Interstate Passport Briefing

Workplace Competencies via the Interstate Passport

Written by Jane Sherman, Interstate Passport Consultant

We have long known that employers are looking more for important general skills and knowledge – i.e., competencies – in the employees they hire and promote than for specific occupational expertise (AACU, 2011). 

Workplace Basics: The Competencies Employers Want, a new report from Anthony Carnevale and associates at Georgetown University, goes farther than earlier reports by including analyzing both general- and occupation-specific cognitive and physical competencies across the following nine different occupational areas:

  1. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics
  2. Managerial and Professional Office
  3. Healthcare Professional and Technical
  4. Education
  5. Community Service and Arts
  6. Blue-Collar
  7. Sales and Office Support
  8. Food and Personal Services
  9. Healthcare Support

The report delves into the relative remunerative benefits of how intensely the highest rated competencies are utilized across each of the following nine broad occupational areas. For each of the occupational areas surveyed, the report also ranks the intensity with which the highest rated competencies are utilized at each education level: bachelor’s degree or higher; some college or associate’s degree; high school diploma or less.

The key finding from the Georgetown report is that “in the modern labor market, five cognitive competencies are in high demand across all occupational groups: (1) communication, (2) teamwork, (3) sales and customer service,* (4) leadership, and (5) problem-solving and complex thinking. Among the five. . . communication is dominant. . . and is associated with the highest earnings boosts across the labor market.”

What can this perspective contribute to our understanding of the value of Interstate Passport to students, institutions, and employers? Carnevale, et al. urge educators to “provide a curriculum that conveys both general and specific competencies” including those “associated with a general education in the liberal arts and sciences.” Employers are encouraged to more directly “make the case for education and workforce preparation that conveys the competencies that are in high demand.” And the authors call for policymakers to “support programs that allow students and workers to develop high-demand, high-reward competencies, particularly when they improve opportunity for underserved populations.” However, surveys have shown that employers do not believe that transcripts convey helpful information about graduates’ competencies (AACU, 2011).

Earning a Passport is intended to attest that a student has accomplished a general education level of achievement in the highly desired competencies found by Carnevale, et al., along with the competencies “associated with a general education in the liberal arts and sciences.” The Passport Learning Outcomes in each of the nine Passport learning areas define for students, employers, and policymakers the skills and knowledge that students who have earned a Passport will have achieved and can be expected to utilize when they enter the workforce. 

For that reason, Interstate Passport can be an ideal vehicle to communicate to students, employers, and policymakers the high-demand cognitive competencies, along with general competencies in the liberal arts and sciences, that Passport earners will bring to their employment and further education. To serve this purpose, a Passport must be recognized as more than a notation at the bottom of a transcript. Rather, it must be widely known as successfully translating into a common language the many diverse approaches toward a common goal: students who have achieved the cognitive competencies and the liberal arts and sciences outcomes to be productive participants in the economy.

*Traditionally, sales and customer service might not rise to such a broad level of desirability, but here this competency specifically includes the ability to assess and meet the needs of customers/clients, but presumably more broadly also of patients/students/co-workers and employers.


Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education (Project), Liberal Education and America’s Promise (Program), & Association of American Colleges and Universities. (2011). The LEAP vision for learning: Outcomes, practices, impact, and employers’ views. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Anthony Carnevale, Megan L. Fasules, and Kathryn Peltier Campbell. (2020). Workplace Basics: The Competencies Employers Want . Washington, DC: Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

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