7 ideas to prepare students to be work ready
How well-prepared for employment did you feel when leaving education? The majority of courses within Further Education provide learners with vocational pathways, which means that learners expect to leave equipped to deal with at least the initial demands of the workplace. In addition to the specific skills and knowledge required their first employer will have their own expectations in terms of behaviour, and qualities which their employees need. These might include: communication skills; team-working; confidence; organisation skills; use of IT; physical fitness; being able to problem solve and a "can-do attitude". Here are 7 practical ideas to support learners into work, provided by teachers across a range of subject areas:
- Insist on high standards of punctuality, presentation and attendance from the start of the course. Offer incentives and enforce sanctions. You do not have to stop a lesson to address lateness, but always address it at the end. Mark the register promptly, showing your professionalism so that the learners learn from you as well
- You yourself are a fantastic role model for learners. Demonstrate and highlight the professional industry standards and all legislation relevant to your specialist area, e.g. Health and Safety, Equality and Diversity, Data Protection etc during all sessions. Share your own industry experience and career history with learners, as this can be a powerful motivator for them.
- Look for opportunities to provide work experience. Many courses include a work placement, but if yours doesn't, then look around for local volunteering opportunities. This is a great way to forge community links, as well as boosting learners' self-esteem and getting some positive publicity for your college.
- If you are working in a simulated environment, such as a salon, kitchen or workshop, try to make this as professional as possible. You could arrange an exchange visit with another local college, e.g. where learners have a meal in a training restaurant, or have a treatment in a salon in order to develop networking skills and to raise awareness of client experience.
- It's a cliché, but employers value strong maths and English skills hugely. Learners may attend separate lessons for these subjects, but it's important to develop these within your specialist area too. http://www.skillsworkshop.org/ has a range of contextualised resources and these two reasonably priced books are also a good place to start: Embedding English and Maths by Terry Sharrock and English and Maths in your Pocket by Dan Williams
- Forge links with employers and existing employees in industry, inviting them in to speak to your learners. This will ensure you yourself are kept current as well. Video conferencing can be useful if these contacts are busy, or located far away. Some subject areas may have a formal process for this, e.g. one Public Services teacher described how: "Each year we carry out a sector focus meeting involving all figure heads within the public services that are located in our area. We discuss our current teaching subjects and any changes that are happening to employment in the Public Services. This enables us to prepare our learner both physically and mentally for their chosen careers."
- Previous students can also provide accessible role models for your learners to meet and interrogate. A "wall of fame" can provide learners with ideas and increase aspirations towards their chosen career.
It's never too soon to start developing workplace habits and skills with your learners. The FE sector is extremely well-equipped to do this, so take whatever opportunities you can to enhance this aspect of your teaching. As a teacher, there is nothing more rewarding than hearing from an ex-student who has successfully gained employment in their chosen field.