Future Ready Talent Framework

All competencies mentioned on the page, including develop self, design and deliver solutions, build relationships, and expand and transfer expertise

Building talent for a complex future.

The future of work is changing. Artificial intelligence, robots, automation, the ‘gig’ economy, climate change and social/political movements are just some factors that will influence and shape the world of work. And in an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world, jobs are going to continue to change in a fundamental way.

Preparing for this shift is critical. Our future is in our hands, and we must harness our potential to contribute positively to society.

Waterloo's Future Ready Talent Framework

So how can you prepare for this future we can’t yet predict? What skills are essential to be “future ready”?

Enter the University of Waterloo’s Future Ready Talent Framework (FRTF). The FRTF is a research-backed tool to help students, employers and educators understand the key competencies we all need to navigate the future of work and learning.

Waterloo has programs to support all learners, at any stage of a lifelong-learning journey. Our programs are designed to build resilience and adaptability. We help learners acknowledge what they’re good at and what kinds of challenges they want to solve, all within a richly-supported environment.

How do we know what skills are essential?

We developed this competency framework through conducting extensive research into existing frameworks, studies and reports, and validated our findings with our network of employers, students and fellow educators.

The FRTF profiles four clusters of competencies with a total of 12 competencies that are expected to be in demand in the emerging global workplace. By understanding these competencies and how to cultivate them, you can take a fresh look at your career direction, hiring practices, management structures and educational programs through a future-oriented lens.

Remote video URL

Expand and transfer expertise

Expanding field-specific knowledge and skills is critical for success in the future workplace, especially in the midst of a world where technology is predicted to become smarter than it ever has before. From academic programming, self-directed learning, workplace and extra-curricular experiences, all workers will need to continually expand their expertise.

Pencil, test-tube and geometric compass all above one book


The future of work will require individuals and organizations to develop knowledge and competencies relevant to work contexts we can’t yet imagine. Being able to integrate ideas from multiple settings will be crucial to address the problems of tomorrow.

A person with context-specific skills can:

  • develop knowledge and skills relevant to the work context
  • actively integrate ideas from across contexts
non-monotonic bar graph


In today’s world, big data is bigger than ever. No matter your industry, it’s what drives decisions and bottom lines. The future of work will require individuals and organizations to identify and synthesize “good” data to form meaningful conclusions.

A person with information and data literacy can:

  • identify data relevant to the work at hand
  • synthesize data from multiple sources into meaningful information
cloud, wifi, setting and the World Wide Web interconnected as one system


With artificial intelligence, robots and automation on the rise, grasping and adapting to new technologies will be increasingly important in our future workplaces. Advocating for the use of new tech and incorporating it into our daily work can help individuals and organizations stay one step ahead.

A person with technological agility can:

  • grasp new technologies with ease
  • apply technology to achieve better results
  • advocate for the use of innovative technologies

Develop self

The ability to develop one’s self has always been essential to success but we’re expecting it to take on even more importance in the future of work. All of us will need to be lifelong learners – constantly upskilling and reskilling. And we’ll need to know how those competencies translate from one context to another as we navigate our careers.

weighing balance


With the rise of the gig economy and increased options for independent and remote contracts, the future of work will undoubtedly see changes to traditional workplace structures. Individuals and organizations must foster self-management techniques to help cope with the pressures of tomorrow’s workplace.

A person that can successfully self-manage can:

  • approach workplace situations with a positive attitude
  • manage their own reactions/emotions
  • cope with workplace pressures
  • incorporate feedback into workplace performance
  • demonstrate integrity and ethics in the workplace
person looking itself in a mirror


The future of work may be uncertain, but one thing we can rely on in a world of flux is our own self-knowledge. Being able to effectively evaluate personal strengths, weaknesses and values can help individuals adapt to shifting landscapes.

A person that practices self-assessment can:

  • acknowledge the limits of their own knowledge, skills and abilities
  • seek feedback on performance
  • have an accurate sense of what they contribute
plant with leaves and fruits


With all the uncertainty lying ahead, one thing is for sure: the future of work will require individuals, organizations and institutions to constantly adapt to shifting priorities, expectations and systems. Individuals will seek purpose. They’ll need to develop and evolve their career identity and sense of purpose to help feel rooted and stable in the face of dynamic labour markets. Organizations will need to support and invest in the growth of their employees in order to retain and nurture personnel into valuable leadership positions.

A person focused on lifelong learning and career development can:

  • make plans to achieve learning goals
  • explore how personal values and interests align with occupational demands, tasks, goals and environments
  • seek learning opportunities, both formal and informal
  • take the initiative to connect with others about career opportunities

Build relationships

Working effectively with others has always been imperative. The future of work will require cross-cultural agility to work effectively and build positive relationships - especially in an increasingly diverse and globalized context.

3 different text messages showcasing asking questions, thinking concepts and replying your interpretations


We all know that good communication is essential to forming relationships and sharing knowledge. But in a world of artificial intelligence, remote work and digital contexts, communication will take on a whole new meaning. Individuals and organizations must have an in-depth understanding of their audiences and know how to communicate effectively across multiple platforms.

A person with strong communication can:

  • communicate ideas effectively for audience and circumstances
  • use clear and concise language
  • listen attentively to others
five hands together


Despite the increasing automation of our workplace, collaboration amongst people will always be needed to drive projects forward. Knowing how to foster collaboration and work effectively with others will ensure that multiple perspectives, ideas and strengths are brought to the table.

A person that is strong in collaboration can:

  • work effectively with others
  • proactively seek the opinions, ideas and expertise of others
  • give credit to others for their ideas, strengths and contributions
  • seek to improve working relationships
globe with sparkles on the side


As our workplaces and learning spaces become increasingly diverse, individuals and organizations will need to understand how to appreciate and navigate differences in order to connect with their communities. With globalization and increasing social and economic divides, the ability to engage with human empathy and integrity will be in high demand.

