2016 Workforce-Skills Preparedness Report

Though you may not be hopping over killer turtles or fighting off aliens, just like the characters in our favorite video games, having an advanced skill set is crucial to success. For 8-bit characters, success might mean gaining a new ability to help rescue a princess or protect a digital universe. For professionals, it means advancing our career in the skills economy.

It goes without saying that professionals must possess certain requisite skills in order to lead a successful career, and possessing these skills makes employees and prospective employees more valuable in the professional world. It's also true that most people expect a college education to equip them with these skills, thereby setting them up for lucrative and fulfilling employment.

PayScale analyzed our data to determine how prepared recent college graduates really are upon entering the workforce, and which skills hiring managers are most likely to consider absent or deficient directly following graduation, a discrepancy commonly known as "The Skills Gap."

44 percent of managers feel writing proficiency is the hard skill most lacking among recent college graduates.

We also detail which skills are most likely to result in a larger salary, which skills are most likely to result in a promotion, which skills are least valuable (best to leave off your resume), and which skills are most common by geographic region of the United States.

One unexpected finding was, rather than specific software programs or other tech skills, our data indicates that 44 percent of managers feel writing proficiency is the hard skill most lacking among recent college graduates, while public speaking follows with 39 percent of managers feeling this way.

What other skills do hiring managers find lacking, and what skills can you gain that will prove most beneficial to a successful career? Will you be able to jump "The Skills Gap?"

Let's 'Start' to find out.

Skills to Boost Pay

Depending on your line of work, there are certain in-demand skills that—should you possess them—can equate to a bump in pay compared to the average salaries in your professional field. Mastering these skills will likely help you earn a higher salary. And if you're already proficient in these sought-after skills, make sure you let potential employers know!

Major Job Groups Top 3 Skills for Each Job Group Pay Boost
Management Occupations IT Risk 16.5%
SAP Business Intelligence (SAP BI) 16.1%
Mergers and Acquisitions 15.8%
Business and Financial Operations Occupations Mergers and Acquisitions 18.1%
SAP Supply Chain Management (SAP SCM) 16.5%
Systems Engineering 15.1%
Computer and Mathematical Occupations Go 22.4%
Cisco UCCE/IPCC 22.1%
Scala 21.8%
Architecture and Engineering Occupations Clinical Research 13.3%
Well Production Engineering 12.6%
Machine Learning 12.5%
Life, Physical, and Social Science Occupations Machine Learning 22.6%
Business Strategy 19.4%
Data Mining / Data Warehouse 18.0%
Community and Social Service Occupations Utilization Review (UR) 17.5%
Strategic Planning 15.1%
Functional Analysis 8.3%
Legal Occupations Mergers and Acquisitions 23.0%
Concordance Discovery Management Software 13.0%
Tax Compliance 11.6%
Education, Training, and Library Occupations Legal Research 12.6%
Clinical Education 3.9%
Articulate - E-Learning Software 3.6%
Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media Occupations Autodesk AliasStudio 9.8%
User Experience (UX) Design 6.7%
User Interface Design 6.1%
Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations Emergency Medicine 9.2%
Sales Management 6.8%
Mail Order Pharmacy 6.6%
Healthcare Support Occupations Dermatology 6.6%
Nursery 6.2%
CAD/CAM 6.1%
Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations Hiring 4.2%
Scheduling 3.3%
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) 2.6%
Personal Care and Service Occupations Weight Loss/Weight Management 2.4%
Transport 2.2%
Childhood Education 1.9%
Sales and Related Occupations IT Security & Infrastructure 16.0%
Cisco Networking 15.8%
Profit & Loss (P&L) Statements 13.2%
Office and Administrative Support Occupations Suretrak (Primavera) 23.3%
Investment Management 20.7%
Intellectual Property (IP) 13.5%
Construction and Extraction Occupations Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW) 19.6%
Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC) / Automation 9.6%
Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) Welding 8.0%

Skills Most Lacking

When listing the most-commonly lacking hard and soft skills they'd like to see in recent grads, hiring managers called out writing proficiency as the hard skill most commonly lacking and critical thinking/problem solving as the most commonly lacking soft skill. Public speaking and attention to detail follow for the second-most-lacking hard and soft skills, respectively.

