Preparing middle and high school students to think about jobs, careers and their future requires more than having them fill out an interest survey or listening to guest speakers. It actually starts with learning about skills that will help young people prepare for life in college and the working world. These practical skills, together with lessons learned in the classroom, will give young people tools to be responsible, successful workers in whatever profession they choose.
This education is called work-based learning. Parents and guardians can help growing children become mature adults by understanding how important these skills are and by encouraging kids to take advantage of opportunities that will build these skills. Some of these opportunities may be offered through your child’s school, and they can help young people whether they decide to continue their education or enter the workforce immediately.
Gaining Skills that Attract Employers
When a person gets a job, they’ll use the reading, writing, math and other skills they’ve learned in the classroom. But employers also need their workers to have a range of other traits. Here are some of those skills and qualities, which students can acquire through work-based learning:
- Displaying mature professional behavior
- Being on time, and paying attention to details
- Being persistent in completing a task despite challenges
- Developing leadership skills and a sense of responsibility
- Solving problems
- Thinking creatively
- Building social networks
- Reading and comprehending academic and technical materials
- Applying mathematical concepts to perform expected tasks
- Demonstrating technical skills for a specific industry
- Working alone to accomplish a task
- Working as part of a team to accomplish a task
- Displaying reliability and integrity
- Being respectful of cultural differences
- Adapting to different roles and responsibilities when needed
- Setting goals and priorities for managing time and projects
For more information on the benefits of work-based learning, click here for the Work-Based Learning Employability Skills Checklist provided by the Tennessee Department of Education (DOE).
Work-Based Learning Opportunities
In high school, and even starting in middle school, students should consider options for developing their “employability skills.” In their junior and senior years, there are hands-on opportunities for students to consider that would enhance what they learn in school and help prepare them for future employment.
Here are just a few examples of the many work-based learning opportunities available in Tennessee schools. For a complete listing of these opportunities, see pages 9-13 in the Tennessee DOE’s Work-Based Learning Policy Guide.
Career mentoring. A student is matched with an adult professional in a chosen field who can provide insight and guidance about the job and the education it requires.
Informational interviewing. A student talks directly with an employer for 15 minutes to an hour, asking questions about career paths, required skills and more. In the process, the student also gets experience in practicing interview skills.
Job shadowing. A student observes the workday of a professional, attending meetings and interacting with clients and customers.
Industry-driven project-based learning. These are complex, multi-week projects in classrooms where students get technical input from a professional to ensure the project meets industry standards.
Internships. A student is allowed to work for an employer for a period of time to learn about a particular job or occupation. These opportunities are defined by federal labor laws.
Service learning. These opportunities combine community service with a structured school setting. Students gain skills and knowledge and learn civic responsibility, and the community gets help with a need.
Paid-work experience. This is one of the most common forms of work-based learning experiences. Students can earn a paycheck while earning high-school credit and can coordinate their work with their studies.
Read about the state of Tennessee’s vision and strategy for strengthening work-based learning.
Children need to develop employability skills from grades K-12. For more information, see pages 2-8 in the Tennessee DOE’s Work-Based Learning Policy Guide.
Read more about three roads your child can take after high school, with tips on how to make the most of each option.
Learn ways you can help your child build independent living skills.
The Drive to 55 is Gov. Bill Haslam’s initiative to increase the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary degree or credential to 55 percent by the year 2025.Click here to read about funding and support options available to students.