A person with intercultural effectiveness can:

  • develop knowledge about values and social interaction norms of others
  • respect diversity and inclusion
  • adjust cultural assumptions based on experiences
  • adapt to culturally diverse situations

Design and deliver solutions

Diverse experiences are considered by some to be the seeding ground for innovation and effective problem solving. A complex world filled with “wicked problems” requires people who can recognize incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements and develop innovative approaches to resolve them.

lit light bulb


In our rapidly-changing world, innovation is everywhere around us. Individuals and organizations will need to have the curiosity and courage to dream up new ways of tackling problems in a world that doesn’t exist yet.

A person with an innovation mindset can:

  • demonstrate curiosity in the workplace
  • identify opportunities for improvement
  • take measured risks
person with well-coordinated gears as a brain


With the world becoming increasingly complex, critical thinking will be needed to solve problems both thoughtfully and creatively in a way that considers multiple perspectives and potential implications. Individuals and organizations will need to understand the “big picture” to make sustainable, evidence-based recommendations in a world laden with synapses.

A person with critical thinking can:

  • identify multiple feasible options or solutions to problems
  • make evidence-based decisions and/or recommendations
  • seek to understand the “big picture” root problem or purpose for actions
  • explore the implications of proposed solutions to problems


An idea is just an idea without thoughtful execution. Can you design, adapt and implement solutions in a way that gets work done and builds trust with the people around you?

A person that practices implementation can:

  • identify concrete steps necessary to complete projects
  • manage their own deadlines
  • fulfill responsibilities
Students busily walking in the hallway


Be a lifelong learner

Curiosity and lifelong learning are key to career success. In fact, a recent Waterloo study shows that those who adopt a lifelong learning mindset see greater performance, more promotions, and higher job satisfaction.

Learning happens at all ages. Whether just out of high-school, nearly graduating university, or returning to upskill for your career, Waterloo’s rich academic programming and professional development opportunities prepare you for success in the workplace.

Are you a current student?

Visit the Centre for Career Development website for more resources and actions you can take to develop your skillset and be future ready. You’ll find opportunities for action, including the chance to:

  • Develop your competencies. Begin recording and reflecting on competency development, set goals and get access to the FRTF Resource Hub to learn about on-campus opportunities for competency development.
  • Enroll in the Digital Skills Fundamentals micro-courses. Learn the skills most needed in business today and tomorrow through micro-courses that will introduce you to the fundamental concepts of website development, digital and video marketing, and problem analysis.
  • Identify and articulate your skills. Enroll into the Skills Identification and Articulation Workshop to learn how to identify the skills you are developing in an outside of the classroom and develop strategies for expressing these skills to target audiences, such as potential employers.
  • Enroll into a career development course. All students can enroll (for free!) in PD1: Career fundamentals. In PD1, you will learn how to refine your résumé writing and interview skills, and explore how career goals align with your values, skills and interests.
  • Access personalized support. There are a number of one-on-one supports you can access to get the support you need. Connect with an advisor by booking an appointment or attending a drop-in session.
Employers interacting with some students


Recruit and retain talent with the skills you need

You might find yourself busier than ever as your organization adapts and changes during COVID-19. In an uncertain workforce, knowing how to identify, recruit and retain candidates with the right skills to help is more important than ever to future-proof your company.

Waterloo can help

  • Partner with us for customized insight about your talent. Waterloo has the largest co-operative education program in the world, giving Waterloo’s Work-Learn Institute (WxL) access to the largest dataset of student and employer data to study the future of work.
  • Gain insight to manage the workforce of the future. Our research showed that understanding the values of next generation talent might be the most important thing you can learn to recruit, motivate and retain them effectively. Find out what these values are, and more, in our management guide.
  • Bring young talent into your organization early. This could be a great time for you to hire co-op students to support your work. We’ve even developed Digital Skills Fundamentals courses for our co-op students to expand their skillset in digital and video marketing, sales, problem-solving and web design. They’re ready to support your business, whether you’ve got an established digital platform, recently gone digital or are planning to soon.
  • Dedicated support team to assist with hiring strategies and recruitment. Our account managers come with industry and geographic recruiting knowledge to help attract the student candidate that would be the right fit for your organization.

Join more than 7,100 other employers who have tapped into the value of co-op students from Waterloo. 

Three educators standing by each other investigating a mirror


Tap into 60+ years of experience

Work-integrated learning (WIL) was one of the University of Waterloo’s first innovations. What started with a cohort of 74 co-op students in 1957 has grown to more than 22,000 students enrolled in co-op today, with WIL opportunities available to all 31,000+ undergraduate students in any program.

Learn from our expertise

Waterloo’s Work-Learn Institute (WxL) is a living lab based on decades of future-proven experience as leaders in WIL. WxL is the only institute in the world dedicated to research on co-operative education and other forms of WIL. Founded in 2002 on the basis that, with the largest co-operative education program in the world, we have the largest dataset to study, understand and continue to advance its practice. You can engage with:

  • Insights and analytics: Waterloo has the largest co-operative education program in the world, giving WxL access to the largest dataset of student and employer data to study the future of work. WxL can also do custom co-op/WIL workplace research and program reviews.
  • Webinars and customizable workshops: WxL is an incubator for WIL innovation, testing new models and ideas to continue to evolve the practice of WIL to meet the changing demands of the labour market. We share these insights via online and in-person presentations on a regular basis.

Email us today to leverage this one-of-a-kind resource and help future-proof your organization.