Transitioning to the World of Work
The majority of students participate in adult learning classes with a primary goal of getting a job or advancing in their current job. Does your classroom setting lend itself to workplace skills? Are you integrating "transferable" skills into your lesson planning? Are you equipping your students for the worker role?
Basic skills are central to our adult education classes. Reading, writing and math skills are the basis of all we do in our jobs. Many adult education programs incorporate basic job readiness skills such as job search, interviewing, preparing resumes and cover letters, and filling out work-related forms. What about "other" essential skills of the workplace?
Other essential skills include working as part of a team, problem solving, time management, goal setting/career decision-making skills, conflict resolution, other interpersonal skills and, of course, technology skills.
Adult education instructors can utilize existing frameworks to help identify workplace skills needed to enter, maintain, and advance in the world of work. For example, SCANS (Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills), EFF (Equipped for the Future), and the Workplace Readiness Skills incorporated in Florida's Adult General Education Curriculum Framework* all address the essential skills necessary to help adult learners make the transition into the worker role. These skills can be integrated into instruction to connect the classroom to the workplace.
Being a team member is vital to becoming a part of any organization. Getting along with a variety of people can be challenging and many times, quite difficult. It requires flexibility, respect, and openness to ideas and opinions of others.
- Suggested Activity: Survey students' needs to develop a class project. Students may volunteer for and/or be assigned a specific role for the project.
The ability to think creatively by making decisions, solving problems, reasoning, and cognitive learning.
- Suggested Activity: Have students identify a problem. Assist in taking steps to solve the problem.
When employed, there are many demands on one's time. Employers expect employees to organize their time to meet specific job duties and responsibilities. Prioritizing and planning are critical elements of time management.
- Suggested Activity: List tasks for the day along with allotted time for each task. Make sure the time limit is over the amount of time actually spent in class so that students can realistically prioritize tasks.
Goal Setting/Career Decision Making
Setting goals and objectives helps to balance work and personal life. Work related goals assist in career decision making, and advancing on the job. Willingness to assess personal and professional development goals leads to lifelong learning patterns necessary for success on and off the job.
- Suggested Activity: Using a goal setting instrument that includes a timeline, plot steps needed to achieve a particular goal.
Conflict is inevitable. Exhibiting self-control, responding to constructive criticism, and addressing a variety of values and opinions in an unemotional manner are critical to resolving conflict.
- Suggested Activity: Design a scenario or ask students for a real example from their experience and role-play the situation on the job.
Responsibility and positive work habits assist in building a work history. Characteristics include honesty, initiative, leadership, communication skills, listening skills, cooperation skills, dependability, reliability, and negotiating skills.
- Suggested Activity: Set a positive example for your students by modeling quality work habits and recognize students for exhibiting such traits.
We live in a technology-dependent world. Information management is key to workplace success. It would be a disservice not to provide technology skills along with academics. Providing computer access is no longer a luxury but a necessity; computer skills should be connected with academics and vice-versa.
- Suggested Activity: Use the Internet as a tool for finding information on academic as well as employment-related sites.
I have found that quality adult education instruction integrates transferable skills needed for the workplace. However, many times these skills are not readily identified or documented in portfolios. It is important to provide the adult learner with tangible evidence to help him/her obtain employment. It could be something as simple as a checklist of skills or a certificate of recognition.** This will help build both the learners' resume and their confidence. In over ten years experience teaching adult education, I have facilitated a variety of job readiness/employability classes, and have found that project-based instructional strategies lend themselves nicely to integrating essential workplace skills. [Refer to the July 1999 issue of Literacy Links for more information about Project-Based Learning by clicking on the above link. I have used different curricula and found two that truly integrate workplace skills. They are: Enter-Tech and Project Forward***.
The adult learner who is prepared for the transition into the world of work will have more opportunities for success in the workplace.
About the Author
Mary Helen Martinez currently serves as the adult education program director for Community Action, Inc., which serves Hays, Caldwell, and Blanco Counties. She has been in adult education for over ten years and has taught GED preparation, ESL, employability, and computer literacy classes. Mary Helen has served as an instructor and site coordinator at the Kyle Family Learning & Career Center and as coordinator and facilitator on the Professional Development for Teachers New to Adult Education special project. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Occupational Education with an emphasis in Business Education and currently attends graduate school at SWTSU in Developmental and Adult Education.
Burkhart, J. (I 996a). Developing workplace education curriculum. (Report No. CE-072-556). Washington, D.C.: ERIC Clearinghouse. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 399 434)
Conference Board of Canada. Employability Skills 2000+. http://www.conferenceboard.ca
Murphy, G. & Johnson, A. (1998). What Works: Integrating basic skills training into welfare-to-work. National Institute for Literacy. Washington, D.C.
Rudolph, Ph.D., E. E. (1995). What employers expect from employees. Bowling Green, KY: Southern School Media.
Stein, S. (2000). Equipped for the Future Content Standards: What adults need to know and be able to do in the 21st Century. National Institute for Literacy. Washington, D.C.
Texas Education Agency. (1996). Indicators of Program Quality. Adult Literacy in Texas: Definition of Program Implementation. Austin, TX
United States Department of Labor. (1991). What work requires of schools: A SCANS report for America 2000. Washington, D.C.
* The Adult General Education Curriculum Framework developed by the Florida Department of Education, Division of Workforce Development, is currently being piloted by several Texas adult education programs. That curriculum is available in hard copy free from the Adult Literacy Clearinghouse. [See "FREE - Yours For the Asking" .] For information on the curriculum pilot, contact staff at Texas Education Agency, Division of Adult and Community Education. [See "Your State Adult Education Office: The Latest News from Texas Education Agency Division of Adult and Community Education," in this issue.]
**The Adult Education Curriculum Checklists developed to accompany Florida's Adult General Education Curriculum Framework provide just such a set of checklists, including workplace skills, for use in student portfolios. The checklists are available free from the Clearinghouse. [See "FREE - Yours For the Asking".]
***For information on the Enter-Tech Project, see their Web site at: http://www.entertech.org/ or check out the TETN Video on the project from the Clearinghouse. For information on the Project FORWARD Curriculum, contact the Clearinghouse at 800-441-READ (7323) or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Categories of Transferable Skills
EFF Standards include four fundamental categories of skills that adults need to draw from to carry out the key activities that are central to their primary roles:
- Read With Understanding
- Convey Ideas in Writing
- Speak So Others Can Understand
- Listen Actively
- Observe Critically
- Solve Problems & Make Decisions
- Use Math to Solve Problems and Communicate
- Cooperate With Others
- Guide Others
- Advocate and Influence
- Resolve Conflict and Negotiate
Lifelong Learning Skills
- Take Responsibility for Learning
- Learn Through Research
- Reflect and Evaluate
- Use Information and Communications Technology
[Source: Equipped far the Future Content Standards, p. 17. For information about this publication, call the Adult Literacy Clearinghouse (800) 441-7323 or e-mail email@example.com