Key Points

  • Labor market data and employer feedback suggest that the emphasis on STEM in workforce development is obscuring deeper, widespread challenges to employability relating to noncognitive skills associated with persistence and character, particularly for middle-skill occupations.
  • Employers report a need for employees with these skills and place a higher value on them than on job-specific skills.
  • Noncognitive skills (e.g., listening, problem-solving, teamwork, integrity, and dependability) are rooted in infancy and early childhood experience and develop across the life cycle.
  • Especially for low-income families and communities, interventions that strengthen family formation, improve early childhood education, and support adults in combining noncognitive and technical skill training are key to improving long-term labor market outcomes.