A Guide to Career Readiness & Employability Skills Lesson Plans
Career readiness and employability skills lesson plans have become an increasingly critical part of education. Employers are desperately seeking people with a combination of skills that seem to fall under this career readiness and employability umbrella that also include such things as soft skills, customer service skills and life skills.
Imagine sending your students on to their career or college goals and aspirations knowing that you’ve done the very best to help them shine among their peers in whatever field they’ve chosen. That’s really what it’s all about, right? At the heart of every educator is a desire to help each student be confident and proud in their accomplishments and successful in their futures.
To that end, we have many teachers and administrators and directors asking us, “How can I make career readiness and employability skills lesson plans engaging and age appropriate for middle and high school students?”
Before you answer, check out this video to learn how these lesson plans could work for you!
To provide that answer, we first have to understand what students need to master to be viewed as career-ready and employable.
What Are Important Employability Characteristics?
First, let’s take a look at what are the most important employability characteristics right now.
The National Associations of Colleges 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, many of which are also 21st Century skills.
Here are the skills NACE reports as most important to employers, in order of priority:
- Ability to work in a team
- Communication skills (written)
- Problem-solving skills
- Strong work ethic
- Analytical/Quantitative skills
- Technical skills
- Communication skills (verbal)
- Computer skills
- Interpersonal skills
- Organizational ability
- Strategic planning skills
- Friendly/Outgoing personality
- Entrepreneurial skills/Risk-taker
Want some more ideas of what skills to cover in your courses? Read our free checklist.
Why Are Soft Skills Important for CTE Students?
Along with employability skills and career readiness, soft skills lesson plans have become an important part of many CTE programs. Students can’t skip or gloss over them. Leaving soft skills lesson plans out of your courses puts your students at a disadvantage in the workplace. And ensuring mastery requires time and effort (technical skills alone will not get the job done). Here’s why including soft skills lesson plans is so critical…
1.) Companies Demand It
So-called soft skills are the bedside manner of the workplace. They are the transferable skills that employees use in every job in every industry. The economy will continue to emphasize customer service. While graduates from a CTE program can have the technical or knowledge-based ability (i.e. certifications) to do a job well, often soft skills are the make-or-break in getting and keeping a job.
2.) Better Customer Service
Regardless of the job (CNA, auto mechanic, EMT, etc.) being able to relate to customers is required. Gone are the days where people could focus only on the technical skills they brought to the job. Superior customer support for companies is a key differentiator in a crowded competitive market place. A key competency in the service economy is how you treat customers and nothing is more important in the healthcare field.
3.) Technical Skills Will Change
Technology is impacting all of us at work, at home and as consumers. Technical skills change quickly as tools, software, and innovation are introduced in every job across all industries. Now the rub, these changes in technical skills, put pressure on standards and programs in CTE areas to adapt and keep up. Soft skills, on the other hand, do not change as fast and are transferable to any job.
Why Are Customer Service Skills for Students Important?
Don’t think of customer service as the person who answers the phone, or operates the return desk at the department store. The interpersonal skills that can be gained through customer service training can be applied to interactions between employees and with suppliers, managers, and customers.
Think of the famous brands that you LOVE doing business with. These brands have created an awesome experience for the customer and have great customer service. Representatives are excited to help you with whatever you need. That excitement is infectious and you will be looking forward to the next time you do business with that company.
Need help teaching customer service? This post has a free customer service lesson plan you can use today!
What Are Life Skills for Students?
It seems that life skills mean something different to just about all of us. For some, life skills are similar to soft skills and employability skills. For others, they are more like traditional family and consumer science skills.
So what are life skills, exactly?
The Life Skills Handbook defines life skills to include “decision-making, goal setting, problem-solving, coping with stress, coping with emotions, negotiating, friendship, interpersonal relationships, empathy (concern for others), critical thinking, creative thinking, resisting peer pressure, assertiveness.”
The SkillsYouNeed site goes in depth, saying, “There is no definitive list of life skills, certain skills may be more or less relevant to you depending on your life circumstances, your culture, beliefs, age, geographic location etc. Perhaps the most important life skill is the ability to learn. By learning new skills we increase our understanding of the world around us and equip ourselves with the tools we need to live a more productive and fulfilling life. Life skills are not always taught directly but often learned indirectly through experience and practice.”
