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.
The Rwandan Youth Work Readiness Curriculum was created in 2010 by the Akazi Kanoze Youth Livelihoods Project, sponsored by Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC). It is intended for Rwandans ages 14–24, especially for out-of-school youth. Although it assumes that participants have at least functional literacy, it has been offered to youth who have various levels of education, from P4 completers to university graduates. It has been used for in-school youth in the Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) system and has been provided by youth-serving organizations, private sector companies with a program for youth employment, and by the Workforce Development Authority (Government of Rwanda, TVET agency). The curriculum includes eight modules that, taken together, enable a complete three-month course. (The length of the course depends on how many hours per week of instruction are offered.) The modules could also be used separately or in various combinations.
The curriculum is learner-centered and engaging: The modules’ learning activities include role plays, case studies/scenarios, simulations, pair share and pair work, small-group work, and brainstorming, among other strategies. Each module begins with a self-assessment and ends with a quiz to give the learner an opportunity to assess and reflect on his or her experiences and skills. Activities often start by having participants reflect on something from their lives, and build upon that. There are end-of-module and end-of-course assessments. The curriculum is accompanied by a trainer’s manual. Each module has two to four sessions, depending on the number of topics that need to be covered, with three to six activities per session. Each module contains the following:
1. Personal Development: identifying values & interests; assessing attributes & skills; identifying learning styles & learning strategies; goal setting, planning, & tracking progress
2. Interpersonal Communication: speaking and listening; following and giving instructions and feedback; forms of communication in the workplace; cooperating/working as a team member; providing good customer service
3. Work Habits and Conduct: identifying and applying for jobs (writing applications, CVs, cover letters, thank you letters); interviewing; workplace behaviors and attitudes; time management; balancing work and home life
4. Leadership: characteristics of an effective leader; leadership styles; organizing and motivating others; team building; leading others in problem solving and conflict resolution
5. Safety and Health at Work: Rwanda health and safety laws and practices; identifying and avoiding hazards in the workplace; responding to emergencies and accidents; basic first aid; healthy lifestyles; stress management
6. Worker and Employer Rights and Responsibilities: Rwandan labor code; workers’ rights: benefits and labor laws
7. Financial Literacy: managing money; saving; budgeting; how financial institutions work; making financial decisions
8. Market Literacy: the cycle of business; entrepreneurship skills; planning for unexpected events; financial record-keeping; marketing; negotiating; adding value to products
No formal evaluation results available
Review 1 The Rwandan Youth Work Readiness Curriculum is a well-designed, attractive, user-friendly workforce readiness curriculum for out-of-school youth and adults. Although made for Rwanda, it would not be difficult to adapt it for other sub-Saharan African countries, and perhaps countries in other parts of the world. One of its strengths is that it does not require a high level of literacy and numeracy. It is clearly and simply written, includes lots of very helpful tools for teachers, and employs activities that are engaging but easily implemented with relatively little teacher training. The curriculum is basic and does not attempt to deal with career planning, the more sophisticated and difficult parts of the entrepreneurship process such as micro-loans, or with hard training skills. It provides opportunities, however, to reinforce basic skills in reading and writing as well as to learn new so-called soft skills needed for work.
The Rwandan Youth Work Readiness Curriculum is a holistic, foundational course that prepares Rwandan youth for their entry or re-entry into the workforce. It covers a wide range of topics from preparing a CV to financial planning to understanding the Rwandan labor code. The curriculum empowers youth by fully engaging them in the learning process and giving them the opportunity to learn-by-doing and practice using new skills in a safe environment. Although some of the modules cover complex concepts, the curriculum effectively engages learners by using a participatory learning methodology that makes the material accessible and immediately relevant to the learners’ lives.
Activities are designed for learners with varying learning styles and preferences such as self-reflection, group work, role plays, guest speakers, field trips, games, and written self-reflection. The learning objectives are clearly stated at the beginning of each module and activity, and progress in achieving those objectives can be assessed using the tools provided in the curriculum. Specifically, facilitators can assess learners’ progress through the use of tests that appear at the end of every module, as well as by reviewing the self-assessment chart that learners fill out in their workbooks.
