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6:29am EDT February 25, 2005
In the Indianapolis workplace, having the right degree or work experience is not enough if you want to land a great job or earn a promotion. Employees who want to advance in their careers also must be team players with excellent communication and problem-solving skills.

A new survey by University of Phoenix confirms that technical skills are important, but they are not the most important asset to employers.

The survey polled 330 employers in health care, education, technology and other high-growth sectors identified by the U.S. Department of Labor around the Midwest and across the nation.

In their responses, executives stated the most important skills needed to succeed in today's workplace are communication (96 percent), followed by learning aptitude/desire to grow (95 percent), collaboration and teamwork (93 percent) and creative problem-solving (92 percent).

As the hub of Indiana and a major player in the Midwest, the Indianapolis region's economy is based on advanced manufacturing, logistics/distribution, information technology, life sciences and sports industries. All of these industries -- even manufacturing --increasingly rely on improved communications and teamwork skills, making it important for Indianapolis employees to stay current in these areas.

The data also show that there is a real concern among employers about finding qualified employees. Nearly three-quarters of employers surveyed -- 74 percent -- expect continued growth for jobs in their respective industries, but 65 percent of those polled also cited a shortage of skilled candidates to fill these anticipated positions.

So, what does all of this data mean to the average Indianapolis employee? It should encourage you to pursue your goals of an advanced education. Fifty-one percent of those surveyed favor continuous improvement and updating of skills through education and training. If you've been in the same job for several years and are considering a career change, you'll need to be up-to-date on the latest skills, trends and communication styles.

When you select a school, make sure the curriculum is current and the style of learning is relevant. Make sure classes are taught by instructors who are all experts currently working in their field of expertise.

And, check to see that faculty members are not just discussing theories, but that they also have firsthand knowledge of how those theories are applied in the workplace. That translates into a relevant education that you can apply on the job and use in your next career move or promotion.

Increasingly, employers are recognizing the benefits of continuing education. According to the survey, nearly 57 percent of the respondents offer tuition reimbursement to employees seeking to enhance their skills. That number appears to have grown in recent years, as more positions require specialized education. In addition, tuition reimbursement is an effective way to retain quality employees, a major concern among employers in the study.

With colleges now focusing more on practical application of theory, education can improve everyone's communication and teamwork skills. In today's changing workplace, those skills are invaluable to both employers and their employees.

Simon Lumley is vice president of Indiana operations and Indianapolis campus director for the University of Phoenix. University of Phoenix offers accessible higher education options uniquely tailored to Indianapolis' working business professionals. Reach Lumley at (317) 585-8610 or simon.lumley@phoenix.edu. For more information, log on to www.phoenix.edu.