Employability Lesson Plans That Make Your Students Shine Blog Feature
Sarah Layton

By: Sarah Layton on February 25th, 2015

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Employability Lesson Plans That Make Your Students Shine

Career Readiness | Employability Skills

We get a host of questions centered on "How can I make employability lesson plans engaging and age appropriate for middle and high school students?"

What are important employability characteristics?

Before we can begin to find employability lesson plans, we first need to be clear on what employability characteristics are critical right now.

The National Associations of Colleged and Employers, NACE, recently published the skills and qualities that employers are looking for in college graduates. In the report, NACE states: "Employers considering new college graduates for job openings are looking for leaders who can work as part of a team and communicate effectively."

They go on to assign percentage of importance to several characteristics that support that statement. Here are the skills NACE reports as most important to employers, in order of priority:

  • LeadershipSkills for Employability Lesson Plans
  • Ability to work in a team
  • Communication skills (written)
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Strong work ethic
  • Analytical/Quantitative skills
  • Technical skills
  • Communication skills (verbal)
  • Initiative
  • Computer skills
  • Flexibility/Adaptability
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Detail-oriented
  • Organizational ability
  • Strategic planning skills
  • Friendly/Outgoing personality
  • Entrepreneurial skills/Risk-taker
  • Tactfulness
  • Creativity

Some more interesting information on employability is found in Achieve.org‘s piece, “Common Core State Standards & Career and Technical Education: Bridging the Divide between College and Career Readiness.” It says:

“Right now, the moment is here, and the opportunity is clear: As states are working to align their education systems with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in support of the goal of graduating all students ready for college, careers and life, academic and career and technical education (CTE) leaders at the state and local levels can and should maximize this opportunity to finally break down the silos between their disciplines and collectively find ways to ensure that the new standards rigorously engage all students in both academic and CTE courses.”

Where to find engaging, age-appropriate employability curriculum

And so where can you go right now to find employability lesson plans that support the idea of breaking down this divide?

A quick search for employability lesson plans turned up SkillsUSA. "SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce. SkillsUSA helps each student excel. We provide educational programs, events and competitions that support career and technical education (CTE) in the nation’s classrooms."

For some actual [free] lesson plans for professionalism and soft skills, take a look at this great resource from the US Department of Labor. I love the title: “Soft Skills to Pay the Bills.”

Looking for something more in-depth and comprehensive? CareerCenter21 will provide you with engaging, interactive, age-appropriate and up-to-date curriculum. Students go through the employability curriculum and then take quizzes. Later, module tests verify their achievement in the content areas. And not only is the curriculum provided, the grade book helps you gauge how well your students are learning and understanding the content.

This is more than a digitized textbook thrown online. That's been done. This is a fully developed tool that includes many resources that follow “Understanding By Design” techniques, starting with what students need to understand and then designing curriculum that will bring students to that end regarding career readiness.

Employability lesson plans for middle and high school

The CareerCenter21 offers employability lesson plans and curriculum appropriate for middle school and high school. The Professionalism module specifically has students discover the expected appearance and personal characteristics of an employee. They learn a number of personal traits belonging to successful employees, such as: honesty, good communication, time-management, goal setting, problem solving, and teamwork. Students practice dealing with workplace situations and evaluate the effectiveness of various employees. By the end of this module, students will be better prepared to enter the professional workforce.

In the Personal Qualities and Desirable Traits units, students will learn about the ideal personal characteristics an employee should have. It discusses the importance of an appropriate appearance while on the job and the traits one should exhibit while interacting with both clients and coworkers. Students will reflect on their own traits, noting their own strengths and weaknesses. Specifically, they will:

  • Understand the importance of a first impression.
  • Learn about appropriate dress in a professional setting.
  • Understand that personal appearance includes dress, body art, and personal care.
  • Identify ways to maintain good health and personal care.
  • Identify important mindsets to have as an employee.
  • Understand effective communication and appropriate interaction.
  • Learn the importance of personal and professional growth.

In the Personal Management unit, students will learn about the importance of time management to an employee. Students will also learn how to apply a general problem solving method to workplace situations. Specifically, they will:

  • Understand the importance of time management.
  • Identify time management tools.
  • Explain how to create a time management plan.
  • Identify when reevaluating must occur.
  • Identify problem solving.
  • List the steps of the problem solving method.
  • Apply the problem solving method to a scenario.
  • Understand when to consult and compromise.

In the Teamwork unit, students focus on the importance of the team in the workplace. Students will learn about teamwork and the different roles a worker can have within a team. Students will examine strengths and weaknesses they might have in inhabiting each of the roles. The unit will discuss leadership, describing the traits that make a good leader. Finally, the student will attempt to successfully lead an effective team. Specifically, students will:

  • Identify the characteristics of an effective team.
  • Understand conflict resolution strategies.
  • Explain what leadership is.
  • Identify types of leaders.
  • Setting goals
  • Selecting the right team members
  • Leadership communication
  • 5 roles of an effective team
  • Assigning roles
  • Making leadership decisions


And that's not all. That's just the Professionalism module. Other important career readiness skills mentioned in NACE  are covered in these relevent modules:

  • Career Research
  • Job Seeking Skills
  • Resumes & Interviews
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Web Research
  • Professionalism
  • Personal Finance
  • Personal Project Management
  • Written Communication
  • Telephone/Verbal Communication
  • Non-Verbal Communication
  • Career Soft Skills
  • Microsoft Office Fundamentals
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Business Ethics/Law
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Online Safety
  • Cyberbullying
  • Computing/Network Systems


For more about employability lesson plans and career readiness, check out this article.

To learn about the curriculum, click here: CareerCenter21 - Career Readiness Curriculum

College and Career Readiness Skills for Students


About Sarah Layton

Sarah has been with AES since 1998, first serving as a curriculum developer, and now as a customer support analyst and content creator. She is committed to helping instructors gain experience and confidence using our solutions and to providing excellent customer care.