The curriculum is very effective and has few weaknesses. One small criticism is that the facilitator guide provides a step-by-step process for leading the activities that appear in the curriculum, but it is missing a thorough explanation of the curriculum methodology. Although it might be immediately obvious to experienced trainers, trainers who are not accustomed to using participatory techniques may struggle with some of the activities or skip them entirely. The facilitator guide could be enhanced by providing some background information about the methodology, the “why” behind using it, and how the methodology informs the activities in the curriculum.
Another minor weakness of the curriculum is that some of the activities require a significant amount of preparation and materials, which some facilitators may not have time to do and/or have access to. It might be useful to include some options for the facilitator. For example, if an activity calls for the facilitator to bring in pictures of great leaders, a tip to facilitators might be that if it is not possible to bring in pictures, to ask students to draw pictures of leaders.
International Technical Advisor II
Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC)
The Entrepreneurship: Owning Your Future textbook is part of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) program offered in the United States and in Belgium, China, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Netherlands, New Zealand, and South Africa. The textbook targets youth, ages 15–18, from low-income and at-risk communities. The curriculum is intended to be used in schools and in community-based organizations.
The curriculum covers concepts related to starting, operating, and exiting a small business; reinforces math, reading, and writing; and develops skills in critical thinking, communication, and teamwork. Some secondary school, and functional reading, writing, and numeracy skills are recommended for those who use it. Photographs in the textbook communicate that the program is intended for young women and men, people who are physically challenged, people of color as well as Caucasians, and people from a range of different cultures. The textbook is intended to help young people who have not created a business to understand what types of skills and knowledge are needed to run a business, and what possible opportunities exist for them.
NFTE offers a teacher textbook to accompany the student textbook; it provides lesson plans, pacing guides, and more. Although not required in order to use the textbook, a three-day teacher training is available on how to implement the program, of which the textbook is an important part. Participants in the training receive lesson plans, teaching slide show presentations, pacing guides, classroom posters, and more to use in their programs. The training is conducted by NFTE master trainers.
The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) textbook contains eight modules focusing on different facets of entrepreneurship; each module is broken into chapters that are further divided into sections. The modules are as follows:
1. What is an Entrepreneur?
2. Preparing for Business
3. Opportunity Recognition and Market Analysis
4. Marketing Plan and Sales
5. Analyzing Finances
6. Starting Your Business
7. Managing Your Business
8. Growing Your Business
Each section of the textbook has objectives defined in terms of what learners will be able to do; most are observable or measurable. The assessments ("Check your Understanding" and "Assessment" sections), however, focus on understanding of content (concepts, vocabulary, facts, or information presented), not on what the entrepreneur will be able to do. The sequencing is from more general knowledge about economics and business to the details of running a small business.
