Materials for Embedded Learning on the Excellence Gateway – Skills for Construction by Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) is a basic skills curriculum contextualized for the construction industry in the United Kingdom. (Note that the term “embedded” is the same as “contextualized” curriculum, that is, a basic skills curriculum in a specific vocational context, in this case, construction.) The Excellence Gateway is a learning portal which features free downloadable embedded learning materials. The curriculum is designed to improve the literacy, language, or numeracy skills learners need to succeed at work, in community-based and health-related activities, or as part of vocational training programs. It is neither a complete basic skills curriculum nor a complete construction curriculum, but rather an overlap that supports and enhances both.
The curriculum is organized into five modules: (1) The Construction Industry, (2) Health and Safety, (3) Working Skills for Construction, (4) Using Materials and Equipment, and (5) Working with Others. Each module is organized as follows: Introduction; Skills Checklist; Information and Tasks; and Theme Assessments. The modules support the teaching of a range of Level 1 qualifications in construction and can be used as an introduction to the industry and its crafts. They do not supply a complete program of learning. Instead, aspects of the training that place a particular demand on literacy, language, and numeracy skills have been prioritized. The basic skills include literacy/English language learning (listening, speaking, reading, writing, and researching) and numeracy (numbers, measures, shapes and space, and handling data).
In addition to the five content modules Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) provides learning resources, black-and-white masters, and an introduction to embedded learning methodologies.
The Excellence Gateway has many such embedded vocational curricula including catering, cleaning, entry to employment, hairdressing, horticulture, hospitality, manufacturing, painting operations, retail, social care, transport, trowel occupations, and warehousing. It also has employability curricula including first aid, food hygiene, health and safety, information and communication technology, international nurses, and this Skills for Construction curriculum. There are also other embedded basic skills curricula that are not related to employment but rather to family and community needs. Materials were developed in consultation with sector skills councils, trades unions, employers, training providers, and others, and were subject to extensive expert review. They were developed in 2005-006.
No formal evaluation results available.
The strength of this construction curriculum and some of the other Excellence Gateway “embedded” (contextualized) basic skills curricula is that they are vocationally, culturally, and geographically specific. Contextualization to a specific industry, in this case, construction, can be highly motivating for students who have already identified this as a strong vocational interest. Although the content is specific to the industry and therefore “industry centered,” if this industry is important to the learner, its content is also “learner centered.”
The weakness is the other side of that coin, that the curriculum may not easily be adapted in other countries and cultures and climates. Especially with construction, techniques and materials vary greatly from one part of the world to another. This curriculum, however, can serve as a model for a contextualized basic skills curriculum in a specific industry, and in some contexts it may be more adaptable than others.
The Skills for Construction materials and materials for other vocational settings (including catering, cleaning, English for Speakers of Other Languages support pack for catering, early years, hairdressing, horticulture, hospitality, manufacturing, painting, retail, transport, and warehousing) are available for free download on the Excellence Gateway.
For more information, please contact:
Head of Skills for Life and Employment
Department of Education and Skills, United Kingdom
Skills to Pay the Bills is a career and workforce readiness soft skills curriculum, published by the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP). It was designed and piloted with the consultation of 100 youth. It is intended for youth service professionals, especially those who work with in-school and out-of-school youth ages 1421, in the United States. The materials are meant to be incorporated into existing curricula and/or programs, and adapted to the youth they serve. Following research on what employers need most in terms of skills and work readiness, six main skills/knowledge areas were identified for the manualcommunication; enthusiasm & attitude; teamwork; networking; problem solving & critical thinking; and professionalism. Information and activities are provided for each of these thematic areas.
The thematic areas are each presented with a page or two of general information on the theme, some notes to the facilitator, and five activities. These activites are laid out including the following:
Typically, at the end of the activity are materials for the activity such as scenarios, role-play descriptions, questions, etc. The end of the manual contains some information on the the do’s and don’ts of social networking and links to other useful resources.
During development, the curriculum was reviewed at pilot test sites. The curriculum was subsequently adjusted based on comments. The curriculum was tested and reviewed at FSW, Inc., WorkSkills (Bridgeport, Conn.), High School/High Tech (Madison, Fla.), KentuckianaWorks Youth Center (Louisville, Ky.), Massachusetts Migrant Education Program (Wilmington and Boston, Mass.), Project SEARCH (Washington, D.C.), Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program (Denver, Colo.), and WorkSource/YouthSource (Renton, Wash.).
Skills to Pay the Bills is a very practical training guide with many adaptable activities that can be used in a variety of settings. With a very visual, neatly laid out, consistent format, the manual is very user-friendly. Useful suggestions are provided on how to vary some activities, depending on the group of youth one is working with. The activities take into account what the learners already know based on their past experiences, and build off of this. Furthermore, the activities are participatory, engaging, and variedall necessary when working with youth.
