Skills for the twenty-first century

November 18, 2012

There was a lot of talk about skills during the presidential campaign: what skills people need to succeed in a modern economy. In a world that’s changing as quickly as this one, you want to get skills that have some staying power. But which ones? It suits my own bias, for sure, but I keep running across examples in which people could use more quantitative skills.

Here’s one from Tom Friedman’s piece in today’s Times:

“[Welding] is a $20-an-hour job with health care, paid vacations and full benefits, [but] you have to have science and math. I can’t think of any job in my sheet metal fabrication company where math is not important. If you work in a manufacturing facility, you use math every day.”

Glenn Okun notes that 60 Minutes had a similar piece.  (Note, too, the comment that you need to be able to write a sentence.)

Here’s another one, from MBA alum Tim Reilly, the blog’s technical consultant:

The umbrella term Data Science breaks down into a few different components:  databases, stats, data visualization, data structures, scripting/programming, and Big Data. I’d say the most important 80% is the data manipulation part. The other 20% are widely varying skills that generally don’t overlap in the same person (data visualization = art/graphic design, stats = math). IMO a core offering in the 80% could give students graduating in a tough job market some really valuable and differentiating skills.

Here’s a good example from our MBA program.

So what would you suggest to our undergraduate and MBA students? What courses do you think would be most valuable to them in the future? Which ones have been most valuable to you?


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