The Future Is Social and Emotional: Evolving Skills Needs in the 21st Century

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The Future Is Social and Emotional: Evolving Skills Needs in the 21st Century

Education & Skills

Author: Maria Giammarco, Matthew McKean, Stephen Higham


  • The changing nature of work is increasing the demand not only for technical skills but for social and emotional skills (SES), such as communication, leadership, cultural competence, resiliency, problem-solving, and collaboration.
  • Employers often find that entry-level new hires lack these skills.
  • Most tools and resources for developing SES are designed for K–12 learners. But helping adults develop and assess these skills is an important priority when it comes to responding to Canada’s skills gaps and the future of work.
  • Not everyone has the same opportunities to develop SES in the same ways at the same time. We risk exacerbating existing inequities among vulnerable groups by placing greater emphasis on the development and assessment of social and emotional skills.
  • Closing social and emotional skills gaps will set up learners, workers, and employers for career success. But it will require rethinking SES training and development, including considering it as part of a lifelong learning process.
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The most in-demand skills for today’s and tomorrow’s labour market aren’t technical—they’re social and emotional. This report looks at how to make social and emotional skills training and development more effective and accessible for all.

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