No formal evaluation results available
The Entrepreneurship: Owning Your Future textbook covers a wide array of topics related to entrepreneurship, from the big picture (what is entrepreneurship?) to the very detailed (tax implications and government regulations). The curriculum is comprehensive, covering essential knowledge that a young person interested in starting a business will need to know. Throughout the course, learners are asked to develop their own personal business plan. They can fill in the information either using a student workbook (paper) or by using the BizTech software (electronic). The textbook includes prompts for the learners when and what they should fill in based on where they are in the textbook.Another useful feature of the curriculum is a case study of a young woman that follows her challenges and successes starting, growing, and eventually leaving a catering business she started in high school. The case studies help tie together the chapters and provide learners of real examples of how a young person applies the topics included in the text to her professional life. The curriculum was updated in 2010 and the material is up-to-date and it makes use of recent examples. The format will be familiar to the learners and teachers, as the curriculum is a traditional textbook used in the U.S.A weakness of the curriculum is that it covers such a wide range of topics that it might be overwhelming to the learner. While NFTE uses textboxes, graphics, reading checkpoints, and mini-assessments throughout, it is still quite text heavy. To make the most of the curricular material, the learners need to have strong reading skills and relatively strong math skills in order to fully grasp it. If the learners are at-risk or coming from low income communities and do not have a strong academic background, they may find the material to be too complex. Also, the fact that the curriculum is in a textbook may be a deterrent to learners who have not been successful in a traditional, school environment and may be turned off thinking this is just another class.These challenges can be overcome based on the strength of the facilitator. It is imperative that the lesson plans used in conjunction with the text help engage learners, especially those with different learning needs and learning styles. The teacher guide was not submitted for this review, but it would likely provide guidance on how to address these issues.The version of the textbook reviewed is written for a U.S. audience. All of the examples are based in the U.S. and some of the topics, such as taxes and government regulations are particular to the U.S. It would need significant adaptation to be used with different audiences, especially for developing countries where the examples and activities may not be relevant to their specific contexts.
The content of the Entrepreneurship: Owning Your Future textbook is well designed, attractive, and written clearly and appealingly. The format is very well organized, user-friendly and with inviting photographs and illustrations. A teacher would need to have a background in starting successful small businesses, however, or to be matched with an entrepreneur in a team-teaching situation. In poor countries successful entrepreneurs may not necessarily handle the level of English reading required by this textbook.
The textbook sequence is logical for a classroom of young people who have not yet started businesses, but those who might be seeking solutions to their immediate problems managing or expanding their existing business, might be impatient with this and want to begin to address their immediate needs. The textbook may have useful information for them but would need to be tailored to their needs by a skilled entrepreneurship teacher.
The three–sixth month program is described as using an experiential/learning by doing approach including games, activities and events. There are some activities included in the textbook itself, often as part of the assessment, in a section called Working Together. The first 14 chapters of the textbook are to help the participant to put together a business plan. A helpful table is included (pages 144–145) on what parts of the textbook will help to develop a standard or an advanced business plan.
Much would need to be changed in order to use this in a non-western, and especially poor or underdeveloped country where a lot of the (Internet, training and other) resources taken for granted in this textbook are not available. It would be a useful reference upon which to draw, however, in a wide range of entrepreneurial contexts.
Youth Build International's Working Hands Working Minds is a set of five instructional modules designed to help alternative schools and youth programs integrate classroom theoretical learning with hands-on practical training especially related to the building trades. The curriculum is specifically written for out-of-school youth and young adults ages 16-24. However, it is suitable for use with in-school and other youth and young adult populations. The program is activity-based and centers around nontechnical aspects of the construction industry that are important to master for successful employment. These include, for example, units of instruction on reading, writing and mathematics skills related to construction. Leadership development, health and safety, and responsibility and teamwork are also fostered. Although technical skill development is not covered, participants are exposed to technical terminology and concepts in the process of addressing other objectives. The curriculum has been adapted for South Africa.
Working Hands Working Minds contains five modules:
Module 1 focuses on teamwork and leadership in construction and includes 10 lesson units ranging from The Heart of Teamwork and Leadership and Diversity in the Workplace, to Effective Communication and Working as a Team. Module 2, Construction Health and Safety, has lessons on Attitudes and Behavior, Personal Safety Gear, Dealing with Emergencies, and Workplace Safety Assessment among the 13 individual units. Tools, Trades and Technology in Construction is the subject of Module 3. The nine instructional units provide a good overview of the kinds of hand tools, power tools, and other technology workers use. Module 4 covers the very basic measurement and mathematical calculations construction workers use on the job. It is a useful, basic primer, with exercises and examples designed to relate the learning of measurement and mathematical concepts and operations to practical work activity. Module 5 relates to communities. Instruction units such as Building a House into a Home, Exploring Community History, Describing a Home, and Research on Housing Needs attempt to sensitize students to the larger human and community-building role they are playing as they pound nails, cut boards, and lay rafters.
