5 Competencies for 21st Century Workers

5 Competencies for 21st Century Workers

I came across a 1991 Report from the US Government called “The 5 Necessary competencies of 21st Century Workers.”  I wondered if I thought it still relevant 20 years later.  And, while I would categorize the competencies a bit differently, overall the answer is Yes.  This is worthy of consideration.

They say the 5 Competencies for 21st Century workers are:

  • The Skill to manage your resources
  • The Skill to work with others
  • The Skill to use Information
  • The Skill to use Technology
  • The Skill to use Computers

More importantly, I think is what they called “Three-Part Foundation”:

  • Basic Skills – Reading, Writing, etc
  • Thinking Skills – Decision Making
  • Personal Skills – Honesty, Dependability, etc.

This is all well and good.

But, I’d like to comment on what I think are the 5 Competencies of 21st Century Workers.

  • Communication – You need to be able to connect with others from different cultures
    • Reading, writing, Talking, Listening, Media Literacy
  • Technology – You need to be able to use 21st Century tools.
    • Internet, Phones, Computers
  • Information Management – You need to be able to filter and focus all the information available.
    • Critical Thinking, Decision Science
  • Continuous Improvement – You need to be able to continuously update your competencies
    • Manage change, Lifelong Learning
  • Financial – You need to be able to acquire money and move it around
    • Macro and Micro Economics, Political Science



  • Resources: Identifies, organizes, plans, and allocates resources
    • Time – Selects goal-relevant activities, ranks them, allocates time, and prepares and follows schedules
    • Money – Uses or prepares budgets, makes forecasts, keeps records, and makes adjustments to meet objectives
    • Material and Facilities – Acquires, stores, allocates, and uses materials or space efficiently
    • Human Resources – Assesses skills and distributes work accordingly, evaluates performance and provides feedback
  • Interpersonal: Works with others
    • Participates as Member of a Team—contributes to the group effort
    • Teaches Others New Skills
    • Serves Clients/Customers—works to satisfy customers’ expectations
    • Exercises Leadership—communicates ideas to justify position, persuades and convinces others, responsibly challenges existing procedures and policies
    • Negotiates—works toward agreements involving an exchange of resources, resolves divergent interests
    • Works with Diversity—works well with men and women from diverse backgrounds
  • Information: Acquires and uses information
    • Acquires and Evaluates Information
    • Organizes and Maintains Information
    • Interprets and Communicates Information
  • Uses Computers to Process Information Systems: Understands complex inter-relationships
    • Understands Systems—knows how social, organizational, and technological systems work and operates effectively with them
    • Monitors and Corrects Performance—distinguishes trends, predicts impacts on system operations, diagnoses deviations in systems’ performance and corrects malfunctions
    • Improves or Designs Systems—suggest modifications to existing systems and develops new or alternative systems to improve performance
  • Technology: Works with a variety of technologies
    • Selects Technology—chooses procedures or equipment including computers and related technologies
    • Applies Technology to Task—Understands overall intent and proper procedures for setup and operation of equipment
    • Maintains and Troubleshoots Equipment—Prevents, identifies, or solves problems with equipment, including computers and other technologies


  • Basic Skills: Reads, writes, performs arithmetic and mathematical operations, listens and speaks
    • Reading—locates, understands, and interprets written information in prose and in documents such as manuals, graphs, and schedules
    • Writing—communicates thoughts, ideas, information, and messages in writing; and creates documents such as letters, directions, manuals, reports, graphs, and flow charts
    • Arithmetic/Mathematics—performs basic computations and approaches practical problems by choosing appropriately from a variety of mathematical techniques
    • Listening—receives, attends to, interprets, and responds to verbal messages and other cues
    • Speaking—organizes ideas and communicates orally
  • Thinking Skills: Thinks creatively, makes decisions, solves problems, visualizes, knows how to learn, and reason
    • Creative Thinking—generates new ideas
    • Decision Making—specifies goals and constraints, generates alternatives, considers risks, and evaluates and chooses the best alternative
    • Problem Solving—recognizes problems and devises and implements a plan of action
    • Seeing Things in the Mind s Eye—organizes, and processes symbols, pictures, graphs, objects, and other information
    • Knowing How to Learn—uses efficient learning techniques to acquire and apply new knowledge and skills
    • Reasoning—discovers a rule or principle underlying the relationship between two or more objects and applies it when solving a problem
  • Personal Qualities: Displays responsibility, self-esteem, sociability, self-management~ and integrity, and honesty
    • Responsibility—exerts a high level of effort and perseveres towards goal attainment
    • Self-Esteem—believes in own self-worth and maintains a positive view of self
    • Sociability—demonstrates understanding, friendliness, adaptability, empathy, and politeness in group settings
    • Self-Management—assesses self accurately, sets personal goals, monitors progress, and exhibits self-control
    • Integrity/Honesty—chooses ethical courses of action

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