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How Do I Acquire More Skills?

There are actually many ways to get skills that employers want, while you’re still in high school. Give it a try to prove you can do the job before they hire you.

Building skills at high school

You might already have quite a few work skills that you weren’t even aware of such as:

  • Time management – If you juggle school work with sports, clubs, and a part-time job
  • Teamwork – If you play sports or participate in school clubs
  • Leadership – If you lead any school clubs or are the captain of a sports team
  • Language – If you study a language besides your first language at school
  • Organizational – If you helped organize your prom
  • Customer Service – If you have a restaurant part-time job
  • Public Speaking – If you are in a debate or drama club
  • Fundraising – If you joined a charitable club

These are just a few examples of skills that you can transfer from school to work.

You can also acquire skills at high school that are more technical. For example, you may have taken classes in computers, cooking, woodworking, or art. If you worked on the yearbook, you may have skills in writing, photography, or graphic design.

Still think you lack skills? It’s never too late to join a school club or take up a sport.'

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." - Wayne Gretzky

Thinking ahead to post-secondary school

A post-secondary program is a great way to acquire job-specific skills. Many occupations, from teacher to welder to physician, require post-secondary education. Most others require at least a high school diploma. Some employers are willing to train the people they hire.

What kind of education you might want to pursue depends on your career interests. There are 4 general types of education:

  • Universities offer degrees in various programs and professions.
  • Colleges offer certificates, diplomas, academic upgrading, applied degree programs, and more.
  • Technical institutes offer certificates, diplomas, applied degrees, apprenticeships, and more. Their programs are often related to trades or technical work.
  • Apprenticeships combine classroom teaching and on-the-job training. In Alberta, more than 50 trades have apprenticeship training programs. Examples are cooks, hairstylists, electricians, and machinists.

It is important to consider what kind of proof an employer may want from you in the way of formal training. A certificate or degree can prove you have the knowledge and technical skills for the work you want to do.

Acquiring skills on the job

Some employers may offer on-the-job training. If you take workshops, programs, or courses, remember their titles and keep any certificates you earn. For example, your employer might send you to a one-day course on personal safety. Record the name of the course and the date you took it. You can add it to your resume. It could help you land a future job.

If your employer offers little or no training, you can train yourself:

  • Develop your own orientation. Find out what policies you should be aware of. Ask your supervisor or co-workers for advice and directions.
  • Learn from co-workers. Watch how they work and ask them questions.
  • As long as you are working safely and respecting policies, try going beyond the scope of your job. For example, if you offer a customer shoes to go with the outfit they try on, may it increase the chance of a sale?
  • Find a mentor or coach. Look for someone who can give you formal and informal teaching and useful feedback.
  • Research. Read online about the organization or industry.

Proving you have the skills

Acquiring new skills is one thing. Proving you have them is another. Don’t hesitate to list memberships to school clubs, sports, and activities on your resume or job applications. Many employers recognize that high school students can get valuable skills this way.

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