Essential Employability Skills

  • Business, community, and higher education leaders were asked in advisory and group meetings in the Olathe Public Schools what top three to five skills would make our students successful, no matter what their post-secondary experience and eventual career field. Employability and soft skills were at the top of the list! While general knowledge, attributes such as problem solving and critical thinking, and other technical skills were identified as important, it was the employability and soft skills that seem to make the difference for success.

    Dr. Randy Watson, education commissioner for the State of Kansas, recently went on a statewide tour and asked: “What are the qualities, characteristics and skills of a successful 24-year-old?”

    He found that business and community leaders statewide were looking for individuals with appropriate employability skills. Watson said that schools need to turn out graduates that are critical and independent thinkers, risk takers, more creative, more personable, able to work well with others, and have a good work ethic.

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    What Can You Expect from a 21st Century Academy?

    Any student who is a member of a 21st Century Academy will be taught employability and soft skills, will have a chance to practice those skills, and will receive feedback regarding the skills somewhere in their four-year plan of study for the academy. We have identified eight skills that will be taught.

    1. Collaboration — teamwork, reliability, roles within a team
    2. Communication — Interpersonal communication: active listening, clear message, appropriate non-verbal skills [facial expressions, posture, body language, dress], handshakes, empathy, fairness, compassion, respect for diversity; Written communication: clear, accurate, matched to audience
    3. Ethics — confidentiality, honesty, trustworthiness, loyalty, good citizenship
    4. Leadership — awareness of strengths/weaknesses of self and team, initiative, confidence, being a self-advocate, understanding workplace rights
    5. Presentation Skills — elements of effective presentations including capturing attention, knowing your audience, establishing an objective/goal, preparation, delivery
    6. Professionalism — attendance, punctuality, electronic media etiquette, positive attitude, response to feedback/criticism, life-long learning, personal branding, goal setting
    7. Post-Secondary/Career Placement — networking, college/career exploration, interview skills, resume, portfolio development
    8. Time/Project Management — planning, organizing, creative problem-solving, meeting deadlines, resource management, decision-making process

    Our goal in the 21st Century High School Academies is to ensure that “Students are prepared for their future!”