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Career Readiness | Curriculum Development | Employability Skills

Employability Skills Lesson Plans for Middle and High School

April 23rd, 2024 | 7 min. read

Brad Hummel

Brad Hummel

Coming from a family of educators, Brad knows both the joys and challenges of teaching well. Through his own teaching background, he’s experienced both firsthand. As a writer for iCEV, Brad’s goal is to help teachers empower their students by listening to educators’ concerns and creating content that answers their most pressing questions about career and technical education.

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Since employability skills are an important focus of career and technical education (CTE), many middle and high school teachers are being asked to include employability skills lesson plans as part of their career readiness curriculum.

But what are employability skills? And how can you teach them as part of your lessons?

As a career readiness curriculum developer, we've been asked questions just like this time and time again.

To make putting together your lesson plans easier, this article will provide some of the most important content to include in your employability skills lessons.

But before we get to the resources, let's answer the most important question: what are employability skills?

What Are Employability Skills and Characteristics?

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) conducted a job outlook survey asking employers to indicate the most important attributes they look for in a candidate.

According to the survey, some of the most important skills employers look for are:

  1. Problem-solving skills
  2. Teamwork and collaboration skills
  3. Communication skills
  4. Leadership
  5. Initiative
  6. Flexibility and adaptability
  7. Interpersonal skills

Incidentally, all of these skills can be found on the list of 21st Century skills that today's students need to succeed in their careers.

Now that you know what skills employers are looking for, let's dive into how you can teach each of these skills in your classroom!

7 Topics to Cover in Your Employability Skills Lesson Plans

There are many topics that you can teach as part of your employability skills lessons. However, you might not have time to cover every skill in depth, particularly if you've been asked to cover a wide range of content as part of your career readiness curriculum.

Covering these seven major employability skills will go a long way in ensuring your students are prepared for future work opportunities. Plus, several of these skills involve other qualities that employers consider desirable.

Below, we'll take a look each of these seven employability skills and what they entail so you can include them in your instruction.

1. Lessons on Problem Solving Skills

Problem solving skills require a lot of higher order thinking in relation to decision-making and critical thinking. Students need to be able to use problem skills in order to successfully meet challenges in the classroom, their personal lives, and in future professional settings.

Because these qualities can be complex and sometimes ambiguous, problem solving can be one of the most difficult employability skills to teach. But with the right plan in place, teaching these skills can be straightforward.

Consider teaching your students problem-solving strategies. Is there a particular method they could follow that might make finding a solution easier? Are there steps they can use to simplify problems? Can you prompt learners to consider a new solution they may not have considered before?

Questions such as these can help students develop the cognitive qualities necessary to solve a wide range of problems, making them an asset to potential future employers.

2. Lessons for Teamwork and Collaboration Skills

Teamwork and collaboration skills are necessary in practically every career your students can think of. They even apply to the daily work while in school!

So how can you provide relevant, engaging lessons to help your students hone their teamwork skills?

Simply put, teamwork is best learned when students have the opportunity to practice it on a regular basis. While it's important to include individual assignments, varying your lessons to include ample group projects and activities give learners the chance to collaborate with others to solve problems and internalize class concepts.

You can make the most out of teamwork exercises in your classroom by including a reflection activity that encourages students to reflect on what they've learned and where they can improve their collaborative efforts in the future.

Learning teamwork while in middle and high school helps students become valued collaborators that will be an asset to the teams of professionals they'll be a part of over their careers.

3. Lessons on Communication Skills

With texting and messaging apps, today's students can communicate more easily than ever before. However, that doesn't mean they are using good communication skills that will apply in their careers!

When teaching communication skills, it's important to cover a variety of communication styles, including:

  • Listening skills
  • Verbal communication
  • Written communication
  • Public speaking
  • Social media usage

Covering this wide range of communication skills can make all the difference in ensuring your students are able to work with others in a variety of contexts. When they practice these skills in school, they'll already be great communicators by the time they graduate!

4. Leadership Lesson Plans

Leadership involves someone's ability to influence and guide others towards a common goal.

Finding leadership resources for employers and professionals is easy. But it can be tough to sort through all these materials to find relevant lessons and activities for your students.

That's why we recommend teaching the core qualities that make a good leader, including:

  • Problem solving
  • Goal setting
  • Teamwork
  • Responsibility

In addition to these skills, consider teaching your students about the importance of character and integrity. Demonstrating high standards of personal conduct is what sets truly great leaders apart, so learning this early in life will help students be trusted leaders not only in their careers, but the communities they live and serve in.

5. Resources to Teach Initiative

Initiative, also called intrinsic motivation, relates to an individual starting projects, creating plans, and executing strategies on their own.

Some of the best tips to help teach initiative to your students are:

  1. Tie your lessons to the end goal
  2. Incorporate group work
  3. Let students work independently
  4. Find ways to help students stay productive
  5. Encourage students to discover connections

When you teach initiative in middle or high school, your students are able to become independent workers and thinkers who are self-starters when it comes to generating new ideas, working toward a solution, and remaining productive until their work is finished.

Whether they go on to higher education or choose to enter the workforce after high school, a personal sense of initiative will go a long way to ensuring they're able to achieve their goals.

6. Lessons on Flexibility

Flexibility is a person's ability to adapt to change and understand differences in view that can impact decisions.

Flexibility often involves letting go of control and moving forward with decisions you may not always agree with. That makes it a tough employability skill to teach in middle and high school!

However, if you create connections between flexibility and other skills such as collaboration, you may find it easier to teach.

Covering flexibility is critical because many careers require workers to continually adapt to new situations, unforeseen challenges, and ongoing obstacles. Learning flexibility as a student can help an individual feel prepared for unexpected circumstances and have a better idea how to adapt and change to meet fresh challenges.

7. Interpersonal Skills Lessons and Activities

Interpersonal skills are crucial to the ongoing success of professionals in any field. Since almost every career involves effectively working with others, it's crucial for students to develop qualities indicative of strong interpersonal communications.

Establishing empathy, developing professionalism, and cultivating good customer service are all viewed by employers as desirable interpersonal skills.

All of these skills are increasingly relevant in a world in which much communication and collaboration takes place in digital settings. The need to demonstrate sound interpersonal skills in online environments, especially through social media and instant communications, have made these skills one of the most important to teach your students.

However, by teaching professionalism and appropriate digital behavior as part of your regular instruction, you'll be on your way to helping students better navigate interpersonal relationships and be ready for work as professionals.

Start Teaching Employability Skills Today

In this article, you've learned about employability skills and why they're so important to teach middle and high school students. You've also learned about seven particularly important employability skills that potential employers often consider to be the most important when making hiring decisions.

Now that you've learned more about each of these skills, it's time to think about incorporating them into your instruction. But between everything else you need to teach your students, how can you effectively cover all of this information in your lessons and still have time to cover other important content in your subject area?

For many teachers, the answer lies in adopting a comprehensive curriculum system like iCEV. With iCEV, teachers are able to cover each of these employability skills as part of a cohesive CTE learning experience designed to prepare students for future career success.

With pre-made lesson plans, engaging activities and projects, and automatically graded assessments, instructors are able to meet student needs with a curriculum aligned to their standards.

Could iCEV be right for your program? Schedule a free demo to find out. You'll learn everything you need to know about iCEV to decide if it's right for your students:Schedule Your Demo