We live in an ever-changing, increasingly global society. As our world evolves, so do the skills needed to thrive professionally and personally. This means the abilities students develop in high school should align with the demands of modern careers, especially in fields like STEM and healthcare.
Educators refer to these abilities as “21st century skills.” They are interdisciplinary and go beyond academic knowledge to include cognitive, social, and emotional proficiencies. Mastering these skills helps prepare high schoolers for college, their future career, and everything in between! Let’s break down what these skills are and why it’s crucial that students learn them now.
Critical Thinking & Complex Problem-Solving
Real-world critical thinking is essential. The ability to critically analyze information, question assumptions, interpret data, and overcome challenges is hugely valuable. Young people must learn to think creatively to generate innovative solutions to complex problems. Applying logical reasoning methods has shown to help students tackle complex issues and school subjects like organic chemistry.
Communication & Collaboration
Today’s world requires connecting with diverse groups of people and the ability to adaptively see and respond to different perspectives. Teens need to practice clearly articulating ideas through writing, speaking, listening, and thoughtfully responding. They should discuss issues from different points of view and be able to rationalize conflicting perspectives. Forming a collaborative team is not an easy task. According to Harvard Business Review, research of 15 multinational companies shows the most productive, innovative teams were led by people who were both task- and relationship-oriented. Teens with a parent who models collaborative leadership—balancing tasks with empathy—will be inspired to apply that mindset with peers on group projects and teamwork. A teen encouraged to collaborate at home becomes an asset to any team!
Creativity & Imagination
Thinking “outside the box” fuels discovery and progress. This skill is important in any field that assumes innovation, such as engineering and business. But flexibility, originality, and inventiveness are increasingly sought-after for all roles. Nurturing creativity builds visionaries who bring fresh eyes to ongoing problems. Imagination and empathy help teens relate to others’ experiences—another fun key skill for anyone headed to healthcare or a STEM field.
From virtual reality to medical technology, digital fluency is compulsory for students on the cusp of their future careers. Teens may navigate the technical world with an ease and fluency that parents and educators envy. However, parents and teachers alike can help cultivate discernment to understand the privacy, security, concerns of the digital world. A teen will likely need to be reminded to limit personal details shared on social, protect sensitive information, or install antivirus software. Parents should remind them of the permanence of their messages and digital footprints. Technical literacy, discernment, and digital fluency are vital!
Self-Direction & Resilience
Finally, high schoolers need skills for self-management and inner strength. Organization, initiative, independence, and adaptability are essential in the fast-paced careers of the future. But time-management isn’t always natural. Even Harvard students need time-management help to balance the hectic schedule of academics, social life, and work. Teens able to confidently chart their own course will thrive.
Mastering 21st century skills give high schoolers pursuing science, tech, engineering, math, and medicine a solid foundation for college and career success. As the future continues rapidly evolving, ensuring high school students develop these 21st century skills while thinking globally will provide the foundation they need to excel in our ever-changing world.
Why not start preparing now? Here’s some more information to start sharpening their skills:
- Help high schoolers experience 21st Century Skills and a future in healthcare at National Youth Leadership Forum: Medicine & Health Care or engineering at National Youth Leadership Forum: Engineering
- Are You a 21st-Century Teacher? Skills and Techniques for Modern Educators
- How Competency-Based Learning Builds 21st-Century Skills