Resource Round-Up:

Working Stronger and Smarter: A handbook on theory and techniques for developing employability skills for technicians.

Authors: Louise Yarnall, Julie Remold

In this era of rapid technological change and global job competition, employability skills—the non-technical skills and attitudes key to career success such as teamwork and communication—are particularly important to sustaining any career (Baruch & Bozionelos, 2011; Levy & Murnane, 2004; Merriam, Caffarella, & Baumgartner, 2007). This is particularly true for technician fields, which are changing rapidly due to automation and information technologies (Amadeo, 2018). Yet, employers report that many early-career technicians fail to demonstrate these employability skills. They are calling on both educators and their own managers to do more to cultivate these skills.

This handbook synthesizes practical ideas from technician education and workplaces that both educators and employers can use to create better solutions for developing employability skills. The handbook takes the perspective that (1) employability skills remain malleable across a lifetime, (2) employability skills take time to develop, and (3) educators and employers should endeavor to coordinate how they develop these skills, using an expanded range of learning principles and methods.

The handbook is the result of an 18-month exploratory study in which 273 articles were reviewed and 40 interviews with educators, employers, and recent graduates from technician programs were conducted. To examine how skill expectations and instruction aligned or differed across technician fields, both the literature scan and interviews focused on two contrasting fields—information technology and advanced manufacturing, and the related fields of computer science and engineering. The study aimed to answer questions about what drives the demand for employability skills, which skills are most important for technicians, what learning principles and instructional practices support their development, and what approaches to employability skills development can support improved diversity in technician fields.

Using the Handbook Tip: A technician instructor or administrator may use Chapters 1 through 6 as a source of ideas to enrich a current course or to understand how to help students who might demonstrate gaps in employability skills. Professional development experts may use these chapters to develop ways to support educators in feeling more comfort and competence to do this work.

Chapters Include:

Chapter 1: The Five High-Priority Competencies for Technician Education
Chapter 2: The Seven Learning Principles for Developing Employability Skills
Chapter 3: The Preparatory Stage:  Becoming Aware of Employability Skills
Chapter 4: The Foundational Stage:  Classroom Practice for Employability Skills
Chapter 5: The Apprentice Stage:  Work-based Application and Reflection for Employability Skills
Chapter 6: The Workforce-Ready Stage:  Deepening On-the-Job Learning of Employability Skills

Access the Handbook to begin exploring the recommendations and highlighted strategies.