low 21st century skill development.
  • Across the 21st century skills included in this study, real world problem-solving is the significant driver of higher work quality; however, less than two-thirds (63%) of respondents reported developing this skill often in the last year of school and that number drops to less than half (39%) for high school graduates.
  • In their last year of school, those who often used 21st century skills are more likely to have had greater student aspiration and engagement; and student aspiration and engagement is also positively correlated to work quality later in life.
  • Across the student aspiration conditions, good teacher-student relationships is a primary driver; students who feel their teachers care and support them are more likely to perceive themselves as successful and valued in their jobs later in life.
  • Although a wide majority (86%) of respondents says they used computers and technology to complete assignments or projects in their last year of school, only 14% report they used technology for collaboration, indicating that students are not developing the type of advanced technology skills that would be used later in the workplace.
  • Younger respondents, aged 18-22, report slightly higher levels of 21st century skill development and this may be an indicator that teaching strategies are changing in the U.S.; however, the largest opportunity may lie with high school graduates who report the lowest levels of overall 21st century skill development.

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