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Real Life Work Skills That Should Be Taught in High School

by Momi Awana

On June 7, 2013, the U.S. Department of Education announced a new initiative to redesign public schools to better equip students for future educational and vocational opportunities. In addition to shifting to a paradigm of student-centered education, Department of Education urges schools to "provide career-related experiences or competencies" that allows students to develop the real-world skills they'll need to establish themselves professionally.

Problem Solving

At the very least, problem solving entails a combination of critical thinking, organization and creativity. Certainly, teachers strive to imbue their students with these abilities, but the challenges students encounter in their careers differ significantly from academic problems. For this reason, schools should ask students to solve common work-related problems, such as scheduling, allocation of duties and budgeting. The U.S. Department of Education has charged schools with providing students internship opportunities with local businesses, which encourages students to take active roles in solving workplace challenges.

IT Skills

Most high school students can navigate the internet and operate new devices with ease. While these skills are useful, they aren't the only IT skills necessary to function in an office environment. Modern workers should be able to create and analyze databases and spreadsheets, design slide shows that are attractive and informative, set up a teleconference and troubleshoot software malfunctions. Students also learn how to set up workplace hardware, including PBX systems and A/V equipment.

Executive Functioning Skills

Executive functions consist of the ability to focus, remember, meet shifting demands and inhibit negative behavior. Due to the wide-ranging nature of these skills, they have a profound impact on a person's ability to perform work-related tasks. Ideally, workers should be able to complete a task, apply past knowledge to present situations, accept new challenges and otherwise behave professionally. By emphasizing these skills early on, students will be better prepared for the rigors of higher education and the working world.

Communication

Most high schools require that students take speech courses in addition to four years of English. However, while the ability to write an essay or present to an audience is useful in any setting, these are hardly the only communication skills students need in a professional environment. "Skills You Need" reports that workers should know how to negotiate with peers and superiors, determine a client's needs and write a convincing resume and cover letter.

About the Author

Since 2003, Momi Awana's writing has been featured in "The Hawaii Independent," "Tradewinds" and "Eternal Portraits." She served as a communications specialist at the Hawaii State Legislature and currently teaches writing classes at her library. Awana holds a Master of Arts in English from University of Hawaii, Mānoa.

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