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Career Readiness

What Is Career Readiness and How Do You Teach It?

June 27th, 2022 | 8 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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Career readiness is the process of preparing students with the skills they need to find, acquire, maintain, and grow within a job.

Have you just been asked to teach "career readiness"? Are you struggling to figure out what that actually means, let alone how to teach it?

You're not alone. Every state has different standards for what career readiness should include and there is often a fuzzy line between career readiness skills and 21st Century skills. This all adds up to make career readiness a complex educational topic to grasp.

So how can you approach such a challenging subject in your classes?

On this page, you'll learn what career readiness is, why it’s important, what’s going on with state standards, and how you can teach it. 

Let’s start with the basics — how do you define career readiness?

The Definition of Career Readiness


Career readiness focuses on preparing students with the information they need to succeed when they’re entering the job market.

Career readiness skills can apply to any job at any company and at any level. Even a student’s first job as a grocery store cashier incorporates career readiness principles, just like their career choices in adulthood. 

In that respect, career readiness covers just about everything that has to do with someone entering the job market.

It includes career exploration because students have to know what jobs are good matches for them in the future. It includes professionalism because students need to know the behavioral expectations of a workplace versus their social group.

Career development, personal financial literacy, digital citizenship — they all play into career readiness to create a well-informed, well-rounded student who’s ready for the workforce!

This is just a sampling of the different topics that career readiness covers, but the point still stands.

Career readiness encompasses everything that a student needs to know to launch a successful occupational life, along with all of the accomplishment, pride, stability, and progression that entails.

Sometimes that refers to soft skills. Other times, it means learning a hard-and-fast way to perform a certain process.

But at the end of the day, career readiness promises exactly what’s in its name - helping students become career ready!

Why Does Career Readiness Matter?


Career readiness is important because it focuses on teaching the skills students need to succeed in real-world jobs.

This may sound like a no-brainer to anyone with a strong intuition for professionalism or entrepreneurship. But as traditional education has changed over time, its focus has shifted away from skills and more toward theory.

This has led to a strange problem in modern high school and college graduates — the “skills gap.” The skills gap is the disparity between the knowledge that companies want from job applicants and what those job applicants actually know.

In other words, companies aren’t interested in teaching new employees all of the skills they need to succeed via on-the-job experience.

However, many schools aren’t currently teaching those skills to their students before they graduate. The result is this strange difference in what business owners want and what recent graduates offer.

Career readiness closes this gap. It takes those skills that yesteryear’s companies taught to their new hires and it teaches the skills to students in the classroom.

Career readiness goes beyond the classroom, too. It includes apprenticeships, internships, externships, co-ops, and more. This also works side-by-side with students who may have part-time jobs in high school and / or post-secondary education.

So while students get their first experiences in the workforce, they learn the skills that will let them take their careers further than a part-time gig.

In that context, career readiness prepares students with the skills they need to live the lives they want to pursue. It closes the skills gap, it makes students ready for the workforce, and it gives them actionable information to use in their careers.

That makes career readiness one of the most important topics students can learn! It’s also why so many states — and even the federal Department of Education — are establishing their own standards for career readiness education.

What’s Happening with Career Readiness Standards?

Career readiness has become such a major subject that the federal government has set common core standards for it. In addition, states have standards to teach as well. Many state standards overlap, but no two states have the exact same career readiness standards.

On top of that, different states may require that career readiness be taught in different grades, sometimes starting as early as elementary school!

So how can you figure out what your standards are? More importantly, how can you comply with them?

Your administrator is your best resource when it comes to figuring out your standards. Admins often have quick access to state requirements for every class they oversee. With that in mind, it should only take a couple emails to figure out which requirements you need to fulfill to create a successful career readiness class.

But what if your administrator is unavailable? Or what do you do in the unlikely event that your administrator doesn’t know what standards you have to meet?

That’s when you can reach out to colleagues who currently teach career readiness or have taught it in the past. These colleagues can point you in the right direction, and if they can’t help, they may know someone who can! After all, if they did it once, you can do it now!

But what if you don’t have any colleagues in your school? This is a common issue in smaller schools where career readiness may only require one teacher for a few dozen (or hundred) students.

In that case, you can start reaching out to Internet resources — especially online communities!  These communities typically have teachers from all different subjects sharing ideas, practices, and strategies to get the most out of their time with students.

With administrators, colleagues, and online communities at your disposal, you should have no problem getting the career readiness standards for your state!

So now you have your standards. The hard part is over. Now the fun part begins!

How Do You Teach Career Readiness?


Depending on your state and school, you can do a lot of different things with career readiness curriculum that’s compliant with state and federal standards.

You can always do the obvious teaching strategies that have worked so well for so long — lecturing, group work, cooperative learning, etc. The Internet is packed with free and low-cost resources that you can pick up at any time.

A great place to find these resources is Teachers Pay Teachers (TpT). Teachers Pay Teachers functions as part community and part shop for lessons, documents, and other resources that you can use for students.

These resources are almost always digital, and they come from other teachers who have invented the use of the materials and their corresponding strategies.

With all of that in mind, TpT is the ideal place for you to find affordable, tried-and-tested classroom resources for career readiness!

In addition, you can always reach out to members of your community for career readiness opportunities.

Can a local CEO find some time during the day to talk to your students about her experience in business? Is there a career and technical center (CTC) instructor who could show students around his school for an afternoon?

Best of all, are there any companies that would be willing to offer internship opportunities to your students?

Where Do You Start with Career Readiness?


In this article, you learned about career readiness and why it’s important in helping students explore, understand, and prepare for future opportunities. But where is the best place to start when teaching career readiness?

Once you understand your career readiness standards, the next step is to find a curriculum that meets your standards and sets learners up for success.

You can put together a curriculum yourself, using career readiness lesson plans and activities you find online.

But if you want to give your students a comprehensive curriculum that teaches career readiness along with other skills like professionalism and teambuilding, consider AES. The AES curriculum system includes everything you need to teach career readiness, along with lesson plans and automatically grading features that save you time.

Wondering if this career readiness curriculum would be a good fit for you? Watch the demo video to find out:

Watch Your Demo