Preparing Students To Be Productive in the Future Workforce

Three young women holding books, having a conversation in a hallway
Career SkillsStudent Success
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Dr. Jacque Taylor is an Assistant Dean at Greenville Technical College


Educators have the daunting task of predicting how to prepare students for a workforce that will look much different than ours. We are not just preparing students to do a particular task or job, but to think critically, communicate, innovate, collaborate, and adapt to change. Basically, we are preparing students for the unknown.

Critical thinking/problem-solving

To help educators prepare for this unknown future workforce, Tony Wagner of Harvard University uncovered survival skills for students. He finds critical thinking and problem solving vital. Future workers need to be able to think for themselves and figure things out to act quickly. They will need to formulate solutions and view ideas from unique approaches.

Oral and written communication

Tony ensures us that the need for effective oral and written communication skills will not go away. For the most part, these skills do not come naturally and need to be practiced for the real world.

According to an article by Todd Finkelmeyer of the Capital Times,  a survey conducted by the Accrediting Council of Independent Colleges and Schools found that “only 7 percent of hiring decision-makers believe the higher education system does an ‘excellent’ job of preparing students for the workplace.” Justin Grandinetti found the most common deficiency was technical writing skills including “writing succinctly,” “writing emails,” and “technical writing proposals, memos, presentations.”

Collaboration, innovation, and change

Collaboration and innovation are skills that are especially necessary for the future workforce. Being able to work closely and harmoniously with diverse groups of people to meet goals will be essential. Furthermore, students must continue to be curious and imaginative to purposely generate new ideas. Change will continue to happen and will occur quickly. Students need to be prepared to accept and adapt to change.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average employee tenure is about four years. Therefore, students will need to know how to market themselves, including interviewing skills and resume and cover letter writing. Having an appropriate social media presence may also be important for certain career pathways.


Stress in the workplace is continuing to increase. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) declares that now more than ever, job stress poses a threat to the health of workers. One-fourth of employees view their jobs as the number one stressor in their lives. Three-fourths of employees believe workers have more on-the-job stress than a generation ago. Students should be prepared to cope with this stress in the workplace.

Practical ideas instructors can use to prepare students for the future workforce

  1. Jennifer Rita Nichols recommends instructors create a dynamic environment by varying the teaching strategies we use, the arrangement of the classroom, and the approaches that learning is demonstrated by students.
  2. Present students with real-world problems to figure out.
  3. Use group work, having students adopt multiple roles, at times.
  4. Teach students how to speak clearly and with poise.
  5. Help students correct written communication, using technology.
  6. Nurture creativity and imagination during class small group activities.
  7. Connect students with Career Services to gain experience with resume and cover letter writing and interviewing.
  8. Use stress-reducing exercises in the classroom during breaks.



While the workforce is rapidly changing, you can teach your students skills that will make them hirable in any market. Get our career readiness eBook to learn what’s holding graduates back from landing the jobs they want, and how you can prepare your students for the future workforce.