Online Course: Introduction to Workforce Preparation Activities and Employability Skills

This thread is connected to the online course, Introduction to Workforce Preparation Activities and Employability Skills, freely available anytime, anywhere in the LINCS Learning Portal.

  • Were there skills which were not explicitly included in the workplace preparation activities discussed? Note that there is no “right” answer here. Consider the alignments and intersections between the different skill sets.
  • Many teachers are probably already integrating some or all of the skills and competencies of workforce preparation activities into classroom instruction. Reflect on your own experiences and the resources you have used to plan your curriculum. Have you used any of the resources presented in this course? Are there others you have used? Which ones seem to be the most effective? How do you know? 


I have know about WIOA for the last several years.  This really broke it down for me to understand it a little more.  Also I was able to see adult education instructors need to be well rounded in all faucets of education and employable skills.

Hi, Chris -

Thanks for taking the lead and sharing your experience with the course. Your comment on the need for adult educators to be well rounded rings true, but can also be a source of feeling overwhelmed by needing to be informed on 'all facet of education and employability skills'.  This is something that many adult educators, and programs, struggle with under WIOA. 

How are you dealing with this sense of needing to be well rounded across issues of education and employment?


Mike Cruse

Career Pathways Moderator


This is issue is not overwhelming for me as it has now become a lifestyle as an adult educator to be a constant resource for all things education and workplace. Many students seek my help when they are experiencing job upheavals and just need a listening ear. many of them have never thought of other options for employment, and start towards bad choices out of desperation. When students are introduced to out-of-the-box options, they are more likely to try something different to get to somewhere they've never been.

I agree with your observation, Chris. Accountability in ABE programs includes academic skill gains that often directly relate to achievement of a student's goals in real-world settings such as their current workplace or the one they are challenged to join. When the student makes that beneficial connection and the instructor supports it with relevant lessons, success is a predictable outcome.

The skills included in the workplace prep activities are very comprehensive. One area I feel is difficult for any curriculum or list of skills to adequately cover is the issue of problem-solving. For many employers, this is one of the skills most often cited as needed in today's workforce. But to create authentic problem-solving opportunities that students might encounter in the workplace is tricky in the classroom. These type of prepared activities often include too much guidance, making the solution overly obvious or simple. Or the problem to be solved is framed as "find the one right answer," whereas real life in the workplace will not usually offer this. Students need to see messy, complicated, multi-step solution problems and try to solve those. This is hard to replicate in a classroom!

Hello Anita,

You are of course quite right that authentic problem solving is often difficult in a classroom setting. One approach that some workplace education (and workforce development) teachers have used effectively is a project-based or problem-based learning approach, or what some might call a case-study approach, where students are formed into work teams and given an authentic problem from a particular industry or company and, with minimal guidance, asked to come up with one-three possible team solutions to the problem. They may need a lot of information about the context (the company, its products or services, its management structure, the workers, organized labor perspective if relevant, what may have already been tried and not succeeded, etc.). It is possible that when two or more groups are given the same problem, and when they are allowed to share their questions and potential solutions with the other group(s), there can be rich discussion about the proposed solutions and why they may or may not be effective.

I would be interested in others' solutions to how to deal with workplace problem-solving in the classroom.

David J. Rosen

Thanks for sharing this challenge with us, Anita.  You're right that we need to "create authentic, problem-solving opportunities that students might encounter in the workplace". As David Rosen already noted, PBL is one solution that has become increasingly popular.  Case studies are another example.  Sometimes the challenge with these is finding good examples that 'fit' your learners, and their current, or aspirational career goals.  

To that end, I'd encourage you to look to your learners for their own examples.  Often they will have dealt with problems in their own work experience, or have impressions based on their interactions with supervisors, customers, etc.  Having learners create part of these PBL scenarios, and/or case studies, gives them a sense of ownership, and validation in their ability to problem solve. You may need to provide a framework, or other supports, to help learners create develop these resources, but the end product will be more meaningful than most "off the shelf" scenarios.  

It would be great to hear from programs that have tried this type of approach.  If anyone has some examples of classroom-generated PBL and/or case studies, please let us know. 


Mike Cruse

Career Pathways Moderator

Hi all,

For our Career Readiness program at NVCC, we use the Market Leader series. It provides both PBL and case studies for students to explore (using integrated skills) and also juxtapose against how such issues are addressed in their own organizations and/or countries. 

