The Road To Employability - It Starts At Birth
by Carole Eller, Extension Educator, Youth and Resource Development,
University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT
Traditional early childhood education programs have supported the theory that children need lots of varied and stimulating experiences if they are going to develop the skills necessary to achieve success in their adult lives. Recently, research has proven this theory to be true. Center-based child care programs can provide children with the opportunity to begin to develop these skills by continuing to offer a wide variety of interest corners and activities and to encourage their staffs to create new learning opportunities so each child will develop as they should.
In 1991, the Secretary of Labor's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS ) issued a report that defined the foundation skills and workplace competencies needed to insure future employability. The National 4-H Council used this report to create The Workforce Preparation Model. (See page 3) The model suggests a variety of experiences and opportunities that can and perhaps should be offered to encourage proper skill development. The Workforce Preparation Model is unique because it includes very young children.
Below is a list of the foundation skills and workplace competencies featured in the SCANS report and included in the Workforce Preparation Model. Each skill is followed by examples of how center-based child care can support the development this skill in their children.
- Basic Skills including reading writing, mathematics, science, listening speaking.
- Activities to teach basic skills:
- Reading stories, counting the places at the table as snacks are put out, role playing in the dress-up corner, sharing something that happened at home, talking to other children in the kitchen or store corners, and matching leaves.
- Thinking skills including creative thinking decision making, problem solving visualizing, learning to learn.
- Activities to teach thinking skills
- Role playing, thinking of funny ways to sit, stand, lay on the floor, drawing silly pictures, deciding what cookie to take when the tray is passed, watching what happens when ice is left in a warm room and looking at dirt through a magnifying glass.
- Personal qualities including responsibility, self esteem, sociability, self-management, integrity/honesty.
- Activities that develop personal qualities
- Putting toys away, waiting for everyone to sit before eating, sharing toys, taking turns, learning and following the routine of the day, not touching other's projects.
The SCANS report also outlines workplace competencies. These are more complex skills,however, many of them will have beginnings in the preschool program. They include:
- Utilizing resources: identifies, organizes, plans and allocates resources including time, money, material, facilities and human resources.
- Activities to teach resource allocation.
- Have lots of materials available. Encourage children to make choices. Help children gain a sense of time by giving warnings and cues as activities change.(i.e. "We will wash our hands for lunch in five minutes." "You may watch the movie in ten minutes when the big hand is on one.") Have children pick up spaces and put away materials so they learn to respect property.
- Working with others: participates as a member of a team, teaches others new skills, exercises leadership, negotiates solutions to problems and appreciates diversity.
- Encourage small group play for children.
- As teacher you may start the imagination play, but as childrn pick up on the idea, withdraw your participation and allow the children to design their own scenarios.
- Using information: Acquires new information and evaluates for future application, interprets, communicates and uses technology to communicate and solve problems.
- Preschool children are learning at a rapid rate.
- Talk with them to help them explore many ways to use newly learned information (i.e. "Now that you know how to tie your shoes, what other things might you tie?" or "Can you help me wrap this package by tying the bow?")
- Understanding systems: Knows how social, organizational, and technological systems function, monitors and corrrects performance, improves or designs systems.
- Creat routines in your center.
- Routines help children practice being part of a system and controlling their own behavior to fit into the routine. There may be normal routines around eating lunch. For instance, everyone sits with their hands folded until the group is all ready to begin.
- Utilizing technology: Works with a variety of technologies to select equipment and tools, applies technologies to specific tasks, maintains and troubleshoots equipment.
- Young children are probably more comfortable with technology than adults.
- Try to have computers and other equipment available. Teach children how to use it appropriately and let them play and learn independently. Even older coomputers that are no longer useful for adult applications may be used by children to play educational games.
The center based child care program is laying the earliest foundations for success in life. We must make the environments for young children rich in experience, safe and secure to encourage exploration, creativity and learning potential.