How to Use Certifications to Prepare Students for the Workplace
Students who take courses that are based on industry certifications may have an advantage when looking for a job after graduation.
Obtaining an industry certification prepares high school students who intend to enter the workforce after graduation to enter a high-paying, in-demand field like manufacturing, finance, construction, or health care.
A candidate’s certification demonstrates to an employer that they have attained certain knowledge and skills by passing an aligned test. At least 28 states took action in 2019 to encourage Career Technical Education (CTE) courses to use credentials that are recognized by the industry.
Almost every career field offers certification opportunities. Certification in food handling and safety can be earned by students who want to work in the food industry. Certifications in programming languages are available to students interested in careers in computer science. Students can benefit from all certification courses with careful planning.
Teachers must collaborate with their district or state departments to develop certification-relevant course offerings and sequences because decisions about certification programs and course offerings are frequently made at the district level.
Determine which programs might be the most beneficial to students by looking at the region’s current labor market data. Choosing which programs might be most beneficial to students can be made easier by looking over and evaluating the data from the state.
Get in touch with local businesses to learn more about the area’s workforce requirements. Are there particular abilities that prospective employees are looking for? What criteria do they use to evaluate applicants? Teachers will be able to better tailor their instruction to meet the needs of the real world if they acquire an understanding of employer motivations.
Consider the possible course sequencing for a high school student’s schedule and devote time to it. A student who wants to earn a welding certificate, for instance, might enroll in Intro to Welding in the ninth grade and continue through a series of classes until they complete a workplace practicum in the 12th grade. Understanding the certification test can assist in the development of useful instruction for earlier coursework because it is the culmination of many courses.
Check out the details of certification programs, such as how to register students, take payments, and make sure teachers have met any requirements for proctoring tests. State officials or industry organizations can provide information and assistance in the absence of a CTE coordinator in the district.
Promoting the advantages
At the start of the year, it’s critical to get students excited about how certifications can improve their job prospects. Listing a credential that is directly related to their future career interests can increase their opportunities as juniors and seniors begin creating their resumes and college applications.
Invite former students to speak to the class as guest speakers to discuss how industry certifications helped them achieve their goals. Ask students to conduct research on the career field and create a list of questions for the speaker prior to the visit. Alumni can provide insight into the courses they took to earn their certifications and the challenges they faced. Additionally, they may be able to provide useful information regarding the actual experience of the job search process.
Students’ interest in career paths and available certifications can be piqued by local employers who can assist them in directly connecting their education to real-world employment. Invite a local employer to discuss their interviewing, resume review, and candidate recruitment processes. A restaurant owner might talk about how students can get into the business, and a manufacturing manager might talk about the particular skills that his plant needs.
In advance, ask students what subjects they are interested in. Students should be tasked with compiling a summary of their research into the field’s job opportunities, wages, and qualifications. The speaker’s and the audience’s experiences will be enhanced by preparation and research. Combine the appearance of the guest speaker with a lesson on resume writing or interviewing techniques to introduce writing and presentation skills.
Integrate standards into classroom activities.
Plan your objectives around the standards and abilities covered by the certification tests. By incorporating the topics into her regular classes, one teacher at my school helped her students prepare for the Entrepreneurship and Small Business certification exam this year. She started by going over the sample certification tests.
Focusing on vocabulary is one way to incorporate the test-acquired skills into the classroom. Create a list of relevant industry terms and use classwork or a word wall to introduce them. Students can benefit from quick, frequent assessments, such as weekly quizzes, that help them retain the language necessary for certification.
A standard should be introduced at the beginning of a lesson. It is essential to make connections between the work and the standards that will be tested, particularly for a hands-on course. Ask students to pause and return to the specified standard at various points during the class. Ask students to make connections between the standard and the work they are doing in class. Students will be able to better understand concepts if they take frequent breaks to discuss the skills they are working on.
A course’s helpful guide can also be found in practice exams. After the students have taken the test, have them look over their results in groups to figure out what they need to learn more about. Students should practice the skills throughout the year leading up to the test, just as cramming the night before does not work on a school test. Teachers can assist in laying out the monthly topics that will be covered in class, as homework, and as independent study.
Getting an industry credential before leaving high school can differentiate students and prepare them for the workforce of the 21st century in a time when the market for highly skilled workers is more competitive than ever before.