Developing Workplace Skills: A Multi-Sample, Longitudinal Study of Volitional Skill Change



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Changing labor demands have incentivized new types of knowledge and skill development, and we currently lack an understanding of how people want to change their skills. The purpose of this study was to examine what people want to change about their knowledge, skills, and abilities and how different types of skills develop during the transition to work. I examined people's goals to change skills, how these goals related to perceptions of current skill levels, and whether there were differences by gender in a nationally representative cross-sectional dataset and a sample of recent college graduates. Results indicated that the most popular skill change goals were related to Social, Emotional, and Behavioral (SEB) skills, such as communication, and Knowledge and Technical skills, such as computer programming. SEB change goals were inversely related to perceptions of current skills, whereas Knowledge and Technical skill change goals were positively related. The largest gender differences in perceptions of knowledge and skills were in Technical skills, but there were not gender differences in skill change goals. In the college graduate sample, the rank order of perceptions of skills was moderately stable over four months during the transition to work, but most perceptions of SEB skills decreased during the transition to work. These results inform an understanding of what people want to change about their skills and suggest that the transition to work may be a time in which recent college graduates need additional opportunities to utilize and develop SEB skills.



Skills, Knowledge