Employability Skills

Why Employability Skills? Successful careers are built on solid personal and interpersonal skills. Defining, measuring, and building these skills— even naming them— can be challenging. In an effort to leverage and connect the efforts of policy makers, educators, and employers, the U.S. Department of Education compiled the Employability Skills Framework and developed related tools, media and resources.

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The Employability Skills Framework is comprised of nine key skills, organized in three broad categories: Applied Knowledge, Effective Relationships, and Workplace Skills.Applied Knowledge Effective Relationships Workplace Skills
Applied knowledge is the thoughtful integration of academic knowledge and technical skills, put to practical use in the workplace.
Applied knowledge falls into two main areas:
Applied Academic Skills
Applied academic skills enable employees to put skills based on academic disciplines and learning— such as reading, writing, mathematical strategies and procedures, and scientific principles and procedures— to practical use in the workplace.
Critical Thinking Skills
Critical thinking skills enable employees to analyze, reason, solve problems, plan, organize, and make sound decisions in their work.
Developing effective relationships in the workplace requires a combination of interpersonal skills and personal qualities.
Interpersonal Skills
Interpersonal skills include the ability to collaborate as a member of a team or work independently, as appropriate; communicate effectively; maintain a positive attitude; and contribute to the overarching goals of the workplace.
Personal Qualities
Personal qualities that contribute to effective relationships include responsibility, self-discipline, flexibility, integrity, and initiative. Other essential qualities are a sense of professionalism and self-worth; willingness to learn; and acceptance of responsibility for one's own personal growth.
Workplace skills are the abilities employees need to successfully accomplish work tasks. Workplace skills include:
Resource Management
Resource management skills enable employees to successfully perform work tasks by managing time and other resources.
Information Use
Information use skills enable employees to successfully perform work tasks by understanding, evaluating, and using a variety of information.
Communication Skills
Communication skills enable employees to successfully perform work tasks by communicating effectively with others in multiple formats.
Systems Thinking
Systems thinking skills enable employees to successfully perform work tasks by understanding relationships among the components of a system.
Technology Use
Technology use skills enable employees to successfully perform work tasks by applying information technology appropriately and effectively.

