Developing Training Programs

Employability / Life Skills Training

Employability skills are “a group of essential abilities that involve the development of a knowledge base, expertise level, and mindset that is increasingly necessary for success in the modern workplace. Employability skills are typically considered essential qualifications for many job positions and hence have become necessary for an individual’s employment success at just about any level within a business environment.” Source: BusinessDictionary.com

Employability skills are sometimes also referred to as life skills or soft skills.

Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS)

In 1990, the Secretary of Labor appointed a commission to determine the skills young people need to succeed in the world of work. The commission’s fundamental purpose was to encourage a high-performance economy characterized by high-skill, high-wage employment. Although the commission completed its work in 1992, its findings and recommendations continue to be a current source of valuable information for individuals and organizations involved in education and workforce development.

The Department of Labor’s (DOL) website includes several online documents about SCANS. One of the documents, Workplace Essential Skills: Resources Related to the SCANS Competencies and Foundation Skills, is a comprehensive report on necessary workplace skills. The report was developed by ACT, Inc. under the direction of the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration, and the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. It provides the results of a comparison of the workplace basic skills defined by SCANS with skills frameworks developed by a variety of national and international organizations. The comparison found a great degree of commonality in the skill definitions, yielding a comprehensive common language for the discussion and examination of workplace basic skills. The report is intended to serve as a guide for human resources personnel, trainers, educators, and researchers who are interested in workplace basic skills training.

The research also expanded the usefulness of the skill definitions by developing behaviorally-anchored scales for each skill. These scales can serve as a common standard and reference point for workers, employers, trainers, educators, and program administrators as they consider several work-related activities.

  1. Identify the skills and skill levels required for employment.
  2. Estimate the skill levels of current or future workers.
  3. Identify the skill development that will help match workers to job requirements.
  4. Describe individual skills as part of a job transition process.
  5. Identify valid assessments for measuring workplace readiness.
  6. Use a hierarchical taxonomy of skills for easing the development of individual training plans and for preparing and developing employment training programs.

The Employability Skills Framework is a resource for information and tools to inform the instruction and assessment of employability skills. Featured resources include:

  • Source matrix that compares the employability skills identified by a sample of national and state standards and assessments.
  • Crosswalk that relates the Employability Skills Frameworks to academic and technical skill standards with the Common Core State Standards and the Common Career Technical Core.
  • Time for the U.S. to Reskill?, released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), details the literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving skills of U.S. adults in comparison to adults in other countries.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has developed the Wisconsin’s Employability Skills Certificate: Implementation Guide. The Employability Skills Certificate Program is designed to address the skills and behaviors that are critical in the 21st century.

In the report, Best Practices for Job Training Programs in Brownfields Redevelopment Initiatives, the EPA-funded Brownfields Job Development and Training pilot grantees identified the following as best practices in employability skills (#7 in the ten most critical components list).

  • Teach participants how to complete a job application.
  • Assist participants in completing a resume and stress the importance of keeping it current.
  • Conduct mock job interviews to develop skills.
  • Stress the importance of attendance and punctuality, and track attendance.
  • Develop specific plans to help participants improve skills and work ethic.
  • Add attendance sheets to portfolio.
  • Develop list of references during training experience.
  • Provide general life survival skills.
  • Stress manners, how to dress, and etiquette.
  • Negotiate ways to clear or pay past traffic fines and other fines and civic responsibility.
  • Improve communication skills; for example, ask student to explain why he or she should be hired.
  • Reinforce that a positive internship establishes a solid foundation for future employment.
  • Provide business structure as part of the program.
  • Incorporate civic responsibility into program.
  • Stress drug testing in the program.
  • Provide an understanding of liability for employer.
  • Incorporate conflict management skills into program.
  • Send participant to multiple interviews to get practice and improve interview skills.
  • Videotape interviews to provide feedback.

Program Components