Hard/Soft Skill % of Managers Who Feel New Grads Lack Skill
Hard Writing proficiency 44%
Public speaking 39%
Data analysis (Excel, Tableau, Python, R, etc.) 36%
Industry-specific software (Salesforce, CAD, Quickbooks, etc.) 34%
Mathematics 19%
Design 14%
Coding/computer programming 12%
Foreign language proficiency 11%
SEO/SEM marketing 7%
Soft Critical thinking/problem solving 60%
Attention to detail 56%
Communication 46%
Ownership 44%
Leadership 44%
Interpersonal skills/teamwork 36%
Grit 25%
Curiosity 16%

The Skills Gap

Recent college grads may be lacking crucial skills needed in the professional world, but one thing they're not lacking is confidence; while only 50 percent of managers feel recent grads are prepared for a full-time job, 87 percent of grads feel they're ready for the big time. The "skills gap," as it's known, is accentuated when it comes to Millennials working for Gen-Xers or Baby Boomers, who feel even more strongly that recent grads are unprepared for full-time jobs, with only 47 percent and 48 percent, respectively, believing recent grads are prepared.

Preparedness of Recent College Grads Grads Managers The Gap
Extremely 25% 8% 17%
Mostly 62% 42% 20%
Minimally 11% 35% -24%
Unprepared 3% 15% -12%
% Well Prepared 87% 50% 37%

Skills Across America

Depending on which region of the United States you call home, the likelihood for you to possess certain skills can change, based on the prevalence of certain industries concentrated in the part of the country you call home. The most relatively common skills for the East North Central region, for example, are specific to manufacturing and machinery, which makes sense in this part of the country often referred to as "The Rust Belt." Similarly, the fact many skills in the South Atlantic region are associated with government and intelligence gathering aligns with the number of government jobs in Washington D.C. and the surrounding cities and states.

Census Region Top 3 Common Skills Relative Commonness
East North Central NX Unigraphics 3.23
Plastic Molding 2.42
CATIA 2.01
East South Central International Statistical Classifications of Diseases - 10 (ICD - 10) Coding 1.97
Urology 1.95
Worship Planning and Leading 1.91
Mid-Atlantic Technical Garment Knowledge 2.36
Patternmaking 2.32
Media Management 2.03
Mountain Bodwork Therapy 1.98
Global Positioning Systems (GPS) 1.85
Land Surveying 1.81
New England Biotechnology 3.03
Molecular Biology 2.25
Siding Installation 2.01
Pacific Algorithm Development 3.38
Pedodontics 3.32
verilog 3.29
South Atlantic Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) 3.21
Human Intelligence (HUMINT) 3.15
Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT) 3.03
West North Central Plasma Cutting 1.91
Autodesk Inventor 1.83
Loan Documents 1.79
West South Central Reservoir Engineering 6.59
Drilling Engineering 6.08
Well Production Engineering 5.58

* This is how relatively common the skill is in this region compared to the entire US. For example, it is 3.23 times more likely for a worker in the East North Central Region of the U.S. to possess the skill NX Unigraphics than the average worker in the U.S.

Skills On the Rise

Considering the explosion of tech-related jobs in the past decade—or more—it's no surprise some of the most in-demand skills are related to the tech industry; the nine skills that provide the biggest pay boost and have emerged in the past five years are all tech related. It's also no surprise we expect this trend to continue. Also worth nothing, of these nine skills, seven rely upon expert understanding of programming languages, operating systems or software frameworks.