Cyn Hatch

ESL & TESOL Program Developer and Instructional Designer Curriculum Design & Implementation NOVA Workforce Northern Virginia Community College

There are many great examples of work-related project-based learning and other forms of participatory learning that worker education programs can adapt. (The National Workplace Literacy Program and various more recent career pathway projects were proving grounds for the development of such innovative forms of adult basic education.)  The following documents describe some examples developed in projects in NJ and NY: "TLD Ready" and "TLD Career Planning" (for job seekers in the transportation/logistics/distribution industry); "Job-Seeker's Handbook," "Learn and Work Basic Skills for Job Seekers," and "English at Work" (developed for job seekers who lost their jobs after the 9/11 attacks in NY City); and "Appropriate Technologies for Workforce Learning: A New Approach to Using Educational Technologies for Adult Learning and Workforce Development" (showing how to use PowerPoint and other common computer applications to help learners develop confidence and fluency in English,while also developing computer skills, background knowledge on many topics, and collaboration skills).  I have compiled these and other documents related to participatory approaches to worker education in the "Writings" section of  (Sorry for the shameless self-promotion, but these items were for the most part paid for with your tax dollars!!).     Paul Jurmo     

Hi, Paul -

Thanks for sharing your writing on the topic of PBL and career readiness and pathways for adult learners with us.  I was taken by how relevant much of the suggestions are today, from a piece that you wrote in 2011. The piece, Career Pathways for a Productive and Self-Reliant Workforce: A To-Do List for Adult Educators, offers great advice for educators new to pathways, as well as those who may be feeling frustrated by the work of keeping pathways running, and responding to changes in the workforce.  

I especially appreciate the six steps you say that adult educators can take to support career pathways.  I wonder if I could ask you to synthesize these for us, and tell us if you would make any changes, or updates, to these steps, to reflect the needs as you see them in 2018?


Mike Cruse

Career Pathways Moderator


I, too, agree that the workplace prep skills are vital. One need that I've found with my students is providing them with multiple strategies for handling critical thinking and communication skills. Providing a space where they can rotate through multiple groups and discuss how they'd handle hypothetical job related challenges enables them to feel more comfortable and confident in new situations. Again, there isn't always one way to handle things. Rotating and talking with different students gives them more ideas and opportunities to brainstorm and grow. 

This activity doesn't take long and definitely encourages our students to communicate effectively, as well as grow and deepen their critical thinking skills.

I concur with Anita.  It can be tricky to create work related problems to solve, however once the skill set has been demonstrated and taught, students are asked to write a problem they encountered on the job.  These problems are placed in a bin and one problem is retrieved  each day as a warm-up activity and reinforcement activity.   As a team, they have to identify what resources are needed  and what skills are being used to solve this problem.  There are no right or wrong answers.  However many options are discussed and recommended.

I love this idea! Our curriculum has a workplace skills lesson embedded in each unit and students are presented with hypothetical scenarios, so I will try compiling those and adding a few more and using them every class although I think I'd like to try them as an exit ticket, particularly because my students don't all arrive at the same time. Thank you!

Thank you for offering insights of employment preparation activities. I like the ideas of having students create their own job related scenarios based on their personal experience. I also found out resources and examples from the FLDOE Employability Skills Standards, which is helpful when creating problem-based, project-based, or small discussion group based activities. I would start by teaching these three strands (Applied Knowledge, Effective Relationships, and Workforce Skills) and eight standards (Critical Thinking, Interpersonal Skills, Personal Qualities, Resource Management, Information Use, Communication, Systems Thinking, and Technology  Use), and use work related scenarios to have students solve problems with employability skills they have learned.   

I completely agree-  work with incarcerated adults, and the concept of problem solving is difficult for many of them to grasp. I have found in my teaching that introducing and practicing critical thinking skills, including brain teasers, and evaluating the quality of information starts the building blocks needed for problem solving. Problem solving in itself implies that the affected person sees or experiences multiple options for addressing a situation. Those that have experienced extreme poverty or trauma, may not have seen multiple options available to them. 

I completely agree-  work with incarcerated adults, and the concept of problem solving is difficult for many of them to grasp. I have found in my teaching that introducing and practicing critical thinking skills, including brain teasers, and evaluating the quality of information starts the building blocks needed for problem solving. Problem solving in itself implies that the affected person sees or experiences multiple options for addressing a situation. Those that have experienced extreme poverty or trauma, may not have seen multiple options available to them. 

Ou state adult education programs are now under one umbrella with our job service centers through WIOA where as before we were collaborating  partners but had our own AE Director. Adult Education concentrated on academics and howthis applied to work so we did do contextualized instruction. Being under one umbrella, however, will take some transition time to learn so we aren't duplicating services or at leaset have a clearer iidea of what our individual roles are so we can provide our students with the best possible instruction, yet utilizing resources outside of adult education-like the job service centers-which have a clearer path to our student's obtaining employment. 

