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Summer 2009 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

Excerpt from the U. S. Dept. of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy website

Abstract: This excerpt from the U.S. Department of Labor website discusses an in-depth survey of employers that reveals the importance of “soft skills.” Key Words: blindness, visual impairment, disability, employment, soft skills, workforce

What do employers look for in new employees? According to the 2006 report Are They Really Ready to Work? Employers’ Perspectives on the Basic Knowledge and Applied Skills of New Entrants to the 21st Century U.S. Workforce, it may not be what some young job seekers expect. This in-depth survey of 461 business leaders conducted by the Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, Partnership for 21st Century Skills, and Society for Human Resource Management reveals that while the three “R’s” (reading, writing, and arithmetic) are still fundamental to every employee’s ability to do the job, employers view “soft” skills as even more important to work readiness. The report also finds that younger workers frequently lack these skills, which include:

  • Professionalism or work ethic
  • Oral and written communication
  • Teamwork and collaboration skills
  • Critical thinking or problem-solving skills

In 2007, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) discussed the importance of such skills with the Circle of Champions, a distinguished group of U.S. businesses that have received the Secretary of Labor’s New Freedom Initiative Award for innovative and proactive efforts to recruit, hire, and promote people with disabilities. As part of this dialogue, the companies identified the competencies as key to the success of young workers in the 21st Century workplace. Go to for a discussion of these competencies and for additional resources.