Rank Skill Pay Boost
1 Scala 22.2%
2 Go 20.0%
3 Hadoop 12.5%
4 iOS SDK 11.4%
5 Big Data Analytics 10.7%
6 Cloud Computing 10.4%
7 Android SDK 9.3%
8 Selenium Automated Test Tool 6.7%
9 Groovy 6.2%

Skills to Land a Promotion

If you want to scale the corporate ladder—or, in our case, pyramid—there are certain skills commonly possessed by each level of management. For example, Managers and Supervisors often report possessing skills in People Management and Team Leadership, among other skills. Director-level workers report having skills like Strategic Project Management and Senior Financial Management, and common skills at the Executive-level include Business Development, Organizational Development and Strategic Planning. If you hope to level up your career, learning these skills is a good bet to reach the next level on the corporate ... pyramid.

Job Level Top 5 Most Common Skills Relative Commonness
Executive Level  Business Management 21.8
IT Management 20.3
Profit & Loss (P&L) Statements 16.8
Software Development Management 13.9
Strategy Development 12.1
Director Level  Donor Relations 20.2
Software Development Management 13.9
Senior Financial Management 12.0
Financial Applications 8.4
Labor Relations 7.2
Manager or Supervisor Level    Training Management 3.1
Property Management 3.0
Event Management 2.7
Team Leadership 2.7
People Management 2.5

This is how relatively common the skill is at this job level compared to all other job levels. For example, it is 21.8 times more likely for an executive to possess the skill Business Management than the average worker in the U.S.

Least Impressive Skills

Not all skills are worth putting on your resume. "Filing," for example, shouldn't be at the top of your list. It's a skill, yes, but it's so common that presenting it as one of your top skills may actually lead to a lower salary. It's assumed workers possess these ‘foundational' skills, so listing them as highlights may lead employers to believe you lack more advanced skills that would make you a more valuable employee or desirable candidate.

Major Job Group Skill Pay Delta
Management Occupations Filing -15.4%
Business and Financial Operations Occupations Property Management -15.1%
Computer and Mathematical Occupations Data Entry -15.0%
Sales and Related Occupations Bookkeeping -14.5%
Management Occupations AS/400 -14.3%
Computer and Mathematical Occupations Call Center -14.2%
Management Occupations Help Desk / Desktop Support -13.5%
Sales and Related Occupations Collections -12.8%
Management Occupations Intuit QuickBooks -12.5%

Skills By Generation

A workers' age impacts the likelihood they possess certain skills or types of skills. Skills common among Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) tend to skew toward management, while Millennials (1982-2002) tend to be experts in technology and specific digital tools. Gen-Xers (1965-1981) are likely to have a bit of both, blending tech skills with management capabilities.

Generation Top 10 Most Common Skills Relative Commonness
Baby Boomer: 1946-1964 Senior Financial Management 2.44
Knowledge Management 2.16
Taking Meeting Minutes 2.11
Facility Maintenance & Coordination 2.08
Bereavement Counseling 2.06
Total Quality Management (TQM) 2.05
Travel Administration 2.00
ADP Time and Attendance System 1.91
Word Processing 1.87
Intuit QuickBooks 1.82
Gen X: 1965-1981 Software Development Management 1.81
Profit & Loss (P&L) Statements 1.75
Software Architecture 1.71
IT Management 1.70
Acquisitions 1.69
Citrix XenApp 1.68
Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) 1.67
Enterprise Application Integration 1.62
Storage Area Networking (SAN) 1.60
Virtual Private Networking (VPN) 1.58
Millenial: 1982-2002 Django 2.25
Google Ad Words 2.15
Marketo 2.14
Google Analytics 2.06
Campaign Planning 2.05
Algorithm Development 2.03
Git 1.99
Matlab 1.98
VBA 1.98
Node.js 1.95

* This is how relatively common the skill is for this generation compared to all other generations. For example, it is 2.44 times more likely for a Baby Boomer to possess the skill Senior Financial Management than the average worker in the U.S.

View the Methodology