Fifty-three percent of employers find recruiting nonmanagerial employees with the skills, training and education their companies need is a challenge, according to a report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and University of Phoenix.

The report, Life in the 21st Century Workforce: A National Perspective, shows both employers and employees believe education, which includes continuing education as well as attaining advanced degrees, is necessary to ensure workers have the needed skills that allow them to advance in their careers. Interpersonal skills, collaboration, critical thinking and problem-solving skills are also seen as an important component by employers and employees in providing the greatest advantage to employers and the workplace.

“There is considerable discussion focused on the skills employees need to succeed in the workplace,” says Margaret Spellings, senior advisor to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and former U.S. secretary of education. “However, it’s imperative we understand the issue from the inside-out in order to improve the way we prepare our future work force. The results of Life in the 21st Century Workforce: A National Perspective can help inform employers, employees and jobseekers seeking to stand out in the increasingly competitive job market.”

Fifty percent of employees say past work experience is the top hiring factor while 27 percent of employees say outdistancing people management and communication skills is. When promotions are on the line, though, 46 percent of employees say they are far more likely to consider people management and communication skills as a more critical component than past work experience at 38 percent.

“Our nation is facing a critical disconnect between the skills our work force brings to the job and what businesses need,” says Greg Cappelli, co-CEO of Apollo Group, parent company of University of Phoenix. “Despite the country’s current unemployment levels, there are literally millions of jobs available for people with the right skills and the right education. We must look to the future and focus on providing students with a relevant education – one that prepares them with the expertise they need for successful careers in the work force of tomorrow.”