Employability relates to experiences, knowledge, soft and transferable skills, as well as personal qualities that are necessary to become a successful employee. Ofsted highlights the importance of embedding employability into curricula to prepare students for their future employment opportunities:
“teaching, learning and assessment support learners to develop their skills in English, mathematics and ICT and their employability skills, including appropriate attitudes and behaviours for work, in order to achieve their learning goals and career aims.”
Teaching a language is closely associated with and consists of areas that, when introduced and highlighted in the appropriate moment, can boost the lifelong development of universal soft and transferable skills as well as attributes needed to enter the world of work.
Consequently, as teachers, we should to be flexible, up-to-date and proactive, and where possible, we need to develop the awareness of what employability is and how to develop relevant skills and qualities. This can be done by making links and references when certain employment-related situations we can draw upon emerge naturally in class. In addition to that, by creating engaging lessons linking meaningfully to our learners’ lives we motivate, encourage and instil confidence.
Finding a job is often one of the students’ main goals. We can help all our learners – those highly experienced as well as those who have never worked before. To be able to do that, we must know our students’ needs and plan our lessons effectively.
There are many ways of embedding employability into a language lesson:
- Explain to your students that studying at college prepares them for entering the world of work in the future. A language course is closely related to employability as the students acquire the language – one of the most important skills needed for finding employment. Language learning should be supported and surrounded by the application of the soft and transferable skills, by raising awareness and by making links to activities increasing their chances to get jobs. The checklist below may help you plan, outline your expectations and show students the key employability-related points present throughout the course. Print and distribute the copies, ask students to self-assess or complete the lists every time a student applies certain skills. When complete, it could be a valuable source for writing up a CV or references.
- Introduce rules and reinforce them regularly when appropriate. At the beginning of the course start introducing rules and routines, such as wearing an ID card, timekeeping, being prepared for a class or understanding why following instructions is important. Encourage the communication from the very beginning. As a teacher, be a role model – your students observe you every day in your work environment.
- When doing initial assessment and interview, ask your students which jobs they are interested in. Make some notes and keep that list handy. It is a great help when you want to personalise and differentiate your questions/tasks and link them to a particular employability aspect in your lesson. For example, in a lesson about shopping you may ask Anna, who wants to be a shop assistant, what the key qualities of a shop assistant are.
- When planning your lessons, think about their possible links to employability. Mention them when the theme occurs naturally. Pick the aspects relevant to students’ needs. Then, follow it up, e.g. by asking questions, starting a discussion or setting an extra task. Below, you can find some examples (the list is not exhaustive):
|Topic||Possible links to employability|
|Induction||Following rules, health and safety, setting SMART targets, short- and long-term goals, motivation, future plans, housekeeping, building confidence, growth mindset, respect,|
|Exam preparation||study skills, time management, revision techniques, learning methods, creativity, constructive feedback,|
|Manners and culture||functional language, e.g.: polite language, asking for/giving advice, describing a problem, giving reasons, justifying choices, explaining, expressing opinions; customs, values, important dates/holidays, protected characteristics, respect,|
|Communication||functional language, strategies to deal with a misunderstanding, online etiquette, small talk, engaging in a conversation, dealing with uncomfortable situations,|
|Maths||reading a wage slip, advert abbreviations, employment-related statistics, minimum wage|
|Food||healthy lunch, jobs in the food industry, regulations, catering courses, health and safety, food handling,|
|Neighbourhood||giving/asking for directions, planning a journey,|
|Services||Careers Services, Citizen Advice Bureau,|
|Travel and transport||transport-related jobs, finding locations, planning a journey, budgeting,|
|Housing||formal emails, budgeting, planning, completing a form,|
|Body parts||body language,|
|People||skills and qualities, about me, group work,|
|Health||wellbeing and work-life balance, stress management,|
|Education||obtaining qualifications, practising study skills, lifelong learning, how schools prepare for employment,|
|Shopping and retail||functional language, retail-related jobs,|
|Past||previous jobs, experiences|
|Future||planning (e.g. an event), career plans, making appointments, schedules, using calendars, conditionals,|
|Technology||social media, IT skills needed for jobs,|
- Use authentic materials to mirror the real world, amend them if necessary. Here is an example – a form that can be used in a context of any job: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/277961/es5JP.pdf
- Mix the learning-related skills with transferable skills in your lessons. For example, include online search activities when teaching vocabulary, planning and delivering presentations, group work or role-plays when practising speaking.
- Summarise your lessons and ask students what skills they applied, why they are useful and how those skills may be helpful at work. For lower level students you may have a list displayed on the wall with some ideas to choose from.
- If delivering portfolio-based qualifications, choose some employability-related units.
- Set teamwork projects that can be short- or long-term. Let students take ownership. There are countless skills to be applied then, so when planning, focus on those most relevant to your students.
- Design noticeboards. Ask students to contribute, so they can choose current and the most relevant and useful aspects to be displayed, e.g. Top 10 qualities employers are looking for. If possible, link the content to the employability checklist mentioned in the first point.
- Embed Equality and Diversity as well as values. Your students will have a chance to exchange opinions and experiences, learn about other cultures and compare particular situations, routines or companies to those they know about. Some students were employed in the past or have currently been employed – involve them and ask them to share information.
- Invite guest speakers (e.g. from Careers Services or Jobcetreplus) who will introduce various facts related to employability and answer students’ questions. You may also want to contact your previous students who succeeded in pursuing their career goals to show that everyone can be successful.
- Organise trips and visits. Involve your students and let them plan some parts. Employability may be the main or an additional focus of the outing.
- Support your students emotionally. Motivate your students on a daily basis, help them build their confidence and show the principles of the growth mindset. Always encourage, provide constructive feedback and praise achievement.
- When relevant, let your students choose some topics they find useful and want to learn more about. This way, you will get to know your learners better and you will be able to address their needs.
There are also ideas on how to embed employability outside the classroom:
- Provide students with useful websites and organisations to Learners may want to contact them for employment advice (e.g. National Careers Services). What is more, in their free time, students can research information and e.g. read about and basic requirements for a job they are interested in: https://nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk/job-profiles/home
- Create an employability materials bank so students can study at a convenient time. Google docs or learning platforms such Canvas or Moodle are very useful.
- Encourage your students to use their own email address to communicate with others and to understand why their inbox should be checked regularly.
- Create mailing lists for exchanging information. Send some follow-up exercises or online quizzes linking to your lesson’s content. Remember about introducing the ground rules.
- Encourage your students to volunteer. This helps both, their language to develop in authentic social situations as well as employability skills to be practised in a professional environment.