Dear LINCS Colleagues,

As you communicate with employers, labor unions, and other stakeholders about the why’s and how’s of worker education, you might consider the talking points raised in “Basic Skills, A Key to Advancing the Workforce” ( .  This paper was issued on February 2, 2018 by the Open Door Collective (ODC). It makes the case that (1) large numbers of U.S. workers lack the particular basic skills (language, literacy, numeracy, technology, and other fundamental skills) needed to effectively attain, perform, and advance in jobs in emerging workplaces; (2) well-designed and –supported adult basic skills services should be included as a key component of the nation’s workforce development system.

Paul Jurmo (

I'm an English as a Second Language instructor and use many different activities to help students prepare for work and/or college/training.  The enthusiasm my students show to learn these skills, while simultaneously learning English, is infectious.  Some of the activities I have built for my students involve area volunteers from various backgrounds and include such topics as volunteering, job interviews, and polite conversation at work.  Many students express their appreciation for the practical uses of the information they are working on, as it applies directly to their personal and work lives.  Most of my students have college degrees from their native countries and learning the language that allows them to further their education in America or work in the industry they've studied has been an enormous weight lifted from their shoulders.  I take information from a variety of sources, including LINCS, to align all of my instruction to college and career pathways.  English is taught organically from there.  

Hello Miranda,

Thanks for your very heartening message. I hope it inspires other ESL/ESOL teachers here to talk about how they may be preparing their students for work, college and career pathways. I wonder if other teachers have volunteers from various backgrounds meet their students, include such topics as volunteering, job interviews, and polite conversation at work. I also wonder if you and other ESL/ESOL teachers help students to find volunteer, internship or job shadowing experiences, if you help them learn the digital skills needed to find jobs, learn about what the qualifications may be for certain jobs or careers, and how to complete an online job application and a digital resume. I also wonder, Miranda, which LINCS resources you find especially useful for your students and yourself.


David J. Rosen


One of our units revolved around volunteering in the community as a means to gain work experience and engage with other citizens.  A member of our local United Way came for a short discussion on how to find volunteer opportunities and helped them navigate our online portal for those experiences.  Students then used this website on another day to do a reading/writing activity where they chose a volunteering opportunity that interested them and wrote about what they hoped to gain from it.  We have searched job boards in real time as a class to do a similar activity, then practiced writing cover letters for the jobs they found that were credible.  We talked about how to identify job ad scams and how to avoid them.  We explored abbreviations in job ads and how those were shorthand for qualifications or requirements for the job.  We also practiced writing a digital resume, sending it via email, and completing an online job application using a program called PDF Escape.  We filled out the applications on paper first, then each student had a chance to navigate to the application online and filled it out again without their handwritten copy. 

The students began noticing the "common" questions/prompts for online applications and we created a "job search" folder for them to have on hand when going in for an interview, filling out online applications, or to pick up an application in person.  Our center provided basic, professional pocket folders for each student.  We put a checklist inside and students printed copies of their resumes, references, and other important information to put inside.  They've been very useful for many of my students.

One LINCS resource I have found useful is "Meeting the Language Needs of Today's Adult English Language Learner."  Project-based teaching is my favorite way to reach all students at all levels and motivates them with something besides just "book work."  "Preparing English Learners for Work and Career Pathways" has also been useful for me.  It helped me to really sit down and find workplace and training vocabulary that is important to our students.  I've also used many aspects of "Integrating Digital Literacy into English Language Instruction" in my daily lesson plans and project-based assignments.  The sky really is the limit with ELLs, in my opinion.


I agree that adult learners need more experience in how to speak formally, especially in interviews and amongst co-workers. A great way to teach this would be to have student job shadow someone in a field they're interested in. They can take notes on  how that person interacts with others. In addition, they can observe how the employee is spoken to and how they respond in challenging circumstances. 

I think this activity would even help in preparing students for their GED writing test.




Kristin Mountz


I agree that students need opportunities to speak in formal environments, but it is challenging to find professionals who are willing to be shadowed. How do you go about it, Kristin?

Side note: In my Business English class, I've had students conduct informational interviews. They were terrified at first, but once they completed the assignment, they felt that they had truly accomplished something. And I was very proud of them!

This course is a good, general overview both for people new to WIOA and for people already using WIOA-based curriculum elements who just want to make sure they're on track.

I am in a unique position having left the teaching role with second language learners in middle school through adult age, and I am now employed as a life coach for adults in a basic English Language Acquisition program. Our facility also has a transition and HSE program as well as career training. I would like to comment from both perspectives. Our ELA students are evaluated with TABE and those skills are the focus of their instruction. It is supplemented by Burlington and IXL computer programs for the levels 1-4 and Open Book for pre-literate. Many of our students are employed in warehouse positions, but in the ELA levels their goal is primarily financial survival and educational advancement into the next TABE level class. There are limited opportunities to provide them with authentic life materials when the curriculum is designed to meet the basic skills for communication.

