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A group of 35 Mooseheart high school students got a deep look at how to make themselves more employable on Sept. 20, when they participated in a lecture and series of group activities with Anna Marie MacDonald, the manager at the Workforce Connection Center in Lombard.
MacDonald’s visit to Mooseheart was coordinated by art teacher Meagan Plass, the commercial arts instructor at Mooseheart. All Mooseheart high school students choose a vocation in addition to their classwork. In addition to commercial arts, Mooseheart offers vocations in automotive mechanics, commercial music, business, computer science and cosmetology. All Mooseheart vocations are connected through Career and Technical Education (CTE) and this connection helped bring Plass to MacDonald and ultimately, MacDonald to Mooseheart.
“CTE has so many opportunities for our students to grow at Mooseheart. CTE has a total of five vocational branches for students to learn career-ready skills. Our vocational classes work closely with CTE classroom standards to help enhance our students’ vocational skills,” Plass said.
MacDonald explained to the students that “employability” is, “A set of skills or knowledge that make an individual more likely to secure and be successful in their chosen occupation to the benefit of themselves, the workforce, the community and the economy.”
Asked to list some skills they may be important, students offered “communication,” “creativity,” “the ability to work hard,” “a good attitude” and “dependability” among others.
MacDonald spent time discussing how a student could take a job application “buzzword,” decipher it and then address that buzzword when applyi8ng for the job.
For example, she mentioned that many employers seek applicants with “good communication skills.” This could mean many things, MacDonald said, including interpersonal skills, the ability to speak and write clearly as well as the ability to work with clients or customers. Then she asked the students to ask themselves, “Is this something you’re strong at? Is it something you have to work on? The good thing is that you can get better at it.”
MacDonald said this is a particularly important skill because companies are struggling to find people with strong communication skills. To show how students can work to become better communicators, she played a game. Two students sat back-to-back. One held an object and had to describe it to the other student, who drew a picture of the object being described.
McDonald said school is a great place to highlight skills to improve and then to do the work of improving those skills.
“You’re gathering strengths,” MacDonald said. “When you’re writing your resume and you don’t have any job experience, talk about your school experience: being on a team, in a club, volunteering. Employers look at those things.”
With its heavy emphasis on student volunteerism, Plass said Mooseheart students are gaining skills they can utilize in school, the community or at work.
“These employability skills are very close to our Mooseheart Model and what we teach here at Mooseheart, where our motto is ‘Enter to learn; leave to serve,’” Plass said.