Volume 32, No. 5: Conference Session Highlights

Blend Intangible Employability Skills into Current Technical Programs

Darren Morris, Instructional Designer, CTECS (Career and Technical Education Consortium of States), Decatur, GA

The Career and Technical Education Consortium of States (CTECS) offers a full credential package backed by our nationally recognized, and research-based workplace readiness skills curriculum, assessment, and digital badge. Forward-thinking organizations, such as NCPN and ACTE, have been our main channel for bringing awareness of this solution to CTE classrooms, and we hope to further diversify our reach and the student populations we serve in the coming months.

The author’s presentation at NCPN CONNECT 2022 in Atlanta covered teaching techniques for Workplace Readiness Skills (WRS), which are anything but “soft.” They are those intangible, durable skills that employers are desperately clamoring for in the emerging workforce, and which still seem to be lacking, even though everyone values them. In fact, employers have told us for too long that employees are hired for their technical skills but fired for their lack of workplace readiness skills. The biggest challenge seems to be getting teachers to dedicate more time to teaching the WRS side-by-side with their current technical skills or academic programs. With teaching time in mind, we lay out our WRS assessment and curriculum grid to parallel those 22 research-based skills and then offer short, practical activities with ice breakers, pre-activity and post-activity questions or quizzes, definitions, terminology and vocabulary exercises, and differentiation to raise student awareness in short bursts that rely on the context of their programs.

In 2011, CTECS developed our Workplace Readiness Skills Assessment© for charter member Virginia. The test has evolved and grown in popularity, and its success spread to other member states, specifically to Nevada and Idaho. Now we are in parts of Maine, Oregon, and California. States have since tied successful tests to graduation requirements, completer status, and seals on diplomas. Virginia recognizes a successful WRS test to be an equivalent industry credential, helping to satisfy a governor’s initiative to ensure that all CTE students are completers and aware of employer behavioral expectations. We test around 200,000 students annually right inside their CTE classrooms and continue expansion after revalidation of the original standards and successful development of instructional resources. We added a digital badge piece in 2015 to raise employer connections and added our online curriculum component in 2022.

Components of the CTECS Workplace Readiness Skills credential package include:

  • Level 2 WRS Curriculum (taught within the context of your programs)
  • WRS Pre-Test (online for each student, sets a baseline, easy reporting targets instruction)
  • WRS Post-Test (100 questions online, passing score of 75%, accommodations and retakes available)
  • WRS Digital Badge (recognition by employers as fundamental to employment)

The Level 2 Workplace Readiness Skills curriculum project has given CTECS the ability to be versatile and operate at the local level, regardless of statewide adoption of the WRS assessment or state membership in our consortium.  For those of you who are prospecting for solutions with quick, data-driven results, administer our WRS Pre-Test first to set a baseline and then teach our Level 2 curriculum throughout the year. Near the end of the instructional year, administer the WRS Post-Test to see how far students have come and have students claim their WRS Digital Badges and share out with employers and postsecondary opportunities to prove their skills.

Features of the Level 2 WRS Curriculum (online) include:

  • Employer-driven behavioral expectations
  • 22 skill learning areas
  • Complements your programs
  • Scaffolding and easy step-by-step instruction
  • Worksheets, handouts, additional resource links
  • Vocabulary exercises
  • Linked to the CTECS Workplace Readiness Skills and the California Career Ready credential packages (high school)
  • Prepares students for the next step
  • Prepares students to pass the WRS Test and earn a meaningful, proven, employer-recognized credential for a career-ready student
  • Students learn who they are, how to set goals, and how to overcome barriers to success in their future careers.

In addition, CTECS offers a Level 1: Career Interest Development curriculum (online). Problem-based learning activities allow students to apply social-emotional learning fundamentals as they begin to explore career possibilities and transition into high school. Perfect for Grades 8 and 9, this offers the crucial foundation that students will build upon throughout their professions and lives. An adult education curriculum is also in the works.

The CTECS Workplace Readiness Skills Credential package stands out from the competition. Key features include:

  • Offers an employer-recognized credential, great for schools interested in increasing the amount of earned credentials within their student populations
  • Is measurable and program-improvement focused
  • Prepares students for the next step, work or postsecondary education
  • Boasts a proven track record
  • Offers dedicated support
  • Tests and curriculum are easy to administer and affordable.

Please reach out to us:
Contact CTECS
CTECS WRS Presentation at NCPN CONNECT 2022
Level 2 WRS Curriculum landing page