Higher education is being confronted with a paradigm shift. Current literature supports the contention that higher education needs to improve their connection with the needs of employers to meet future workforce demands. Higher education is specifically challenged in improving the competency of students in twenty-first century skills that include innovation, creativity, problem solving, critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and self management, among others. To assess the extent to which students are developing twenty-first century competencies, the Environmental Studies program at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln has partnered with Target Training International, Ltd (TTI). to gain insights into the development of professional competencies among its majors. Data collected using TTI’s TriMetrix® DNA instrument indicates a statistically significant (p <0.05) improvement in the student’s ability to: utilize effective processes to make decisions (decision making); effectively manage resources, systems, and processes (management); demonstrate initiative, self confidence, resiliency and a willingness to take responsibility for personal actions (personal effectiveness); adapt to change (flexibility); and anticipate, analyze, diagnose, and resolve problems (analytical problem solving). This exploratory study supports the conclusion that raising expectations about the development of professional competencies among students and employing pedagogical approaches and educational practices that promote student independence, self-directed learning, self-reliance, and interactions with the community, even on a relatively small scale, can have a significant impact on the development of twenty-first century competencies.
AssessmentProfessional competenciesSoft skillsTwenty-first century skillsTriMetrixTarget training