Essential and Emerging Skills Sought by Minnesota Employers Now

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“We can teach them the technical skills needed to do the job. We just want them to come with the work ethic and the ability to communicate to be a good employee.” – Minneapolis employer

“It doesn’t matter if they don’t have the degree, can they come to work on time?” – St. Louis Park employer

As business needs continue to evolve in response to the pandemic, many employers are putting new emphasis on finding candidates with essential workplace skills. According to RealTime Talent, while many job postings include post-secondary or technical training as a requirement, there are also many jobs for which employers are specifically seeking essential soft skills, such as time management, written communication, building collaborative relationships, self-confidence, and being a forward-thinker. This article takes a closer look at what skills are most sought by Minnesota employers now and what skills are emerging as the new foundational skills career seekers should try to develop and grow to increase their value in the job market.

Top Job Postings and Top Skills Sought in Minnesota

Over the course of 2020, there were over 1.1 million new jobs advertised in Minnesota, according to TalentNeuron—a decrease of only 0.5% from 2019. The top five positions advertised by volume in 2020 were: Heavy Truck Drivers, Registered Nurses, Software Developers (Applications), Laborers and Freight Movers, and Customer Service Representatives—all seeing increases in volumes of new postings from 2019. In addition, several critical healthcare, financial, and logistics occupations saw large increases in job posting volumes in 2020. For instance, Personal Care Aide jobs increased by 73% between March and August 2020 compared to the same months in 2019.  

Top Occupations Advertised in Minnesota by Volume, 2020 (with Change from 2019)

1.    Heavy and Tractor-Trailer and Truck Drivers (+36%)

2.    Registered Nurses (+23%)

3.    Software Developers, Applications (+21%)

4.    Laborers and Freight, Stock, and Material Movers (+215%)

5.    Customer Service Representatives (+7%)

6.    Retail Salespersons (+8%)

7.    Personal Care Aides (+73%)

8.    Supervisors of Retail Sales Workers (-2%)

9.    Stock Clerks, Stockroom, Warehouse, or Storage Yard (+48%)

10.    Supervisors of Office and Administrative Support Workers (-19%)

These top occupations had many similarities in core skill competencies required by employers. Many of the essential skills in demand locally match in particular to the customer service, and entry-level health care positions available in high volumes in the region, with dependability, and the ability to administer medications appearing in higher volumes in local job postings during this period compared to a full year prior. In general, most human skills were mentioned in job postings as required competencies for candidates in lower frequencies from March through August 2020 in comparison to early 2020 or any point in 2019. Only some very specific personality traits and skills such as flexibility and dependability appeared in higher numbers in 2020 compared to 2019. 

Top Emerging Skills in Minnesota in Order of Frequency Required in Job Postings, 2020

These are skills that are noted as requirements in job postings in Minnesota that had an increase in overall volume from 2019 to 2020, these are not the top skills.

1.    Dedication (+4%)

2.    Scheduling (+7%)

3.    Innovation (+7%)

4.    Nursing (+12%)

5.    Dependability (+7%)

New Foundational Skills

In 2018 through deep analysis of data pulled from online job postings, Burning Glass and the Business Higher Education Forum identified 14 essential skills and grouped them into the categories of Human Skills (akin to social/emotional skills), Business Enabler Skills, and Digital Building Block Skills that illustrate a taxonomy for emergent, critical in-demand skills. 

Defining the New Foundational Skills

High-Demand Human Skills

  • Analytical Skills – Analyze information, problem solve, and make decisions – detect patterns, brainstorming, observing, interpreting data, integrating new information, theorizing, and making decisions based on multiple factors.
  • Collaboration—Open communication, reaching consensus, giving credit, identifying obstacles and addressing problems cooperatively, focus on group goals. Examples, resilience and respect for diversity. 
  • Critical Thinking— Refers to evaluating information and then making a decision based on your findings. Examples: Process management, ongoing improvement, auditing, benchmarking, big data analytics, business intelligence, calculating, case analysis, causal relationships, classifying, computing, decision making, diagnostics, recording keeping, evaluating, prioritization, troubleshooting, attention to detail.  
  • Creativity – Could include ability to spot trends, come up with innovative solutions, solve for big problems. Examples: Budgeting, brainstorming, optimization, predictive modeling, problem-solving, restructuring, strategic planning, integration. 
  • Communication – Explain information orally in a meeting or presentation. Write a memo, email, or report. Examples: Active listening, reporting, surveying, teamwork, oral communication, written communication, presenting.


