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Start Now to Build the Skills Employers Want

It’s never too soon to start building your skills. High school is a great time to start learning career skills. Learn about the skills you already have. Then learn what skills you’ll need to develop for the careers that interest you. Get a head start so you can prove you’re ready to be hired.

Some of the skills you learn in school are skills employers look for too. Employers expect their employees to have 2 types of skills:

  1. Some skills are core skills such as being able to work well with others. You need core skills for any career or job you choose. They are skills that all employers will want you to have.
  2. Other skills are work-specific. For example, steamfitter-pipefitters need to know how to assemble and install pipes and valves.

Learn what skills you already have

You might not have much work experience. But you’ve already learned a lot through your life experiences.

You have many interests and abilities. You’ve accomplished many things. And you’ve developed some of the skills employers want. For example, if you belong to a school team, you’ve learned to work well with others. If you volunteer, you’ve learned to organize your work and complete tasks on time.

The skills you develop are interlinked. And doing just one activity can teach you lots of different skills. Say you’ve worked on a group science project. Here are some of the skills you’ve developed through your work:

  • Numeracy—You’ve learned to use numbers to measure and classify your findings.
  • Collaboration—You’ve learned to be supportive and work as part of a team.
  • Problem solving—You’ve learned to think, set goals, and make decisions.

Making a list of skills you already have will help you build a strong resumé. It will also show you any weaknesses or gaps. Identifying your skills is not boasting. It’s simply looking into the mirror and getting to know yourself better.

Learn what skills you need

Different jobs need different types of skills. Here are 3 easy ways to figure out what skills you’ll need for the job you want:

  1. Search the skills required for more than 550 occupations in Alberta.
  2. Explore the Government of Canada’s Job Bank.
  3. Explore essential skills profiles that describe the skills required for various occupations.

Build your skills

It’s important to know what skills you have and what skills you want to work on. You can build your skills in many ways:

Building skills at school

It’s never too soon to start building your skills. You can begin to make a plan when you’re in junior high. By the time you’re in high school, you can put your plan into action.

In high school you’ll have lots of opportunities to try new things. You’ll have lots of options for learning and practising the skills you’ll need in the workplace.

High school is a great place to build 9 important core skills. Core skills are called transferable skills because you use them throughout your life. They transfer with you when you move from school to the workplace and from job to job.

Here are some ways you can learn core skills in high school:

High school is also a great place to develop technical, work-specific skills. Here are some examples:

  • You can learn computer programming in a Computer Science course.
  • You can develop woodworking or cooking skills through hands-on course options.
  • If you work on the school yearbook, you can learn skills like photography or graphic design.
  • You can register in a dual credit course to learn about a particular trade.
  • You can sign up for a Registered Apprenticeship Program to get a head start on your career.

Building skills through your hobbies or interests

Developing hobbies and interests builds both core and work-specific skills.

You’ll develop all sorts of skills when you pursue interests like these:

  • Communicating on social media
  • Building content for a video game
  • Writing lyrics for your friend’s band
  • Investing some of your allowance in the stock market
  • Joining a community organization
  • Helping your uncle repair his car
  • Playing sports

In the following video, Cory talks about how he likes to draw. It has always been his favourite pastime. Now he’s learning to use a computer to draw digital graphics and designs. His hobby is a great stepping stone to a future career. He could become a cartoonist, a web designer, or even a video game developer.

Career Inspirations: Graphics (2:43)

Cory enjoys digital graphics and design. Watch him explore creative occupations and educational options that will allow him to make use of those skills.

Explore more videos about youth who are developing skills through their hobbies.

Building skills through your part-time jobs

Part-time work and summer jobs are a great way to acquire new skills.

Some employers offer on-the-job training. For example, your employer might send you to a 1-day course on first aid.

If your employer doesn’t offer training, you can still learn new skills on the job. Here are some ways you can train yourself and develop your skills:

  • Develop your own employee orientation program. Learn where things are and who does what. Get an employee handbook. Ask your co-workers for direction and advice. Find out what safety practices you need to follow.
  • Look for learning opportunities in the workplace. Watch and learn from your co-workers. And don’t be afraid to ask questions about how things work.
  • Go beyond the scope of your job. Offer to take on new tasks. And be creative in how you approach your work. For example, say a customer is trying on a new outfit. If you pair the outfit with matching shoes, will that increase the chance of a sale?
  • Find a mentor or coach. Choose someone who can answer your questions and give you useful feedback.

Show your stuff

You may still be in school. And you may not have a lot of work experience. But you already have many different skills.

Many employers hire for entry-level, gateway jobs based on the skills people already have. Here are 2 ways to show prospective employers what you already know.

1. Create a master resumé

A master resumé is a complete list of all your education, experience, accomplishments, and skills.

Keep your master resumé up to date. Record all your training, education, and experience. Add new skills as you learn them.

If you take workshops, programs, or courses on the job, keep track of their titles. Record the name of the course and the date you took it. And keep any certificates you earn. They could help you land a future job.

When you apply for a job, use selected information from your master resumé to create a resumé specifically for that job. The job-specific resumé you create should speak to each skill the job requires.

2. Learn to communicate your skills

You’ll continue learning new skills throughout your career. However, learning how to communicate about your skills is something you can start practising now. Here’s how:

  • List relevant skills on your resumé and on job application. If you’re not ready to apply for work yet, practice creating a custom resumé for your dream job or an ideal employer.
  • Learn to showcase your skills in job interviews. Practice the STARS method as a way to describe how you’ve applied your skills in the past.
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