Employability Skills Framework


Innovative Examples

Educators across the country are using innovative approaches to teaching and assessing employability skills. The profiles below represent a small sample of examples from state, local,
and employer-led initiatives.

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American Association of Community Colleges’ (AACC) 21st Century Initiative

Preparing community college students for further education and work
The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) understands the critical role that community colleges play in preparing students for work. As part of its 21st Century Initiative, AACC identified "closing America’s skill gap" as an essential goal and an area where major transformation at the college level is needed. Strategies for achieving this transformation include supporting career pathways, offering stackable credentials, and aligning curricula with labor market needs. All of these approaches offer students opportunities to attain the necessary academic, technical, and employability skills to succeed in the workplace. In particular, AACC encourages colleges to incorporate work-based scenarios and technology into instruction and offers tools and resources to support the 21st Century Initiative, including profiles of innovative college practices. Relevant examples include a program for teaching job skills to foster youth, partnerships with industry to provide real-world training, and developing STEM-focused pathways.


Arizona Skills Assessment System

Aligning employability skills standards and assessments
Driven by business and industry needs, career and technical education (CTE) in Arizona has developed multiple assessments to determine students’ career readiness. The Arizona Skills Assessment System contains both technical assessments for specific industries and a set of rubrics aligned with the state’s nine workplace employability skills standards. Employers played a critical role in articulating their employability skills needs and contributing to the development of the standards and rubrics. The Workplace Employability Skills Rubrics provide a description of each skill at various levels, ranging from novice to expert. To support implementation of the standards and rubrics, the state’s CTE department has developed a set of resources that include self-assessments for students and schools, sample lesson plans, and marketing materials.


Arkansas Workforce Alliance for Growth in the Economy

Certifying skills required by employers
Employers in Arkansas receive a clear and consistent signal from prospective and current employees about their readiness for work. This signal comes in the form of an employability certificate, developed and administered by the state's Workforce Alliance for Growth in the Economy (WAGE) program within the adult education agency. The employability certificate is one of three certificates (in addition to industrial and clerical) that WAGE participants can earn. Certificates are based on minimum requirements set by the state and input from local employers gathered through literacy task analyses of business procedures.

The effectiveness of the WAGE program is largely due to the buy-in of local employers, especially because they are willing to help identify the basic and employability skills needed for on-the-job success. Some employers even provide incentives to encourage employees to complete a WAGE certificate, including sign-on bonuses, increased hourly rates, release time for classes, and requiring it as a pre-requisite for enrollment in further workplace training. Research from the state indicates that WAGE certificate holders earn an average of 17.8 percent higher wages than noncertificate holders.


Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSO)

Putting employability skills into action
Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSO) provide students the opportunity to apply practical employability skills learned in the career technical education (CTE) classroom to student activities. This may take the form of skill competitions, leadership roles, and other learning experiences outside of the classroom, such as community service projects. SkillsUSA is a membership organization that provides instructional resources and support for local CTSO chapters of middle school, high school, and postsecondary CTE students across the country. SkillsUSA supports a three-tiered approach to implementing employability skills: by providing workforce training curriculum and resources; sponsoring activities and competitions that allow members to showcase skills; and developing workforce assessments that provide feedback on skill attainment.

Click here to listen to a webinar presentation from SkillsUSA on its employability skills resources [link pending].


Center for Energy Workforce Development's WISE Program

Offering employability skills training to connect women with careers in energy and construction
The Center for Energy Workforce Development piloted the Women in Sustainability Employment (WISE) Pathways program in Washington, DC, bringing together employers, a community college, and community-based organizations to help female job-seekers enter careers in the energy and construction fields. The 40-hour WISE curriculum combines career exploration with employability skill development taught by career coaches and representatives from partner organizations. For example, local employers, including two utility and two construction companies, delivered training modules to participants who learned about the industry sectors, practiced writing resumes and interviewing, and prepared for the National Career Readiness Certificate. Modules focused on key employability skills, such as team work, work habits, and conflict management. CEWD is currently replicating the program in other locations.

