Magazine article Techniques

Workforce Development. in the Classroom

Magazine article Techniques

Workforce Development. in the Classroom

Article excerpt

Incorporating workforce development activities into the classroom curriculum can create a valuable learning opportunity for middle school students.

The School-to-Work Opportunities Act of 1994 (Federal Public Law 10-239, May 4, 1994) focused on the need to incorporate school-to-work activities and instructional strategies for all students. Learning a Living, the Secretary of Labor's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS) report, emphasizes the characteristics the workforce needs to successfully compete in a global economy. These include: 1) personal qualities (e.g. cooperation, integrity and honesty); 2) basic skills (e.g. reading, writing, listening and speaking); and 3) thinking skills.

However, these skills do not develop in isolation, and schools assume the responsibility of preparing students for the workplace. Although these responsibilities are delivered through specialized exploratory classes, it is also important to incorporate workforce development skills into the standard curriculum for all students.

Implementation in the Classroom

Tamara Willis, seventh grade social studies teacher at Sullivan Middle School in Rock Hill, South Carolina, integrated workforce development activities into her social studies curriculum. Early in the school year, her students commented that, "school is like a job and..we should get paid for attending."

Capitalizing on a teachable moment, Willis explained, "a job requires more than just showing up;" there are expectations and responsibilities that must be met in order to keep a job.

Eager to assume real-life roles, these young adolescent students responded that they could handle responsibilities, so Willis decided to implement a sixweek project related to employment. Before allowing students to vote on the trial activity, she explained one stipulation: if they chose to start the project, they would be required to finish-no turning back in the middle of the project if they did not like it. All students agreed and voted that their "business" would be a university named Sullivan University.

After teacher-developed job descriptions and responsibilities were distributed, each student was required to fill out an application and complete a resume for the position of their choice: Dean, Professor and Intern. Mirroring real-world scenarios, students then interviewed student-applicants for the jobs and hired students from the applicant pool.

Through this process, Willis served as a resource, providing sample questions and feedback. She facilitated reflection by asking students to share their feelings during the process in a journal. Journal writing and other activities incorporated SCANS skills throughout this process: reading and writing were incorporated in the application and resume process; listening and speaking were integral to the interviews.

In addition, important workforce dispositions such as integrity and honesty were reflected in the application and interview questions.

The deans met and formed teams for the class, meeting with Willis to discuss changes needed for the class to be a productive learning environment (their first executive board meeting). Because students initiated decisions for changes (such as class behavior rules), the students began to assume more ownership in the overall learning environment.

For example, when one student became loud enough to interrupt other students' work, his peers asked him to be quiet. Willis became a facilitator of learning, stepping in when needed. SCANS skills were naturally integrated throughout the executive board meetings in which teamwork and cooperation were emphasized.

Learning Pays Off

A major surprise for students arrived with their first paychecks, when they were forced to experience a very personalized lesson in economics. They were excited to receive a "check," but were amazed about the taxes that were taken out of their checks. …

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