In my previous post, “the Problem with Employability Skills in Career Education”, I explained why I’m dissatisfied with the way students are introduced to the concept of employability skills. In this post, I’ll share an engaging and effective lesson plan that I have used to help students understand the importance of employability skills in the context of their own professional field.
I created this lesson as part of Career Passport, a three-stage career education program that I developed for RMIT Vietnam, and have continued to use the basic idea at La Trobe University. Rather than share the step-by-step lesson plan, I’ll describe the key activities and principles in broad detail, to allow you to adapt the lesson to your own context and the needs of your students. This lesson is easily adapted for face-to-face, blended, or online delivery.
Stage one: warming up and activating key vocabulary
Learning outcome: students activate their prior knowledge of employability skills
Ask the students to form groups and together list as many universal employability skills as possible. This can either be a recall exercise, if they’ve been provided with a list of employability skills already, or a prediction exercise if they haven’t. In a classroom, they can record their answers on paper or on the whiteboard. Online, they can edit wikis or list their answers in a discussion board.
Stage two: the set up
Learning outcome: students recognise the importance of context in employability skills
Display a mock resume which simply lists skills with little or no context.
Ask the students how effectively they think the resume demonstrates the capabilities of the candidate. Give them plenty of time to debate and discuss and perhaps poll their opinions to see if there’s a consensus or if they disagree.
Some students will recognise the weakness of the resume. Others may think it’s fine. That’s good for us as the teacher, because we can capture their attention when we tell them that actually, this resume is awful.
Elicit the reason why from the students by asking about the nature of the communication or teamwork skills and experience of this person. When students can’t answer, they’ll begin to understand the point. But to really drive the point home in a fun way, move on to stage three…
Stage three: the fun bit
Learning outcomes: students can deconstruct specific demonstrations of a skill, identifying key sub-skills and qualities
Tell the students that they’ll see a couple of videos of people using their communication skills in their workplace. Ask the students to take notes as they watch:
- what is their job title?
- what is their mission or purpose?
- what personal characteristics are important?
- what sub-skills are they using?
You can include any number of videos: cheesy telesales presenters, 911 operators, sports coaches… the more unique the better. My students especially love the drill sergeant and we have fun discussing how he would perform as a kindergarten teacher.
When the students review and compare their notes, they should be able to see clearly how important context and specificity is when it comes to talking about their employability skill.
Extension activity one: resume writing
Learning outcome: students can write a resume experience description with suitable context and clarity
Get the students to choose one of the videos and then, in groups, write a resume experience description for that person’s role. Help them find ways to quantify, qualify, and contextualise their descriptions and remind them to use a range of expressive action verbs. This would be a great time to teach students Google HR bigwig Laslo Block’s formula for expressing achievements.
Extension activity two: STARL structure for interviews or key selection criteria
Learning outcome: students can deliver an interview response using the STARL structure.
If your students are familiar with the STARL structure for behavioural interview responses, they could have fun practising in the role of the occupations from the video. I’ve had whole classes in stitches as we role play behavioural interviews for drill sergeants, used-car salesmen, or carnival touts.
Tell me how it goes
If you use this lesson, either as I describe it or in some inspired form of your own, I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment and tell me how it went for you and your students.