And now that we know what they are…don’t you think your students ought to have them? If they aim to be employed at some point, they better get them. Life skills are a way that your students can differentiate from other qualified candidates when looking for a job.
Certification Prep vs. Workplace Prep
Feel that your goals should be more focused on preparing your students for certification than preparing them for life-long success in the workplace…?
If you are strictly using certification or test prep materials to teach your students, you are doing them a disservice. Yes, they have the skills to perform task in their field. But they don’t have the soft skills needed to endure.
Employers need people with the skills that students only seem to get from soft skills lesson plans…
In a spotlight article, the National Careers Service says employers want people with skills in communicating, making decisions, showing commitment, flexibility, time management, leadership, creativity and problem-solving skills, being a team player, accepting responsibility, and ability to work under pressure.
For more insight on test prep, see Bri Stauffer’s post on preparing students for Microsoft Office Specialist certification.
Where to Find Career Lesson Plans
And so where can you go right now to find career readiness and employability skills lesson plans that support the idea of breaking down this divide?
CareerCenter21 will provide you with engaging, interactive, age-appropriate and up-to-date curriculum. Students go through the 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.
CareerCenter21 offers lesson plans and curriculum appropriate for middle school and high school.
Employability Skills Lesson Plans
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 relevant modules:
- Career Research
- Job Seeking Skills
- Resumes & Interviews
- Digital Citizenship
- Web Research
- Personal Finance
- Personal Project Management
- Written Communication
- Telephone/Verbal Communication
- Non-Verbal Communication
- Career Soft Skills
- Microsoft Office Fundamentals
- Business Ethics/Law
- Digital Citizenship
- Online Safety
- Computing/Network Systems
Soft Skills Lesson Plans
Communication and conflict is a part of life, including work life. Our future health care work force’s job success and satisfaction depends just as much on these important soft skills as it does on medical practice and Microsoft Office skills.
Need some resources? Blended learning curriculum resources like CareerCenter21, HealthCenter21 and Business&ITCenter21 offer a great deal of content that covers soft skills, like these:
- Legal and Ethical Responsibilities
- Personal Qualities
- Health Care Careers
- Job Seeking Skills
- The Health Assistant
- Medical Office Assistant
- Office Environment
- Telephone Etiquette
- Written Communication
Also a great resource from the US Department of Labor is: “Soft Skills to Pay the Bills.”
Not enough? Here are some additional resources for teaching soft skills:
Customer Service Lesson Plans
Our library doesn’t specifically have customer service lesson plans, but this is an area that we would like to address in the future. Even though we don’t have a learning module, we wanted to take some time to help teachers that are struggling to find ideas and resources to cover this important topic. Feel free to use these ideas with your students and let us know if you have feedback or ideas.
Here is a customer service lesson plan that requires students to get involved. You may need a short ice-breaker activity if role play is not a technique commonly used in your classroom. Feel free to skip the ice-breaker if you don’t think it’s necessary.
The purpose of this activity is to demonstrate the importance of interpersonal business communication and how the traits of representative can affect the emotional state of the customer. You can close by reinforcing the concept that purchasing decisions are often driven by emotions and that companies that move customers from negative emotions to positive emotions can be very successful.
Life Skills Lesson Plans
Believing very strongly in the idea of arming student with these important skills, we’ve grown our curriculum that focuses on life skills. We even include some crucial 21st Century skills, which are designed to help students keep up with the tech-based work environments of today.
We have a Digital Literacy section that includes the modules Digital Responsibility, Digital Citizenship, Web Research, Professionalism, and Job Seeking Skills. This curriculum (and much of our other content) has been developed to help your students develop good communication, teamwork, problem-solving and decision-making skills. I would say that mastering those skills would certainly be “associated with managing and living a better quality of life” and helping “us to accomplish our ambitions and live to our full potential.”
Don’t let life skills lesson plans be the missing piece from your CTE curriculum!
Career Readiness Lesson Plans: Ohio Leads the Way
Ohio teachers must now cover Strand 1 Business Operations/21st Century Skills standards with all students. Here’s what Ohio is doing to ensure they have career readiness lesson plans that work…
Join Ohio and their push for meaningful, purposeful career readiness lesson plans and standards that will help students span the skills gap.
Teach Employability Skills with CareerCenter21
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