21st Century Skills

American Seafarers and the Partnership for 21st Century Skills

In 2002, some of the leading employers and educators in the US realized that high school and college graduates were entering the workforce with a significant deficiency in some critical skills.

These groups (which includes Apple, AT&T, Intel, Ford, PBS, the Children’s Television Workshop and Cisco) decided to do something about it. They came together to form the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21). The purpose of the partnership was simple:

  • Determine what skills are the most important for success after school.
  • Identify where there are deficits among recent graduates.
  • Develop plans to address these skill deficits.

Over the years, they have conducted multiple surveys and created reports that have been highly influential. In fact, Singapore completely changed their educational curriculum after reading one of their reports – and this was AFTER they were named one of the top 3 education systems in the world!

The conclusions are powerful and surprising. In particular, the “skills critical to success” were not what most people would anticipate. The most important skills are not math, science or reading. Instead, they are as follows:

  1. Oral communication
  2. Collaboration
  3. Work ethic
  4. Written communication
  5. Critical thinking

Simply put, this is a love letter to summer programs. With the exception of written communication, I believe that a good summer program fosters these skills better than even the best schools. Oral communication and collaboration are difficult skills to teach in a classroom. When teachers need to teach algebra or verb conjugation, they must focus on transferring their knowledge to students, not creating active collaborative environments.

At American Seafarers, focus on these skills is endemic to the environment. Every day, we work on their communication and collaboration skills – heck, that is the essence of a good seafaring team dynamic. On their own they will automatically work on these skills 16 hours a day.

Few parents of middle and high school children worry about the workplace, but we think it is exciting to think that American Seafarers is not just opportunity to travel and explore the New England coastline, but also a rich learning environment.