Twenty-first-century skills (also known as noncognitive, employability, or soft skills) are increasingly viewed as essential for favorable outcomes in both education and employment. Yet employers consistently report that these abilities — such as working well with a team, problem-solving, and thriving in diverse work settings — are lacking in their employees and job applicants. In response, community colleges are looking for ways to teach these skills explicitly so that students graduate with recognizable competency not only in academic and career-technical skills, but also in employability skills.
In 2012, New World of Work (NWoW), a 21st-century employability skills curriculum, was developed to meet that need. Currently being taught at community colleges across California, this curriculum provides instruction in 10 key competencies, using work-relevant content, and can be taught in a traditional class setting or online.
In partnership with the developers of NWoW and three community colleges in California, MDRC provided comments to strengthen and refine the program. Beginning in 2021, MDRC will select a college at which the refined model will be rigorously tested to assess its promise for improving student outcomes.
The NWoW Study is structured so that students:
- Receive instruction through the NWoW curriculum in a semester-long course
- Practice and refine employability skills in a concurrent work-based learning experience
- Earn assessment-based micro-credentials to signal skill proficiency to future employers
This enhanced model strives to have a meaningful effect on 21st-century skills acquisition, college completion, and gainful employment with sustainable living wages. MDRC is currently seeking California community college partners for its study of the NWoW program. If interested in taking part in the study, please email Evan.Weissman@mdrc.org.