What Matters: Teaching the Skills that Make Students Employable

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What are the skills that make students employable? Most would agree that a student who wants a career in journalism must be able to write, or a student who wants to pursue a degree in finance should know their way around a spread sheet. But is this all our students need to know in order to be employable? Certainly not. Employers are looking for employees with “hard knowledge skills (and) soft employability skills” (Massoud, 2012, pg. 4). Employers are looking for graduates who can communicate effectively both verbally and in writing and can think critically and analytically. Think back to when you interviewed for a job. What soft skills did you use? Have you served on a hiring committee? If so, you probably can list the soft skills the committee was looking for in candidates: adaptability, leadership potential, probably also social skills. So how can we teach the skills that make students employable?

In her November 2012 Teaching Professor article, LindaLee Massoud, who teaches computer programming at Mott Community College, describes how she helps her students develop their collaboration and team-work skills.

  • Early in the semester her students conduct a self-analysis of their personal communication style and discuss how their style will help and hinder the success of course group assignments.
  • Students are put into groups of four or five, with rotating team leader duties so that each member can take the leadership role.
  • The team leaders receive weekly mini-assignments from Massoud with instructions to distribute the assignment to their team members. These mini-assignments include basic people skills such as how to properly introduce yourself and someone else, how to shake hands, etc. The team leader is responsible to implement the mini-assignment with their team and complete a project process document that is forwarded to the next team leader.
  • Students give group presentations, complete group evaluations, and write a reflective paper evaluating their personal contributions to the group project.

How do you help your students develop the skills that will make them employable? Modeling those skills yourself is a great way to start. Here’s another idea: invite a professional from your field to be a guest speaker in your class and have a whole-class conversation about the hard- and soft skills (s)he considers most critical to successful employment.

References

Massoud, L. (2012, November). Teaching the Skills that make Students Employable. The Teaching Professor, 4.

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