IBM’s Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) Model

Employer partnerships to support STEM education and employability skills
The IBM Corporation has a long history of supporting educational initiatives at all levels—as part of its corporate citizenship mission and to strengthen the company’s pipeline of qualified leaders, workers, and customers. In September 2011, IBM partnered with the New York City Department of Education, the City University of New York, and the New York City College of Technology to open the Pathways to Technology Early College High School (P-TECH). Since then, the P-TECH model has been replicated in Chicago, Connecticut, and throughout New York State for a total of 37 schools, with plans for continued expansion. Students at P-TECH can earn both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree in a STEM field at no cost, and graduates are prepared for careers in the IT field and/or ongoing study in a four-year postsecondary institution. Key tenets of the model include employer-education partnerships, college and career readiness curricula, and individual pathways for students. IBM plays a major role in supporting P-TECH students by informing curriculum development to align with job requirements, serving as mentors for students, providing workplace experiences and internships, and prioritizing the hiring of P-TECH graduates.


Kentucky's National Career Readiness Certificate

Teaching employability skills through statewide initiatives
To prove their readiness for work, prospective employees in Kentucky can earn a state-approved employability certificate signed by both the governor and the president of the state chamber of commerce. State administrators selected the Kentucky National Career Readiness Certificate because it is recognized nationally and by a variety of employers. Currently, employability skills are taught by the state’s community and technical colleges in contextualized adult basic skill training programs through Kentucky’s participation in the Accelerating Opportunity initiative. Accelerating Opportunity, a national project, provides technical assistance and resources to support state implementation of an integrated training model that helps low-skill adults improve their academic and technical skills and accelerate their progress along a career pathway.


MHA Labs’ 21st Century Skill Building Blocks

Tools for implementing and assessing employability skills instruction
With funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, MHA Labs has transformed initial work created by the Chicago Public Schools to assess students’ employability skills into a portfolio of resources to support the instruction and assessment of these skills. In doing so, MHA Labs engaged with a variety of partners and stakeholders, including employers, students and parents, teachers, counselors and advisors, workforce developers, after-school program staff, and others. Resources are based on a framework that identifies 21st Century "building blocks," which include personal mindset, planning for success, social awareness, verbal communication, collaboration, and problem solving. Tools include instructional planning worksheets, assessment rubrics, training materials, and more.


North Carolina Community College System’s Toolkit for Teachers

Creating instructional resources to address employers’ needs
In 2012, the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS) embarked on an improvement process for its career technical education (CTE) classes and quickly learned that technical skills were not the biggest challenge for student success in the labor market—employability skills were. Therefore, NCCCS shifted focus to helping faculty reinforce employability skills development in students. It did this by reaching out to approximately 1,000 local employers and reviewing state, national, and international research on the need for employability skills in the workplace. Through this process, NCCCS identified eight employability competencies to be integrated into postsecondary CTE curriculum and, in partnership with the Center for Occupational Research and Development, created instructional modules for each competency. Modules include presentation materials, lecture and classroom notes, classroom activities, assessment rubrics, and links to relevant video and web materials.


Oregon's National Career Readiness Certificate

Integrating employability skills into statewide career pathways
The Oregon Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development (CCWD) and its partners selected the National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) to be offered as part of the state’s adult career pathways program. In preparation for the NCRC, adult education students receive contextualized basic and employability skills instruction in high-growth, high-demand industries at community colleges throughout the state and career counseling, as well as guidance from coaches at local WorkSource Oregon centers (Oregon’s coordinated workforce service centers). Adults also can take an employability skills appraisal test at WorkSource Oregon centers to determine their readiness to pass the NCRC and access center resources, including an online commercial curriculum, to help improve their employability skills.


Western Technical College's PROVEN Certificate

Integrating employability skills into reentry education
Western Technical College (WTC), located in La Crosse, Wisconsin, plays a central role in connecting education services offered in the local jail with on-campus programs, helping individuals enroll in education and training following their release. With grant funding from the U.S. Department of Education, WTC created the Positive Reentry Offered Through Vocation- and Education-Focused Narratives (PROVEN) certificate program. The PROVEN program offers 16 hours of instruction focused on career-exploration and employability skills to prepare participants for immediate employment opportunities and entry into a career pathway program at WTC. Classes are held weekly at the jail and on campus. As part of the PROVEN curriculum, WTC created the Student Employability Handbook, a series of worksheets and interactive activities, that compiles job search resources and outlines the skills needed for success at the workplace. Topics include exploring careers, finding a job, and keeping a job, with a focus on conflict resolution and effective communication skills. Using the handbook, PROVEN participants can prepare resumes and cover letters, assess their own employability skills, and create action plans. Ultimately, WTC hopes that the PROVEN program will help participants improve their skills and confidence levels, familiarize themselves with the college campus, and get a job.