Are High School Students Ready to Work?

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The environment in which we, as a society, work has evolved over the years. Prior to the mid-19th century, most Americans worked in laborious jobs like mining, construction, metallurgy and woodworking. It wasn't until the advent of railroad transportation when the workplace evolved to a more administrative, less laborious environment. With the workplace continuing to evolve, it's important for high school students to prepare themselves for the modern workforce.

Are High School Students Ready to Work?

Why High Schools Today Fail to Prepare Students for the Workforce

Unfortunately, most high schools use an outdated learning approach that doesn't effectively prepare students for the modern workforce. They focus on traditional curriculum, including math, science, history and literature, while neglecting to teach the interpersonal skills that truly drives success in the 21st century.

Known more commonly as soft skills, interpersonal skills are skills that affect a person's ability to communicate and work with others. They are generally nonquantifiable, so it's difficult for high schools to teach them. The good news is that there are educational institutions and vocational schools that do provide soft skill training for high school students.

Workplace Competency Skills

what is career and technical education Around the turn of the 21st century, the Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS) released a report on what skills young adults need to succeed in the modern workforce. Along with fundamental skills -- reading, writing, creativity, self-esteem, etc. -- the report found that young adults need workplace competency skills.

Examples of workplace competency skills include resourcefulness, leadership, negotiation, teamwork and the use of technology. While high schools today provide students with some fundamental skills, many overlook the importance of competency skills.

Critical Thinking

Another essential skill for the 21st century that's being largely overlooked high schools is critical thinking. According to the NEA, critical thinking is just as important if not more important than content knowledge for success in the 21st century. Of course, critical thinking refers to the process of analyzing data to create a constructed judgment. It forces students to think about a specific problem and use this information to come up with an answer.

Computer Usage

It wasn't long ago when computers are relatively unheard of. In 1984, for example, only 8% of U.S. households owned a computer, according to the Census Bureau. Today, more than 90% of U.S. households own a computer. In addition to being used for recreational and leisure purposes, though, many businesses also rely on computers to perform their operations.

As a result, high school students should familiarize themselves with basic computer skills, including word processing, file access and usage, email and spreadsheets. These skills will prove invaluable in helping students secure a job after graduating high school.

Visit Soft Skills High for more information on our career training, workforce readiness, and soft skill curriculum designed for high schools and universities to better prepare young adults for the future.

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