High-Demand Business Enabler Skills

  • Business Process—Operational procedures, ensure compliance, process improvements, business requirements, customer service, analysis techniques – Agile Business Analysis, Six Sigma, Business Process Modeling Notation (BLMN), and Rational Unified Process.
  • Project Management—Organization, negotiation, team management, time management, risk management, problem-solving, budget management, motivation, technical writing, adaptability, tech saavy, reporting skills, active listening, research skills, interpersonal skills, project management methodologies, policy knowledge, conflict management.
  • Digital Skills – social media, search engine marketing, analytics, content marketing, email, mobile campaigns, strategy and planning, social selling, pay per click marketing, Video production.
  • Digital Design – Typography, Adobe creative suite, interactive media, coding, branding, wireframing, layout and navigation principles, HTML/CSS, design thinking approaches, UX/UI.
  • Communicating Data—Data visualization, storytelling, writing and publishing skills, data visualization.


High-Demand Digital Building Block Skills

  • Analyzing Data – Examples include SQL, Microsoft excel, critical thinking, R or Python, Data Visualization, Presentation skills and Machine learning, data cleaning, data preparation.
  • Managing Data – Data mining, data assessments, data validation, data security, data transference, SQL, Workflow Optimization, Information systems, and market analysis, databases.
  • Software Development—Examples mathematical aptitude, problem solving, programming languages (Python, React, Angular, Docker, CompTIA, Amazon AWS), time management, writing and testing code, Machine learning, Source Control, Operating systems.
  • Computer Programming—examples include programming languages, write computer programs, update computer programs, troubleshoot programs, test software programs, collaborate with other programmers, mathematical skills, problem-solving, inquisitiveness, Java, C++.
  • Digital Security and Privacy—examples security engineering, encryption, intrusion detection, breach response, firewall development, vulnerability analysis, penetration testing, security information and event management, cybersecurity, HTTPs, SSL, and TLS, Endpoint threat detection and data loss prevention.

Importantly, those who develop these 14 New Foundational Skills earn significantly more than individuals who do not cultivate these core skills. The average advertised salary of jobs requesting at least one of the New Foundational Skills nationwide was $61,000; $8,000 more than the average for all other jobs. In particular, each of the nine skills in the Digital Building Block and Business Enabler skill groups boasts a salary premium, ranging from 7% to 38% higher than the average salary for positions that do not require those skills. Software development and computer programming jobs demanding more advanced forms of these digital building block skills offer the largest salary bumps—34% and 38%, respectively.

How important are these new foundational skills to Minnesota employers in candidates for their open positions? Online job posting data is a useful approximation for local employer demand for certain skills, certifications, qualifications, and occupational competencies. These insights can give a glimpse into the emerging foundational skills requirements in our state and how they compare to what employers were looking for in talent in the past. Deeper exploration of this rich data by city, county, and even by specific employer is available from RealTime Talent

During 2020, Human Skills like communication and collaboration, and Business Enabler Skills like business process and project management appeared in the highest volumes as required skills for Minnesota jobs, with common practical applications such as customer service and writing skills. Digital Building Block Skills such as innovation, analysis, and testing also appeared in high volumes, with Innovation rising in frequency by 7% in 2020 compared to 2019.  

Developing and Growing the Skills Employers Want

Developing the skills employers want in job candidates takes education and experience. Many of the essential soft skills, like good time management and self confidence, can be honed through work experience. That’s the same for many of the Human Skills among the 14 New Foundational Skills. However, many of the Digital Building Block Skills and Business Enabler Skills take education and training to develop and grow.

Career Seekers wanting help identifying and growing their skills to prepare for in-demand jobs can contact CareerForce for career exploration and assistance finding training opportunities, including programs that could pay for education or training for eligible Minnesotans. Individual assistance is available now via phone or online. Visit to find contact information for staff at a CareerForce location near you.

About the authors:

Erin Olson is the Director of Strategic Research for RealTime Talent.  She provides diverse workforce alignment research services to a broad base of industry leaders in Minnesota, fostering data-informed decision-making and innovation between workforce, higher education, business, and economic development systems.  She utilizes real-time data, employer feedback, and traditional labor market information to do regional labor market analysis of key industry sectors, building out high-growth and high-opportunity career pathways. Erin’s research career spans economic development, housing, transportation, and workforce analysis, bringing new and intersectional approaches to addressing labor recruitment and retention challenges in Minnesota. She holds two Masters Degrees in Urban and Regional Planning and Public Health from the University of Minnesota, where she focused on community economic development, housing, and population studies. She also holds a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology. You can reach Erin at

Adesewa Adesiji is a CareerForce Workforce Strategy Consultant with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.  She operates out of the Minneapolis/St. Paul Metro Area. She works with employers across all industries with developing innovative workforce solutions for their recruiting and retaining their workforce. Her main industries of focus include Information Technology, Healthcare and Manufacturing. She also collaborates with area stakeholders to develop initiatives and projects for growing the workforce. Prior to this work, she assisted job seekers in Minneapolis with entry or reentry into the workforce. She hold a BA in Sociology from the University of Minnesota and MBA from Augsburg College. You can reach Adesewa at