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U.S. Dept. of Labor: Soft Skills to Pay the Bills

Example Web Site and/or Technical Equipment Required


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Computer(s), Internet access, projector, and speakers (for class presentation)

Activity Description

"Skills to Pay the Bills: Mastering Soft Skills for Workplace Success," is a curriculum focused on teaching "soft" or workforce readiness skills to youth (and could be useful for anyone seeking employment). Created for teachers as an introduction to workplace interpersonal and professional skills, the curriculum is targeted for youth ages 14 to 21 in both in-school and out-of-school environments. The basic structure of the program is comprised of modular, hands-on, engaging activities that focus on six key skill areas: communication, enthusiasm and attitude, teamwork, networking, problem solving and critical thinking, and professionalism. Accompanying videos [www] help with material presentation.

Developed by the Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Dept of Labor


  1. Read through the two introductory PDF documents, "Introduction and Activity Layout," and "Through the Lens of Universal Design for Learning." If you have students with known learning disabilities, the third document "Tips for Improving Access for Youth with Disabilities" may also be helpful.
  2. The first topic in the series is Communication, so this activity will focus there. (Feel free to visit the other topics also as time allows.)
  3. Make copies of the role plays in Activity 1 as necessary.
  4. For Activity 3, download the Soft Skills Emotions word list document (above) and cut them out for the first part of the activity.
  5. For Activity 4 you will need a sheet of 8.5 x 11" paper for each student.
  6. For Activity 5 you will need to make a copy for each student.
  7. If you decide to show the accompanying video, be sure to preview it, since it may or may not be relevant to your population.


  1. The "How to's" for this curriculum are presented in the pdf document on Communication. Read through it for instructions.
  2. Show the 2:15 minute video if you think it is applicable. It deals with communication issues that are more likely a problem among teenagers and young adults since it is about speaking in "text" language.

Teacher Tips

Communication skills are necessary for the development of self-advocacy and self-determination, important skills for lifelong success. To that end, the activities in this section offer many opportunities for students to practice communicating their strengths and assets while learning how to minimize any perceived barriers to employment. Please take the opportunity to add to or tweak any of the activities to better focus on the needs of your particular group.

For example, if working with students with disabilities, create opportunities to practice communicating how, when, and to whom to disclose a disability on the job or in post-secondary education and/or different ways to communicate a request for a reasonable accommodation. If you support students with a poor work history, you may want to include this section’s extension activities to practice how to communicate the proactive changes they are making in their lives, what they have learned from previous experiences, and how any mistakes of the past have helped them to become more focused and dedicated adults.

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The other topics contained in this series include: Enthusiasm & Attitude, Teamwork, Networking, Problem Solving & Critical Thinking, and Professionalism.



  • Intermediate High
  • Advanced


Basic Communication

  • (0.1) Communicate in interpersonal interactions

Basic Communication

  • (4.6) Communicate effectively in the workplace
  • (4.8) Demonstrate effectiveness in working with other people
  • (4.1) Understand basic principles of getting a job
  • (4.4) Understand concepts and materials related to job performance and training
  • (4.9) Understand how organizational systems function, and operate effectively within them

Basic Communication

  • (7.2) Demonstrate ability to use critical thinking skills
  • (7.3) Demonstrate ability to use problem-solving skills
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OTAN activities are funded by contract CN200091-A2 from the Adult Education Office, in the Career & College Transition Division, California Department of Education, with funds provided through Federal P.L., 105-220, Section 223. However, OTAN content does not necessarily reflect the position of that department or the U.S. Department of Education.