Teacher Guide for Preparing Workers for 21st Century Employment
This guide was funded by the Michigan Department of Labor & Economic Growth after focus groups were held with Michigan business leaders at five locations in 2006. The purpose of the focus groups was to determine the expectations of workers in the Michigan business community. Interviews were conducted with business leaders not able to attend the focus groups. The questions that were used were based on the National Work Readiness Credential (NWRC). “Soft skills” are the reading topics in this project because that is the area reported lacking in most new hires. These topics were then used to build this curriculum to target adult education students reading at a 4th to 6th grade level. This curriculum will address the topics of reading and situational judgment; two of the four parts of the NWRC assessment. In addition to improving fluency, the stated goal of the project is to provide students with practice reading material that will also help them understand workplace expectations. This curriculum can also be used with Intermediate ESL students.
The resource is the teacher’s guide for an adult education project of the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth that offers training to accompany the National Workforce Readiness Credential (NWRC). (Equipped for the Future competencies, developed by the National Institute for Literacy, are listed at the beginning of each section.) As the guide states (page 2), “the goal for this project is to provide our students with practice reading material that would at the same time help them understand and internalize workplace expectations.” Although the resource presents many creative classroom activities, the student materials are not provided in the resource.
In response to focus groups and interviews of employers, the authors determined the greatest need among job applicants is employability skills. Each section includes quotes from employers about what it takes to be successful in a job. The curriculum in this project, therefore, addresses two of those NWRC assessment topics, Reading and Situational Judgment, using the content of employability skills. Reading instruction, for example, incorporates the reading tasks identified for the National Work Readiness Credential, but it also reflects the “soft skills” deemed critical by Michigan employers.
There are forty- two reading selections that are based on the NWRC profile. The readings are not sequential and can stand alone. Reading instruction is focused on fluency, comprehension, and reading vocabulary for students functioning at reading levels between 4th and 6th grade, including both native and non-native speakers. The section on fluency is especially interesting since it details specific strategies that may be used to develop that reading skill area. Reading skill development, especially fluency, is one measurable outcome of the NWRC. This is an area of teaching reading that is often not addressed in many adult education programs. The reason that this program focuses on fluency is because fluent readers have solid word recognition skills and understand what they read. The second benefit of these readings is a more thorough understanding of employer expectations.
The other set of NWRC skills that are taught in the curriculum, Situational Judgment, emphasizes that decisions have consequences. Given a difficult situation students are asked to identify what are the best and worst ways to proceed, teaching them to think through the consequences of their actions.
The resource is informative for adult educators who are incorporating work readiness into their curriculum. It touches upon the need to teach employability skills to un- and under-employed adults while teaching content subjects. Since students need to read about something while improving reading skills, it make sense for them to read about work-related subjects that will benefit the development of their “soft” or employability skills.