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Career Readiness | High School | Soft Skills

Top 4 Soft Skills Training Materials for High School Students

December 10th, 2021 | 8 min. read

Bri Stauffer

Bri Stauffer

For nearly 10 years, Bri has focused on creating content to address the questions and concerns educators have about teaching classes, preparing students for certifications, and making the most of the iCEV curriculum system.

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As a curriculum developer, we work with thousands of high school teachers every year.

In speaking with these teachers, the topic of how to teach soft skills comes up time and time again.

Soft skills are the key abilities that everyone needs to succeed in the workplace.

There are dozens of skills that can be categorized as soft skills, including:

  • Social skills
  • Empathy
  • Patience
  • Public speaking
  • Time management
  • Customer service
  • Project management
  • Leadership
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Critical thinking

But even though you know how important it is to teach these skills to your high school students, it's tough to find soft skills training materials that will make your lessons great.

While AES provides a comprehensive curriculum to teach career readiness and soft skills, our solution may not be the best fit for everyone.

Some teachers are only interested in supplemental resources to add to their existing soft skills curriculum.

To help you choose the right soft skills training materials for your classroom, we put together a list of other options.

Four of the best places to find soft skills teaching materials are:

  1. US Department of Labor
  2. Association for Middle Level Education
  3. Open Colleges
  4. Edutopia

On this page, we'll get into the details of each resource to help you decide which options could work for you and your students.

You'll also find a ready-to-use professionalism lesson plan you can implement in your classroom in minutes!

But before we jump into the details, let's review how you can teach soft skills! 

Video: How Do You Teach Soft Skills Curriculum?


Now that you've watched the video, lets get into the details of the soft skills training materials you can use right now.

1. Soft Skills to Pay the Bills (US Department of Labor)


Soft skills have become so important to career success that even the US Department of Labor has gotten on board.

Their program — Soft Skills to Pay the Bills — is known throughout the country for providing concise, actionable information students can use in real life.

These soft skills training materials include concepts like communication, attitude, and even enthusiasm in the workplace.

You even get advice on how to work with students with disabilities, ensuring you give every student the information they need to be successful in the workplace.

The whole program is broken into individual lesson plans that you download for free as PDFs. Each one comes with instructions and a list of resources you’ll need to address every lesson.

You also get free short-answer and fill-in-the-blank papers to distribute to your students. That lets them follow along with you as you lecture, which helps long-term information retention.

Still, these resources have some shortcomings.

First, they’re based on a traditional classroom environment. That means they won’t work well in a blended learning environment since they only work for that one teaching strategy.

Second, there are no true assessments included to truly measure student progress with grades. If you want to give grades for any of your soft skills lessons you will need to spend extra time creating rubrics and quizzes – and then grading by hand.

Still, the Soft Skills to Pay the Bills program is a great start to any soft skills training you want to do in the classroom.

2. Preparing Kids for Life After School (Association for Middle Level Education)


The Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE) is a prolific organization dedicated to helping teachers succeed with students.

The AMLE provides a general outline you can use to build a soft skills training curriculum. To start, they highlight the seven main qualities that they believe best represent soft skills education:

  1. Integrity
  2. Communication
  3. Courtesy
  4. Responsibility
  5. Professionalism
  6. Flexibility
  7. Teamwork

The AMLE’s goal is to help teachers get students ready for life after school. Bridging the gap between mandatory education and at-will employment isn’t often addressed in the public school system, which makes this all the more important.

By teaching these seven qualities, your students will have a strong grasp on what’s expected of them culturally in the workplace.

They may not have experience with “hard” skills, but they’ll be able to take these seven skills with them into any profession.

These skills also help students understand what’s expected of them in a modern workplace.

While many businesses today understand the value of principles like work-life balance, it’s still crucial that students know a workplace is a workplace.

That comes with some degree of pressure, stressful days, deadlines, and opportunities. It’s a mixed bag that students need to know about if they’re going to make the most of every day of their working lives!

With the AMLE’s brief guide, you’ll be set to outline a strong training course on how to teach soft skills. If you do it right, your unit will stick with your students for the rest of their lives.

3. 30 Tips to Cultivate Soft Skills in Your Students (Open Colleges)


Open Colleges is an Australian organization dedicated to improving education throughout the world.

That’s why they wrote an online piece about 30 tips to cultivate soft skills in students. These tips range in everything from the materials you physically provide to thought-provoking concepts that spur student thinking.

This resource doesn’t give you actual sheets or books to use with your classroom, but the 30 tips they include apply to any school in any country.

These tips include ideas like:

  1. Rewarding students who admit they were wrong
  2. Discussing self-reliance
  3. Persevering with struggling students
  4. Displaying respect, even if you have to show it before receiving it
  5. Teaching through example

Of all these tips, #5 is the most important since it’s advice you can remember at any point as a teacher.

The best way to teach students lifelong skills is to exhibit them yourself.

4. S.P.E.C.I.A.L. Introduction: Teaching Soft Skills to Our Students (Edutopia)


Edutopia is the brainchild non-profit of Star Wars creator George Lucas. The organization’s mission is to find the educational methods that help students succeed and replicate those results in K-12 classrooms across the world.

As a result, it’s no wonder that they’re now a major force in education reform. That includes emphasizing how to teach soft skills. 

For Edutopia, soft skills training boils down to eight key skills that you can use in fewer than seven seconds — especially when you’re making a first impression.  

They call these skills the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. principles:

  • Shake hands
  • Posture
  • Eye contact
  • Charm
  • Introduce yourself
  • Ask a question
  • Learn and listen

This mnemonic isn’t necessarily in sequence — you can do these things completely out of order if you wanted.

But each of these characteristics is crucial to a professional interaction.

From first impressions through an exit interview, these eight characteristics play a constant role in the workplace.

You can demonstrate all of these to your students through roleplay activities.

Those activities can include acting out an interview between you (as the interviewer) and a student (as the applicant).

Then, the class can discuss how you and the student used the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. principles to succeed.

You can also have the whole class break off into pairs and try with one another. You can add an extra layer of practice by having everyone rotate partners as well.

By the end of a class period, you could have your students practicing the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. soft skills half a dozen times! 

Which Soft Skills Training Materials are Right for You?

At the end of the day, there is no single "best" soft skills curriculum. It all depends on the needs of you, your course, and your students!

Each resource can be a great supplement to your existing curriculum.

But if you're looking for a more robust curriculum solution, consider checking out the Business&ITCenter21 digital curriculum.

Business&ITCenter21 is designed to help you teach soft skills like professionalism, teamwork, customer service, and more.

The curriculum is made up of different modules, which contain lessons, activities, and assessments for you to use with your students.

As students complete these modules, they’re tracked and automatically graded based on criteria that you establish.

In a nutshell, Business&ITCenter21 is more than just soft skills training — it’s a full-bodied system that’ll help you and your students succeed.

To see what AES has to offer, download a free professionalism lesson plan from within the curriculum.

This lesson helps you introduce students to the characteristics of professionalism and helps them understand how being unprofessional can impact their careers.

Click below to get your free professionalism lesson now!

Get Your Free Professionalism Lesson Plan