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Learning to Achieve Trainer Snippet #7

Workforce Preparation Strategies

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Module 8  Workforce Preparation Strategies

Participant Guide

·       Pages 148-155

·       Slides 1-16


Focusing on practical strategies adult basic educators can use to help their students with LD develop effective skills for finding and retaining employment.  The mastery of basic academics is essential for success in nearly all careers.

Adults with LD face many challenges in finding and keeping employment in such areas as:

·       Demonstrating marketable skills

·       Finding job leads

·       Completing job applications

·       Participating in a job interview

·       Following directions

·       Communicating with others and maintaining social connections at work.

·       Managing time

·       Asking for assistance

For individuals with LD who may never complete high school or an equivalent degree, or who have low literacy and math skills, employment outcomes can be very discouraging.  Many of those who are working are significantly under employed.  They tend to work in occupations that are categorized as “non-skilled” and that typically pay low hourly wages.  They are more likely than others to work part-time and not receive benefits.

Employer Expectations

Basic Skills                                                              Applied Skills

→English language (spoken)                                      →Teamwork/collaboration

→Reading comprehension (English)                           →Critical thinking/ problem-solving

→Written English                                                      →Communication

→Mathematics                                                          →Professionalism/ work ethic

→Science                                                                 →Information technology application

→Government/ economics                                        →Leadership

→Humanities/ arts                                                     →Creativity/ innovation

→Foreign Language                                                  →Lifelong learning/ self-direction

→History/ geography                                                 →Ethics/ social responsibility

Basic Skills refers to academic skills we learn in school.  Applied skills refer to those skills that enable workers to use the basic knowledge acquired in school to perform in the workplace.

ABE instructors are not expected to provide career counseling and education; they do, however, play an important role in helping students see the connection between their academic efforts and critical components of successful work.     

Career development can most easily be explained as having four major components or stages.  Throughout their lives, individuals are constantly moving back and forth through the various stages.



1.     Awareness of Self

ABE instructors can play an important role in directing students to counseling resources where they can be given, with accommodations if needed, career interest and aptitude assessments: Examples: John Holland’s Self-Directed Search or Strong Interest Inventory.  This component of career development is one of the key factors that link with an individual’s ability to be self-determined.

Activities:  Awareness of Self

Help the student make an inventory of their skills and career interest areas, incorporating any relevant findings from assessments in which they may have participated.  Direct the adult learners to career guidance services that can provide assessments and give career exploration. (One-Stop Career Centers, Vocational Rehabilitation.)

2.     Awareness of Opportunity

In order to pursue a job, one must first be aware that an opportunity exists.  Exposure and exploration are key career development activities.  Matching one’s career to the individual’s areas of strengths and interests is a key predictor of success and job satisfaction. Awareness of opportunities for advancement once employed and how to seek out those opportunities are other skills that require development.

Activities:  Awareness of Opportunity

Help the student research local companies online.  Set up opportunities to visit some local companies.  Have the student keep a record of these experiences in a journal.  Students can interview people who work in different fields to gain insights and advice about occupational possibilities. 

3.     Preparation

The ABE instructor can direct students to research the types of education and training that are required for different occupations of interest.  Job search skills also fall under this category.  Finding job leads, preparing resumes, completing applications, effective interviewing and following up with prospective employers are concrete skills that may require direct instruction.

Activities:  Preparation

The ABE instructor can emphasize how important it is for students to discover all they can about career possibilities.  It is a good opportunity to tell adult learners with LD about the value of developing networking skills.  This can be extremely difficult for people who are introverted or who may have communication challenges.  They will likely need strategies for introducing themselves and expressing interest in learning what other people do.  One useful exercise is to have them talk about their passions or interests.

Have the student use a search engine of choice, search the term “work readiness.” 

4.     Work History

It is important to emphasize to ABE students the value of every job they have ever held, regardless of whether they liked it or were successful in that job.  Once employed it is important to keep a log of employment experiences and skills acquired on the job that can be transferred to new opportunities.

Activity:  Work History

Have the students list all of the ways they may have acquired skills: their hobbies, working with others, classes in high school through the present, extracurricular activities, volunteer jobs, paid jobs, and so on.  What did they learn about themselves through those work experiences?  What did they learn about various occupational fields? Help the student develop a resume.


Integrated Basic Skills and Career Pathways

·       Research indicates that the teaching of a combination of basic and occupational skills leads to a higher rate of employment for ABE/GED students as well as longer employment tenure.

·       There is a strong link between literacy and earnings.

·       The Literacy information and Communication System Collections and U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education, maintain a comprehensive online instructional materials library and resources related to work readiness, workforce education and career pathways for adult learners in ABE/GED programs. 


Resources from Learning to Achieve: 

Perspectives of Basic Knowledge and Applied Skills of New Entrants to the 21st Century

       U.S. Workforce

U.S. Department of Labor O-NET

Job Accommodations Network (JAN) 

Disability Technical Assistance Center (DBTAC) 

The Learning Disabilities Association

RESNA Technical Assistance Project


Submitted by Valorie Ericson, L2A Trainer