Answers to this question take many forms, but all speak clearly to the same underlying objectives. Twenty-first century skills are more than just working with computers and pursuing science, technology, and engineering studies. A deeper dive into the ongoing conversation about careers and higher education easily points to the skills that will empower learners to thrive in a contemporary world.
Learning Skills – Learners must strongly develop four major capacities: critical thinking (understanding and finding solutions to problems), creativity (generating new ideas and works that have value), communication (sharing information with others), and collaboration (working cooperatively with others).
Literacy Skills – Learners taking an active role in the world must build their literacy around information (understanding data, facts, figures and statistics), media (understanding how information is shared), technological (understanding the machines that make the information age possible), environment (understanding natural systems and sustainability), and humanity (understanding our human diversity and life experiences).
Life Skills – Such skills can be taught and practiced. Learners must cultivate their flexibility (adapting to changes), leadership (serving, motivating, offering vision, managing), initiative (being a self-starter), productivity (the ability to get things done), social awareness (the ability to connect with others from all walks of life), and ethical decision-making.
While no one course, program, or major can address every one of these essential skills, a university degree aims to develop them all to a greater degree over time. Lifelong learners know that these skills improve continually with every learning adventure.