Employability Skills for All Classrooms

To meet the demands of the 21st century workplace, today’s students need to master more than traditional academic skills. Future jobs will increasingly require employability skills – mastery of technology, problem-solving and communication skills, and the ability to work as a team and apply knowledge to new situations.[1] These are skills students need to be successful in any profession and skills employers want to see.

Recently, the Office of Career, Adult and Technical Education (OCTAE) developed the Employability Skills Framework, which is designed to support educators in prioritizing these skills in policy and instruction. Historically, these skills have been the focus of career and technical education courses. Today, it is critical that employability skills be integrated into instruction for all students to ensure that they are prepared for the demands of the future.

To help policymakers, leaders, and educators incorporate employability skills into all classroom instruction, the CCRS Center, in partnership with the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders (GTL Center), and RTI International developed a professional learning module, Integrating Employability Skills: A Framework for All Educators. The module – a collection of customizable, content-rich, “train-the-trainer” materials – provides information and guidance for districts and schools on integrating employability skills with other key education initiatives, including new student academic content standards and educator evaluation systems.

While working with state education agencies and federal support organizations, we identified some key considerations that might be useful for other stakeholders interested in integrating employability skills into their education reforms:

Highlight Existing Alignment with Other Education Reforms. Highlighting the existing alignment of employability skills with other reforms allows educators to see how this work supports and reinforces what’s already going on and not as something new or different. The Employability Skills Workbook is one resource that helps policymakers and state leaders identify the alignment, or misalignment, between employability skills and two key education initiatives: college and career ready standards implementation and educator evaluation. The Workbook walks participants through a guided process of mapping each employability skill to a state's CCR standards and teacher observation rubric. This process helps users identify where the employability skills are reinforced through student academic expectations and teacher instructional practices.

Provide Teachers with Actionable Tools. Teachers need to not just feel confident about how they can prioritize employability skills in everyday instruction, but also identify which employability skills are most important for their particular course and grade level. The module’s lesson plan Self-Assessment Tool helps teachers reflect on which employability skills are integrated into instruction as well as how deeply the skills are explored. The Self-Assessment Tool can also be a valuable resource for professional growth conversations with peers and evaluators as it can provide evidence of how the skills are integrated into classroom lessons, activities and student work.

Engage Key Stakeholders in Early Discussions. All teachers have the responsibility of ensuring that students are exposed to, understand, and can implement employability skills in their adult life. To do this, state education agencies need to collaborate with other key offices such as early childhood, career and technical education, and educator effectiveness to develop a shared and coherent set of expectations for educators and students. Together, staff can bring attention to the importance of employability skills and consider how they connect to specific priorities, such as kindergarten readiness, career pathways, and student learning. The Employability Skills module is most successful when it is delivered to participants representing these key offices.

In addition to providing these materials at no cost, the CCRS Center can provide online or in-person “train-the-trainer” work sessions with regional comprehensive center and state education agency staff members. Please email us at ccrscenter@air.org for more information.

Catherine Jacques is a technical assistant lead with the College and Career Readiness and Success Center. 

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