What I do know from teaching ESL is that when students don't see a relationship between what they are learning and what they need to succeed in the workforce, their investment of interest is limited. Ideally, I would like to see a greater concentration on having the students share their personal experiences whether in work or home situations; people learn when they see how their life relates to others. They need to be able to identify what their personal barriers to employment are, and then our attempts to help develop and place activities into the curriculum will be more effective and meaningful. That is my goal- meet them where they are and move them along to meet their personal goals while capitalizing on what their inherent talents are.

Hi, Terri -

Thanks for sharing your work, and perspective with us.  I agree with you, that we need to meet learners where they are, ‘hook’ them with contextualized instruction that makes sense in their lives, and move them towards achieving both personal, and professional goals.

I wonder if you can share any of the strategies you’ve used to help learners share their personal experiences, in ways that validate them, while also aligning with instructional goals, and program outcomes?  What has worked, and what are some of the challenges you face in this area?


Mike Cruse

Career Pathways Moderator

I agree that the teaching must create a connection between the lessons and real-world experiences. If there is a disconnect, you will just alienate your audience. It will never be a perfect scenario; however, it offers students exposure to possible situations that they will encounter. During collaboration and discussion activities, they learn about the different perspectives of their peers. They can adapt their personal outlook or even totally change it depending on the scenario and the exchange among their classmates. Teachers will really need to incorporate practical and experiential situations to maximize the learning.

As an educator of College and Career Readiness for adults, I find the development of employability skills a necessary part of preparing these adults for their future. Most of my students are recovering addicts who are trying to move up from entry level positions. Many of them have been working for minimum wage for many years or have a spotty work history.The development of soft skills is very important as most of these adults need to develop these skills. I agree with Anita that problem solving is a very important skill to develop. I read through some of the articles that Jerry mentioned and found some useful guidelines. I also work with my students on interviewing techniques, filling out job applications, and teamwork. This course has provided some useful suggestions to improve my course.

This course provided a well-organized, detailed examination of the topic.  I was able to identify with each scenario given showing practical application in the classroom.  Workforce Preparation activities and Employability Skills were first emphasized in my experience in the 1980's, and they evolved over the years, taking on more importance in ABE/LEP settings.  I have used most of the strategies presented and see them as being essential to preparing adult learners for the world, either as participants in the workforce for in higher learning.

I am working very hard to integrate these skills into the women's prison where I work.   Budgeting activities seem very fictitious to my students since many will be incarcerated for a  while.   I use commissary lists, and other real life problems to attack this.  i also use our culinary arts programs examples for workforce situations since many ladies want to get into this program.   i am also currently working to develop a bridge program for students to get involved culinary from ABE.   i would be interested to hear from other prison educators.  

I also work in prison, and one of the questions I ask new students is "What is your dream job?"  Most of the students seem surprised and pause, thinking.  Many say, "I never thought of that."  If they tell  me some careers they'd really like to do, I try to get them school information and explain the path they need to get to the career:  GED first, then (perhaps) a certificate, A.A. degree or other, apprenticeship if appropriate, then dream job.  I also loan copies of the McGraw-Hill Workforce Career Companion series so students can read about various careers.  What they need the most, though, is someone to help them through all the steps and potential obstacles to get to their (dream) job. 

i have mentioned before that my program works closely with our Department of Human Services. Several of our students use the Ohio Means Jobs web site. Although at times it is difficult to maneuver in when they finally learn whay and how to use the website they find it very helpful. They can create resumes and apply for jobs as well as take skills inventories.

This course was great for offering additional ways to help our students prepare for a brighter future and be current with technology!  We use computers to watch tutorial videos and collaborate with other agencies that can assist our students upon graduation.  The WIOA is one of those agencies that come along our students and help them obtain their goals.

I am new to the idea to incorporating career based and college based contexts while working with my ABE students. I am looking through the resources, but I am somewhat overwhelmed.  Is there a good beginning point for me to review?

I am a former elementary teacher who has been a stay-at-home mom/homeschooling parent for four of the last five years. In August, I started working part-time in the Adult Education field. It has certainly been a new experience for me, but it has been rewarding to work with students on the opposite end of the education spectrum. This course has enabled me access to resources that I didn't know existed, and I am looking forward to incorporating some of the lessons and ideas into my night classes. 

The content in this training was very interesting and applicable to my new role. I did not see much on adult learning styles however, I feel they play a role in teaching adults as well. 


I have completed all steps but the system will not let me move on... Has any else had this experience? 

I think sometimes that we forget the importance of prior knowledge in developing workforce preparation lessons.  Many of our adult learners come from environments where exploring new ideas, new ideas or going on to higher education are encouraged.  They expect adult ed to be the same as secondary ed and they come to learn facts to pass the GED.  Because of this, we may have to focus on the intrapersonal domain and growth mindset.