I’ve been reading a lot of employment ads lately as I’ve been researching career readiness. One recurring theme is that employers are not only seeking people with job specific skills. They also require a strong set of interpersonal or professional skills such as communication, initiative, collaboration, creativity, and responsibility. These are often termed soft skills. Hard skills are the technical requirements for a specific job whereas soft skills refer to a cluster of general personality traits and behaviors. Not only do we have to teach our students curricular learning objectives, but we also need to give them a strong foundation in these employability skills to prepare them for success in the workplace.
Teach Soft Skills to Prepare Students for Employability
We can’t accurately predict what the specific jobs of the future will be, but the crucial soft skills won’t change. Decision-making, goal setting, critical thinking, and problem solving are just a few of the life skills that can be learned and applied to any career. They may just be the difference between equally qualified candidates that determine who gets the job in a competitive job marketplace.
These soft skills should be taught explicitly. Students need to be mindful of their personal strengths and needs in these critical areas, and educators must provide skills training. TechnoKids technology projects focus on this combination of curriculum, technology, and soft skills. Through role play, students ‘try on’ professions such as web developer, financial analyst, entrepreneur, and many more. Real-world learning opportunities motivate students to raise their awareness of the job market and what they need to learn to be well prepared.
Here are the top soft skills employers value and how TechnoKids lesson plans teach them with engaging, meaningful activities.
Oral and Written Communication
The ability to articulate thoughts and ideas clearly is essential. In the key qualifications list, jobs ads frequently state: “Excellent verbal and written communication skills”. Teamwork, long distance collaboration, planning documents, sales, customer support, and project report summaries all require a concise and effective exchange of information.
TechnoPresenter is a technology project that specifically teaches public speaking. Students learn how to power up an oral presentation with a slide show. Using speaker notes, practice rehearsals, body language skits, tips, reflection questions, and assessment tools, students develop key communication skills.
Teamwork and Collaboration
To build positive relationships with colleagues and clients who may represent diverse cultures and viewpoints, job candidates need to be able to work as part of a team. Interpersonal negotiation, project meetings, and conflict resolution require a personable, team-player mindset.
Students design a professional-looking publication in TechnoNewsletter. To build teamwork skills, they can co-author an article. On completion, they share the document digitally and invite peer comments. Before engaging in an online discussion, students explore commenting guidelines. Advice to make comments in a positive and encouraging way, be courteous, and write clearly and concisely is offered. Then students sign a Commenting Agreement to agree to be responsible digital citizens.
Effective habits such as time management, punctuality, ethical behavior, and personal accountability affect productivity. Therefore employers highly value self-starters who are well organized, establish priorities, and work independently. They also look for an employee who shows initiative, offers innovative solutions, and tackles challenges beyond the job description.
TechnoKids projects offer multiple learning opportunities that build professionalism and a strong work ethic.
Before starting most projects, students plan their ideas in an organizer. Forming an outline in a graphic chart or written plan before undertaking a task builds fundamental organizational skills.
Throughout the projects, student checklists build systematic editing and reviewing practices. These self-evaluation tools advance a student’s awareness of their performance as well as providing feedback for improvement. Checklists are provided as each portion of an activity is completed and at the end of the project too.
Final reflection questions at the end of a completed project provide another method of self-assessment. Students consider their strengths and areas for personal growth in specific technical and interpersonal skills.
Knowledge of the career marketplace and how to navigate it is vital. Students should set career goals, know how to explore job opportunities, how to pursue a particular job, and how to self-advocate in the workplace.
In TechnoAdvertise students build skills to successfully manage the job market. To start, they write a cover letter and a resume. Supported by samples, guiding questions, and lists of model skills and qualities, they apply for a position at a fictional ad agency. Once they are hired, they learn advanced word processing skills to design a series of publications for a client. Students create a professional looking advertising flyer, a product catalog, a personalized form letter, mailing labels, and a newsletter.
Global and Intercultural Fluency
Any career in the workplace of tomorrow requires an employee who respects individual differences. They must demonstrate inclusiveness, sensitivity, and the ability to interact respectfully with people from diverse cultures, races, ages, and genders.
Students express their opinions and personal expertise in TechnoBlog. Writing in their own voice, they begin by identifying the audience, topic, and purpose of a blog article. Then they are guided in writing a series of blog posts. Afterwards they exchange ideas with others as they comment on their peers’ blogs and respond to others’ comments on their own writing. Student workbook instructions focus on social skills such as etiquette, maintaining privacy, and making encouraging comments. As they express their opinions, students learn how to state viewpoints respectfully and courteously. A key goal of the project is to prepare students to become responsible digital citizens.
Young people who are ‘career ready’ exercise sound reasoning to study issues and make decisions. They use creative thinking skills to solve problems. They are able to find and interpret facts to build knowledge. They deal with conflict. They accept a challenge and resolve the issue in inventive and original ways.
Students prepare an animated debate in TechnoDebate. They take a stand on a controversial issue to persuade an audience. To start, they research evidence to support a viewpoint. They collaborate with a partner who prepares the opposing position. Next, rebuttals are formed to refute the opponent’s claims. Viewers of the debate are invited to comment and debaters defend their positions. The debate forum builds critical and creative thinking as well as research skills, persuasive expression, and savvy decision making.
Basic computer skills are likely to be a component of most jobs in tomorrow’s workplace. Job-specific software skills can only be developed on a foundation of essential computer competence.
TechnoKids projects are ICT and STEM project-based activities to integrate technology into curriculum. Students analyze information, collaborate, solve problems, and make decisions. The interdisciplinary activities target learning outcomes from language arts, mathematics, social studies, science, history, geography, and creative arts. By tackling real-world problems, students build word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and programming skills. Blended into the learning are the universal soft skills that are a passport to career success.