A new report takes stock of what seems to be a growing lack of creativity and other employability skills in today's evolving workforce.

Are we doing enough to develop creativity in students?


A new report takes stock of what seems to be a growing lack of creativity and other employability skills in today's evolving workforce

Creativity is one of the key skills people will need to thrive as the digital workforce evolves–but alarmingly, most students don’t have it.

Aside from creativity, employers are seeking candidates with complex problem-solving skills, critical thinking, people management, and the ability to coordinate with others.

A new report from Adobe analyzes the skills employers say they need most, and it also takes a hard look at why job applicants don’t promote these skills more on their resumes. Could it be that the soft skills gap leaves many applicants lacking these all-important talents?

Related content: How creative thinking transformed my classroom

Adobe analyzed 2 million job postings and 2 million resumes, conducting a gap analysis across 18 diverse and in-demand career fields.

That research found that soft skills such as creativity, collaboration, and communication are critical to hiring managers as they evaluate job applicants. But applicants with strong soft skills–also called employability skills–are hard to find, which begs the question: why?

The World Economic Forum notes that complex problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity are the three most important skills that will help workers thrive in 2020 and beyond. Creative problem solving is predicted to be among the most valued skills for future workplaces.

Generation Z seems to be the generation that values creativity and believes it is a critical skill. Eighty-nine percent of students and 93 percent of teachers say they believe creativity is going to play an integral role in solving today’s global challenges. Eighty-five percent of students and 91 percent of teachers say they believe being creative will be essential to Gen Z’s success.

Previous Adobe research in 2018 shows that creative problem-solving skills are thought to be critical to future career success: 86 percent of surveyed educators say students who excel at creative problem solving will have higher-earning jobs; 85 percent say creative problem-solving skills are in high demand today for senior-level careers; 74 percent say professions that require creative problem-solving skills are less likely to be impacted by automation; and 97 percent say creative problem solving is important for students to learn in school.

With all this research, why isn’t creativity emphasized more in schools? Sixty-nine percent of educators say they agree that there is not enough emphasis on creative problem solving in today’s curricula. This, they say, is due to a lack of time to create, a lack of training for new software, a lack of access to hardware and software in classrooms, and outdated standardized test requirements.

When analyzing job postings and resumes, Adobe focused on five creative and soft skill sets–including communication, creativity, collaboration, creative problem solving, and critical thinking–across a number of growing career fields, such as information security, web development, social work, and medical technology.

Communication skills are the most highly-sought-out skills in those job postings (71 percent), followed by creativity (50 percent) and collaboration (41 percent).

But in analyzing resumes, all five of these top soft skills appear far less frequently. Creativity only appears on 24 percent of resumes, followed by communication (22 percent), collaboration (11 percent), creative problem solving (1 percent), and critical thinking (0 percent).

Several hiring managers participating in the survey say they’re surprised job seekers don’t mention or promote their soft skills more often. Job applicants should go beyond simply mentioning these skills in a bulleted list–they should give examples of how they have used these specific skills.

Because so many applicants aren’t promoting creativity and other top soft skills, many hiring managers say they wonder whether applicants developed those skills in the first place.

“I’ll be honest with you, this is just my unbiased opinion, I’m involved in PreK through 12, but also teach at the Doctoral and Master’s level, and I will tell you first and foremost that this is where we struggle. A lot of students that are coming out of college and from universities–this is my opinion–that are lacking in these creative and soft skills areas,” says Dr. Donis Toler, executive director of human resources for the Princeton City School district, in the report. “What I see here is I truly believe that we are not doing a good enough job of preparing students for success, no matter if it’s a PreK-12 level or it’s the higher-ed level in regards to what we reference as soft skills. You’re talking about a work ethic, you’re talking about the growth mindset, or time management, whatever it may be. I think this is very real.”

The report outlines strategies to put more of a focus on creativity:

1. Put more emphasis on developing creative and soft skills so students can succeed in the future workplace.
2. Job seekers need to showcase these soft skills throughout the hiring process and work on continual skill development.
3. More tools need to be available to students to grow and foster their creative skills.
4. Hiring managers and recruiters need to adapt the way they evaluate and seek out candidates.

Laura Ascione