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Employability Skills Lesson Components
Applied Academic Skills
Applied academic skills are evident daily in homework assignments, classwork, and Q&A exchanges during lessons.
Reading skills
Students apply/demonstrate reading skills by interpreting written instructions/project directions and constructing responses, using print and online materials as resources, completing worksheets, and seeking clarification about what they have read.
Writing skills
Students rely on writing skills to construct lab reports, posters, and presentation materials, take notes, and compose responses to essay questions.
Math strategies/procedures
Students use computational skills appropriately and make logical choices when analyzing and differentiating among available procedures. Outside of math class, this includes creating/interpreting tables and graphs and organizing/displaying data.
Scientific principles/procedures
Students follow procedures, experiment, infer, hypothesize (even as simple as "what if we do it this way"), and construct processes to complete a task (can occur outside of math/science classes).
Critical Thinking Skills
Critical thinking skills are evident in homework, group work, project-based tasks, and presentations.
Thinks creatively
Students create innovative and novel ideas/solutions and display divergent thinking. This can be seen in oral presentations and creative writing assignments, open-ended tasks, and project design.
Thinks critically
Students display analytical and strategic thinking. This can be seen in debating an issue, converging on an understanding, assessing a problem, and questioning (playing devil's advocate).
Makes sound decisions
Students differentiate between multiple approaches and assess options (could be linked to thinking critically).
Solves problems
Students assess problems involving the use of available resources (personnel and materials) and review multiple strategies for resolving problems (could be linked to thinking creatively).
Students negotiate pros/cons of ideas, approaches, and solutions and analyze options using "if-then" rationale.
Students plan steps, procedures, and/or approaches for addressing tasks. This occurs naturally in most assignments, ranging from solving one problem to completing a long-term project.
Interpersonal Skills
Interpersonal skills are almost always displayed when students work in pairs or teams to complete short-term or long-term tasks.
Understands teamwork and works with others
Students participate in cooperative groups or with a partner, contribute fairly to the task, and show respect to others.
Responds to customer needs
Students help fellow students understand tasks, find resources, and fulfill assigned roles (think of fellow students as customers).
Exercises leadership
Students participate as team leaders or effective team members in project assignments and organize work to meet project goals and team roles.
Negotiates to resolve conflict
Students keep team members on track, suggest altenatives, and discuss options (can be as much about agreement as conflict).
Respects individual differences
Students listen to and consider all team members' ideas, respond supportively to ideas given in class or in teams, and work well with all teammates.
Personal Qualities
Personal qualities are routinely displayed in students' everyday actions in the classroom — how they participate in lessons, communicate, contribute to the learning environment, treat their fellow students, and govern themselves.
Demonstrates responsibility and self-discipline
Students actively participate in class, asking questions, volunteering answers, completing/submitting assignments, and working well in groups.
Adapts and shows flexibility
Students adapt easily to different modes of instruction and different types of assignments.
Works independently
Students commit to time-on-task during class and begin work without fanfare.
Demonstrates a willingness to learn
Students are cooperative and noticeably engaged.
Demonstrates integrity
Students treat work assignments with respect in that work is either original or credited correctly.
Demonstrates professionalism
Students treat others and work assignments with respect. All ideas are considered and work is either original or credited correctly.
Takes initiative
Students commit to time-on-task during class and begin work without fanfare. This is also evident during teamwork.
Displays a positive attitude and sense of self-worth
Students contribute positively to the class.
Takes responsibility for professional growth
Students are active listeners, seeking clarification and understanding when needed.
Resource Management
Resource management is often a component of project-based learning and collaborative group work but can also apply to how an individual student manages class time.
Manages time
Students demonstrate time management when organizing and planning project activities with a team or when organizing and managing themselves and individual class assignments and homework. Time management is inherent in almost all assignments.
Manages money
Students manage money in group projects requiring allocation of limited finances and resources (i.e. designing/marketing a toy, flipping a house, or planning a trip).
Manages resources
Students manage resources in projects requiring allocation of limited finances, resources (materials), and personnel.
Manages personnel
Students gain experience managing personnel (i.e. each other) in group projects requiring allocation of limited finances, resources (materials), and role assignments. They also manage their own behavior and participation.
Information Use
Information use can include retrieving information from any medium (e.g., print, TV, Internet, or in person) and can be as simple as looking up one piece of information to writing a term paper or preparing an oral presentation.
Students use analytical strategies to determine the best medium for finding necessary information.
Students use any graphic organizer—outline, concept map, organization chart, tables, etc. to sort information/data.
Students use classification and analytic skills to determine the necessary information (i.e., stay on target) to complete task.
Students assess information to determine which is relevant (does not have to be a mathematical analysis).
Students summarize information to compose written or oral presentations, posters, reports, slides, etc. This can also be as simple as a student explaining a problem in front of the class.
Communication Skills
Routinely displayed in students' everyday actions in the classroom — how they participate in lessons, contribute to the learning environment, treat their fellow students, and govern themselves.
Communicates verbally
Students provide oral responses. Evidence ranges from impromptu short answers during a lesson to completing a formal oral presentation.
Listens actively
Students are noticeably engaged through notetaking, questioning, and responding.
Comprehends written material
Students use/demonstrate reading skills by following written instructions/project directions, reviewing print and digital resources, completing worksheets, and asking questions about what they have read.
Conveys information in writing
Students rely on writing skills to organize lab reports, posters, presentation materials and to take notes and reply to essay questions.
Observes carefully
Students interpret verbal and nonverbal communication efforts of others.
Systems Thinking
A team working in sync to accomplish an assignment can be thought of as a system.
Understands and uses systems
Students understand their roles and assignments when collaborating as a team (system) and contribute to the organizational structure and function of the team.
Monitors systems
Students devise methods to assess team (system) progress.
Improves systems
Students negotiate mid-course corrections, adaptations to team (system) tasks if necessary.
Technology Use
In the classroom and workplace, technology skills typically refer to the use of digital electronics.
Understands and uses technology
Students often rely on various digital technologies for calculating, collecting and displaying data, conducting research, creating presentations, and writing reports.


Employability Skills Framework Handout
(PDF, 360 KB)

Employability Skills Framework Handout-Spanish
(PDF, 158 KB)


Robin Utz
(202) 245-7767