The Most Important Career Skills Your Students Will Ever Learn
By Patrick Keeney, Career Education Director, McGraw Hill
We tend to help students prepare for their first job, occupation, or career. The tapestry of life includes many tasks, types of work, specialties, and areas of expertise. We prepare students to climb a mountain. Yet often, we overlook that their journey is like that along a mountain range. What changes can we make immediately to help? The overwhelming emphasis of education is on technical skills. Students rarely become adept at essential, transferable skills.
Instead, what if a curriculum balanced skills that were both technical and essential?
First, let’s get the terms straight. “Soft skills” are also known as “essential skills,” “professional skills,” or “employability skills.” These skills apply directly to success in the workplace. Think of skills that range from showing up to work on time to leading a small team.
A 2017 article published by the National Bureau of Economic Research emphasizes the importance of these skills. It sheds light on how employers covet job candidates and employees who exhibit strong, non-technical skills. It shows that the greatest wage increases across time from 1980–2012 have gone to those with high social or soft skill ability. Technical skills, like math ability, have negligible effects on wages in comparison!
An outstanding way to infuse soft skills into your college and technical education (CTE) program is by involving students in organizations like SkillsUSA, the Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA), or Future Farmers of America (FFA). One aspect of these programs is community service projects where students use professional and technical skills to solve a social or technical problem. The experience gives students a chance to practice employability skills and use the technical skills they learned in the classroom.
As we develop and revamp our CTE catalog we want to help students master important soft skills collaboration, timeliness, problem-solving, and appropriate communication. One way we’re doing this is the inclusion of a bank of over 1,000 practice and assessment exercises that address reading for information, reading charts, and basic math. We couch these exercises in authentic situations that are related to specific careers. We want to contextualize learning in real-world settings to provide as many instances as possible for you to help your students become lifelong learners and chart their unique path to success.
Patrick (Pat) Keeney has spent almost four decades impacting education. Pat began his career as a science and math teacher, later becoming a NASA consultant where he supported the ACE, Suzaku, and GOES missions. He then worked at K12 Inc (now Stride) where he led teams that built innovative products ranging from next-generation virtual labs to algorithmically driven math games. While there he was largely responsible for the design and launch of the Destinations Career Academies, a brand of online career academies that served 30,000 students after only 5 years! Pat has been with McGraw Hill for almost a year and has been focused on making our career education products that have a profound impact on the workforce of tomorrow. He is passionate about supporting career education teachers, especially those that are very new to the field. Pat has been featured on numerous podcasts and has presented at several industry conferences over the years.
Pat enjoys online games in his spare time and has even been a guild leader for one of the largest guilds in Elder Scrolls Online. He lives in Florida with his wife and son.
Learn more about our CTE programs
CTE Programs for High School Students | McGraw Hill
Give students the fundamental knowledge and skills they need to plan for college and career success with our immersive…