LOS ANGELES - As the workforce is transformed by technology and global competition, the results of a new study by the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and University of Phoenix provide insight into the academic criteria for success in the 21st century workplace.

The Life in the 21st Century Workforce study found that local employers place a premium on employees with strong interpersonal communication and teamwork abilities, whereas those currently employed or seeking employment undervalue the importance of these skills. While employees believe that past work experience and critical thinking skills are the most important factors in hiring decisions, employers rank people management and communications skills even higher.

"We know that a quality education system is paramount to meeting Los Angeles' future workforce needs and making our region a cornerstone of the 21st century global economy," said Gary Toebben, President and CEO, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. "Through this partnership with University of Phoenix, we have gained deeper insight into the skills and qualities that employers are looking for when making hiring and promotion decisions, and how that differs from opinions held by workers. This information will be extremely valuable in our collaborative work with Los Angeles educators on how we prepare our students and develop those critical skills for the future."

Los Angeles workforce and employers agree that a college education and continuing education is critical to success in the workplace, with a strong majority of employers saying their company pays for a portion or all of employees' education. As the skills needed in the world's marketplace increasingly require higher education and a more advanced and practical skill set, University of Phoenix will continue to offer innovative pathways for Americans to meet their professional and personal goals through high quality education.

"For more than 30 years University of Phoenix has provided students with a practical, flexible and relevant education, which includes partnering with leading employers to meet America's workforce needs," said Dr. Bill Pepicello, president of University of Phoenix. "This research underscores that continuing education is vital for the success of employers and individuals in the workplace. It also provides us with another tool to tailor our degree programs to ensure students are learning real-world skills to help them succeed."

Among the key findings of the Life in the 21st Century Workforce study:

Education is critical to ensuring workers have the skills necessary to advance.

  • About three-quarters of both Los Angeles employers and workers overwhelmingly agree that a college education and continuing education is critical to success in the workplace.
  • Employers (63 percent) say that they are more likely to promote an employee with a college degree.

Practical learning is agreed upon as most important aspects of a post-secondary degree program.

  • Employers say the most important attribute is an emphasis on practical learning experiences that emphasize real life problems (23 percent) and on people management and communication skills (18 percent).
  • Workforce agree with employers that practical learning experiences are most important (16 percent), and add that a flexible schedule such as classes in the evenings, weekends or online are also most important (17 percent) – only 16 percent of employers agreed.

Employers and workforce place importance on different skill sets in hiring new workers.

  • Employers emphasize team work – with collaboration and interpersonal communication listed as the top two skills for potential employees.
  • Workforce say the ability to learn new skills and critical thinking are the most important competencies for new hires.

People management and communication skills are as important as past work experience in employer's decisions to hire workers, and most important in promotions.

  • Employers are split on whether people management and communications skills (38 percent) or past work experience (36 percent) is the most important factor when making hiring decisions.
  • Workforce feel that past work experience (43 percent) is the most important factor; recognize that experience will get them in the door but people skills will move their career forward.

There's a mixed mood in Los Angeles regarding the direction of the city: workforce is pessimistic, while employers are more optimistic.

  • Workforce (52 percent) see the city as moving in the wrong direction; only 36 percent of employers agree, while 50 percent consider LA to be heading in the right direction.


The findings presented here are part of a multi-audience research project sponsored by the University of Phoenix. Telephone interviews were conducted among a random sampling of 100 Los Angeles area business executives, 500 Los Angeles workforce members 18-54 years of age, and 500 national workforce members from April 12-30, 2011. The sampling error for the business executives sample is ± 9.8 percentages points at the 95 percent confidence interval and for the workforce samples is ± 4.4 percentage points. Survey interviewing and analysis were completed by APCO Insight, an international opinion research and consulting firm.


University of Phoenix is constantly innovating to help students balance education and life in a rapidly changing world. Through flexible schedules, challenging courses and interactive learning, students achieve personal and career aspirations without putting their lives on hold. As the flagship university of  Apollo Education Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: APOL), University of Phoenix serves a diverse student population, offering associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degree programs from campuses and learning centers across the U.S. as well as online throughout the world. For more information, visit phoenix.edu.


The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce represents the interests of business in L.A. County. Founded in 1888, the Chamber promotes a prosperous economy and quality of life in the Los Angeles region.  For more information, visit www.lachamber.com.

In addition, the L.A. Area Chamber convened local and national companies and organizations to develop a roadmap for educating the 21st century workforce in the region. This framework is based on a national framework outlined by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, a leading advocacy organization focused on infusing 21st century skills into education. For more information on the framework, visit http://events.lachamber.com/sbaweb/events/evite/EDUCATION/framework/Framework_SM.pdf.

Media Contacts:

  • University of Phoenix Media Hotline

  • Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce
    Mandy Denaux,