No formal evaluation results available
Working Hands Working Minds is a well-designed, easy-to-use set of instructional units in five modules intended for use with out-of-school [youth] and youth preparing for employment in the construction industry. Some of the material focuses on developing basic mathematical and reading and writing competencies relating to construction work. Others deal with generating positive attitudes about construction work, working with others, and personal job responsibilities. The material is logically organized, with an easy-to-follow format. The instructional emphasis is on active participation by the students through many well-designed exercises. The activities relate to learning the content. It is very learner-centered material presented in a way to tap student interest. This is probably one of the better quality sets of material of its kind available. The fact that it was developed in 2001 does not make it outdated because of the general but relatively timeless character of the content covered. Concepts of reading, measuring, adding and taking personal responsibility do not change very much over time. The material is not dated, but it relates primarily to the US context. Adaptation to other country contexts, however, can be easily achieved.
Education Development Center, Inc.'s Cyprus Workforce Initiative for Skills and Education (WISE) project was a one-year pilot project implemented in the Turkish Cypriot community from July 2006 to July 2007. The project aimed to support the education authority's efforts to implement a reform in technical and vocational secondary education through four components: (1) bridging the gap between educational programs and the private sector to make education more demand-driven; (2) developing supplemental curricula modules on work readiness and technical skills to strengthen existing curricula; (3) providing professional development for a group of educators on active teaching skills to shift from a theoretical to a practical and engaging methodology; and (4) increasing awareness of technical and vocational career and livelihood opportunities among parents and students. The curriculum under review is contained within the WISE Final Report as Annex Section B: Developing Curricula for the World of Work.
The material includes a teacher handbook and eight modules, five of which are for student use. Two of the modules are designed to promote career awareness among 6th-, 7th- and 8th-grade students: Air Conditioning and Hotel and Hospitality Industry. Three modules are designed for 9th- and 10th-grade students and focus on employability skills: Finding a Job; Interviewing; and Employer Expectations. The student material is “activity-based” and students engage in activities grounded in community work-related situations, including interviews with employers, observation and discussion among themselves, research projects, and the completion of activity sheets and performance assessments, among other assignments that engage students in active learning. Some of the material is designed for the teacher to use with students, and some for direct student use. The Teacher Handbook provides an overview of active learning and how to plan, design and conduct a project.
Cyprus Workforce Initiative for Skills and Education (WISE) Modules:
The material is self-paced and can be used individually or with groups. All five modules for student use follow a similar format: learning objectives are stated, followed by student project activities and teacher activities. Student modules are designed to be completed in about four weeks, but may require additional time.
No formal evaluation results available
Annex Section B: Developing Curricula for the World of Work presents what basically is “standard” career and awareness information that has been available through various sources for over 30 years. What makes these instructional modules different is that they are prepared specifically for the employment environment in the Turkish Cypriot Community. Also what sets these materials off from more conventional materials is that they are “project” or “activity-based.” Student learning takes place through interaction with the employment community and students actively engage in investigating and completing various assignments, either individually or in groups. A modularized, self-paced, project-based approach is used throughout the material.
A good treatment of career awareness and employment skills development is provided. The material is a good source of ideas for the creative teacher. The modules offer many ideas on how to engage students in the active investigation of careers and employment and it can be adapted and supplemented to fit different student groups and employment contexts. The material probably can be most effectively used prior to specific skill development.
The instructional delivery format basically relies on “paper and pencil” assignments. While this is a low-cost option, students may not get an adequate exposure to the IT applications that are sweeping through the work world. Moreover, greater variety in the kinds of project activities may work to enhance students’ interest and learning. However, there is enough flexibility in how the instructional material can be used that the creative teacher can easily build on the instructional foundation that is already built. This is useful training material and a source of good ideas. Good reading and writing skills among students are needed to most effectively use the material. Teacher instruction and oversight is required.
© 2010-2012 Education Development Center, Inc.