While career and technical education professionals expect 21st century job skills to move toward greater complexity, much of the concern involves the cognitive domain ( Duffy, 1999 ). The projected trend reflects the upward evolution of the past century in workbased skills and employer demands for greater sophistication in a variety of academic and job skills ( Barner, 2000 ; Martin, 2000 ). The skill expectation outlined by Hunt ( 1995 ) suggests that workers will need increasingly sophisticated skills to solve problems that are more often ill-defined, unstructured, and without obvious resolution. Hunt ( 1995 ) even wondered if the workforce will be smart enough for future challenges.


To gain insight about the evolving job and analytic skill issue, this study determined the following:




Table 2 shows that the t-test determined that the purchasing and customer service professionals had a GEFT mean score that was statistically significant in its difference from secondary marketing education students. The professional group M = 8.32 (SD = 4.12) while the student group M = 7.03 (SD = 7.03). The professional group was relatively more field-independent, and had scores that were more clustered (SD 1 = 4.11 to 12.44) than students (SD 1 = 0 to 14.41). This finding is consistent with theories of vocational development ( Holland, 1985 ) and field-dependence cognitive style ( Witkin & Goodenough, 1981 ). Life experiences among the professionals, including job tenure (M = 11.4 years) and age (M = 40 years), may have promoted occupational congruence.


This study compared the field-dependence cognitive styles of 44 professionals in purchasing and customer service to determine (a) if the GEFT scores of 236 secondary marketing education students statistically differed from the professionals, and (b) the existence of gender differences in cognitive style based on membership in professional and student groups. The following discusses the findings and implications for these questions.


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