Connecting the Classroom to Careers


There are 5 important skills being learned in the classroom that employers want to see in their future employees.

I recently took part in a career fair activity at a high school in the Flathead Valley. I co-presented at a kickoff assembly for the school’s career fair. I spoke to the students about what happens in the classroom is much more than learning subject matter in the classroom. There are 5 important skills being learned in the classroom that employers want to see in their future employees that students may not be realizing they are even learning. I will discuss each of these traits and close with listing 10 things that require zero talent that can also be learned in schools along with learning content.

Communication skills are ranked 1st among job candidates as a “must have” as to skills and qualities needed to be a successful employee. Communicating is developing skills for communicating to and learning how to interpret information received from others. Communication includes active listening and interpreting non-verbal communication.  How many young adults have been caught by parents or teachers rolling their eyes?  Non-verbal communication gives insight to a person’s attitude. Another challenge of communication is learning the communication styles of others in the workplace.  If you look at all of these elements of communication it is easy to see how these can be learned and used in the classroom to improve your communication skills.  Think of the opportunities each day to practice and improve you communication with your interactions with parents, teachers, and fellow students.

Another area of importance that is sometimes emphasized in classrooms and students don’t even know they are learning a skill is problem solving/critical thinking. Employers need a workforce that is fully equipped with skills beyond the basics of the 3 R’s. Employers want employees who are able to think on their feet, assess problems and find solutions.  The next time that you ask your teacher a question and they ask a question back instead of giving you the answer, this is what they are trying to teach you. I had a supervisor who’s most consistent saying to his workers was “Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions to the problem”. Doing this, requires the use of critical thinking.

Within any organization, those in management positions when hiring new workers are always looking for new employees who will be able to “carry on the torch” of the organization.  Leadership potential is something that is always considered when hiring new workers.  The position being applied for may not have leadership duties involved right away but regardless of the job it is important to show potential to motivate, and be a good example for others.  This “leading by example” is a key component learned in schools through extra-curricular activities, clubs, and school organizations.  Getting involved in school outside of the classroom will help students develop valuable leadership skills.  Employers are looking for leadership potential; ambition, flexibility, organization, and time management are all part of showing leadership potential and can be learned in schools.

How many group projects are done in schools? Either in the form of discussion, lab activities or completing a group project or presentation, good teamwork is needed to be successful in the classroom.  This teamwork and the ability to work as part of a team is essential in today’s job market.  Not only do employers want workers who can contribute their own ideas, but ones who can also work with others.  Healthy respect for differing opinions is needed.  It is important to remember that either in school or work that when working together everyone benefits!

The final trait may be harder to pinpoint in a classroom. Think about the student handbook however and within that handbook are many principles of student conduct. These rules help mold students to be responsible, ethical, and team oriented.  Employers are looking for the same qualities in their employers.  Within a career fair setting, the presenters talking with students have different jobs requiring different skills. One thing that each of the careers represented in a career fair has in common is: In order to succeed and move ahead, you need to demonstrate professionalism. What students may look at as discipline is really instilling professionalism in each student. Responsibility, integrity, accountability, excellence, is all part of professionalism. Professionalism is not one thing. It is a combination of qualities. Arrive on time for work, manage time effectively, take responsibility for their behavior, work effective with others, high quality work standards, looking clean and neat, dressing appropriately, and communicating effectively and appropriately are all part of professionalism and students can see these expectations stand out in their student handbook.  

In looking at these five skills that link the classroom to careers there are 10 things in these paragraphs that Molly Fletcher says require zero talent and that we can all do to help us be successful. The following are the 10 things that require zero talent and provide a good conclusion in connecting the classroom to careers. No other explanation is needed. They are:

  1. Being on Time
  2. Work Ethic
  3. Effort
  4. Energy
  5. Body Language
  6. Passion
  7. Doing Extra
  8. Being prepared
  9. Being coachable
  10. Attitude

If you instill within yourself these 10 things while in school, you will be successful in any career field you choose.

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Montana high school students being mentored by their shop teacher