The Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) interviewed employers across industries to learn the “soft skills” they value most.
“Hard skills” are job-specific. “Soft skills” are essential for success in every field of employment.
With the goal of empowering schools, youth programs, and families to teach high-priority soft skills – ODEP has created “Skills to Pay the Bills”.
This free curriculum includes videos and lesson plans designed to engage middle and high school youth as they prepare for the world of work.
Nothing replaces real life experience
The “Skills to Pay the Bills” curriculum is a lot like the “theory” portion of driver’s education. It can be used to teach important foundational information – but it can’t replace guided practice.
Teens need many hours of supervised behind-the-wheel practice before driving independently. So, too, our kids need a variety of work-based learning experiences to build and refine their employability “soft skills”.
Research demonstrates the effectiveness of work-based learning in preparing youth with disabilities for competitive employment.
Work-based learning can take many forms. Job shadowing, volunteering (service learning), work sampling, internships, community based work assessment, unpaid and paid work experiences.
Find resources for developing high quality work-based learning experiences here. Ideally, parents, teachers, and other adults work together with youth to create opportunities tailored to the young person’s interests and needs. With support and encouragement, teens can clarify their career goals and refine their “soft-skills” through practice in various work environments.
“Skills to Pay the Bills” curriculum components
Or, you can download individual sections, along with accompanying videos, as needed, below.
These materials orient adults to the curriculum and identify ways to accommodate the needs of individual students. It is important to pre-teach vocabulary, background information, and related skills, in addition to accommodating activities to meet individual needs.
- Background Information and Lesson/Activity Layout
- Universal Design
- Accessibility Tips
- Synopsis Video
Soft Skill Area # 1 – Communication
This section includes role plays and other activities to practice verbal and non-verbal communication skills needed in the workplace.
Soft Skill Area# 2 – Enthusiasm and Attitude
Subjective characteristics such as positive attitude and enthusiasm are valued highly by employers and can make the key difference during an interview. In this section, role plays and other activities are used to teach students behaviors that are perceived positively by employers.
Soft Skill Area #3 – Teamwork
Corporate training programs often emphasize “team” language and behaviors. Activities in this section teach teamwork language and concepts, along with “team behaviors” valued by employers.
Soft Skill Area #4 – Networking
The activities in this section focus on networking skills that are essential for career development.
Soft Skill Area #5 – Problem Solving & Critical Thinking
Activities in this section focus on problem solving in the workplace. A problem solving graphic organizer will help most students complete activities in this section. You can find such a tool and learn how to use it here.
Soft Skill Area # 6 – Professionalism
“Professionalism”, from an employer’s perspective, includes the blending and integration of a variety of skills. Activities in this section teach students employer expectations for “professional” behavior.
ODEP’s “Skills to Pay the Bills” includes these supplementary links:
- A Word About Social Networking
- Additional Employment – Related Resources for Youth with Disabilities
- In Their Own Words (Youth Speak Out about Skills to Pay the Bills)
Work habits start early
The “Skills to Pay the Bills” curriculum teaches youth to understand and better meet employer expectations.
But the fact is, our kids begin to learn work habits at a very young age.
We can begin nurturing positive work habits in childhood, by teaching our kids to:
- complete chores and daily routines using checklists instead of verbal reminders
- evaluate their own work according to a standard
- use a simple problem solving strategy
- apply communication and social skills in various environments
Will you use the “Skills to Pay the Bills” curriculum yourself, or share it with teachers or youth group leaders? In what ways do you help your child to develop positive “soft skills” for employment?
Hope to hear from you in the comments!
If you found this post helpful – please share it. Thanks!
Let’s support each other – and our kids - as they build work habits and soft skills for employment success!
Interested in more posts about career development? You can find them here.