The manual could be strengthened by having more clearly defined competency/skill-based objectives , particularly since the manual is written in response to the identified needs of employers. For each of the five activities, it would be helpful to see in a more detailed way, the competency, skills, and knowledge areas being addressed. That could be useful to both the trainers and learners so they can gauge progress being made.
While the manual could be used in an international setting, it would take some work to adapt it. Most of the scenarios, examples, etc., are very United States-based. For example, the activity about successes and failures gives examples of American sports players, television/movie producers, scientists, et al. The participatory nature of the activities, however, can be used anywhere. The manual has a lot of active, hands-on, engaging activities that seem like they will keep youth interested and engaged.
While in some lessons the content of this curriculum is thin, in others it is well-developed. If this curriculum were to be used internationally, particularly in poor countries, some of the lessons would not be relevant, and some would need major adaptation. In some places more content, advice, and information would be needed that could not just be elicited from young people who have little or no work experience. For example, the “Flipping the Switch” lesson is presumably about appropriate ways to communicate in the working world but assumes that the youth already understand the differences between this kind of communication and communication with friends and family. In many contexts, however, in the United States and elsewhere, youth who have never had experience in the wage economy, and whose family members also have not had this experience, don’t really understand the differences and don’t know what is or isn’t appropriate or expected. There may need to be some direct instruction provided.
The amount of time needed for each lesson in some cases is greatly underestimated, especially for lessons that are described as being under 30 minutes. This cannot include the time needed for journaling and for extensions of the activity.
Because this is contextualized for the United States, often resources are taken for grantedsuch as certain kinds of materials and supplies, and access by youth to the Internetthat are frequently not available to youth in poor or developing countries. Perhaps the best use of these lessons is to follow the guideline suggested by the authors; to incorporate lessons that are relevant and easily adapted into an existing work readiness curriculum.
The Tips for Improving Access to This Curriculum for All Youth section (in the Introduction) has some especially useful ideas that may not always be considered in curriculum design, for example, activities such as journaling and drawing, the advice to “Presume competence and instill confidence,” and active thinking about making accommodations. There's a list of some typical accommodations for reading, writing, audio/visual communication, math, and organizational skills. This would be a good place to begin to help awaken facilitators to the need for accommodations and universal design in any culture.
U.S. Department of Labor
The Volunteerism Action Guide: Multiplying the Power of Service (V2) is a resource for Peace Corps Volunteers and their community partners to plan, design, implement, and assess local service or volunteerism activities. The aim of the V2 Action Guide is to support existing or new host country volunteerism efforts for engaging youth in identifying, planning, implementing, and assessing service projects to improve their communities, schools, and other environments. Applying a service learning approach when possible, this publication shows Volunteers how to add value to their capacity-building work by helping participants in volunteer activities to identify learning goals and integrate reflection (learning) in their work. Youth participants gain key skills that can support them in future projects, in school, and in the world of work such as project and time management, communication, critical thinking, and resource management.
It is written for Peace Corps Volunteers, but can be used by anyone interested in starting a service learning project in their community.
Review 1The Volunteerism Action Guide: Multiplying the Power of Service(V2)is a very practical, well laid-out guide that would be useful in setting up a learning service project. It is really meant for Peace Corps Volunteers to use, but a seasoned facilitator or community leader might be able to follow the process as well. Given the complexity or level of detail of some steps, it seems that anyone using this guide would benefit from an orientation beforehand.
The guide focuses on nine steps: 1) Prepare for Service, 2) Identify What We Know, 3) Find Out More, 4) Plan for Action, 5) Mobilize your Community, 6) Implement the Service Activity, 7) Assess and Reflect, 8) Celebrate and Demonstrate, 9) Wrap up and Follow up. Each step is clear and provides the what, the how, and an example.
In terms of Preparing for Work, there is a link in Step 4, Plan for Action, where the group member is given the opportunity to identify learning or growth goals. Examples are given under personal growth/life skills, academic skills, work or career skills, civic engagement skills, and technical skills. This however, seems to be a minor part of the guide. If the guide is to be used to conscientiously help group members prepare for work, there would be a need for more direct linkages between the steps and what they are doing in the community to show how this impacts their readiness for work.
The Volunteerism Action Guide: Multiplying the Power of Service (V2) is a clear, adaptable, youth-centered curriculum for engaging youth in service learning projects that both build youth’s skills and have a positive impact on their communities. Relevant examples and easy-to-use templates add meaning to the how-to, step-by-step instructions for facilitators who may be teachers, community organizers, or youth themselves. The guide does demonstrate the role of service learning in providing work readiness skills and life skills for youth through hands-on learning.
The guide could be strengthened if it highlighted this aspect more by including stronger references to it in the introduction and pointing out more explicitly that the skills youth gain through the curriculum can be linked to work readiness and more general life skills. The curriculum has the added value of multiplying impact in that most youth participants may be prepared to lead and teach other youth after going through the cycle themselves. If users of the guide are aware of how to access additional Peace Corps manuals mentioned throughout the guide, they will have an increased understanding of how to enhance the curriculum.
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