How to Help Your Students Overcome the 3 Main Employability Barriers

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Author: Cara Bentham Published on: Sept. 12, 2019 Expected Reading Time: 4 mins


My experience of teaching employability has taught me that there are three main barriers preventing some students from accessing opportunities. Regardless of what you are teaching, and where you teach it, there are things you can do to help set your students up for life beyond your classroom.

Embedding employability skills into your lessons will pay off for both you and your students. Not only will you set your students up for success, you'll also ensure those all-important progressions which demonstrate the effectiveness of your course – a great selling point to future students!

This is my advice on how to help your students overcome the 3 main employability barriers…



Often, students are too shy or anxious to even approach an organization and apply for a job or training opportunity and, when they do, they fall apart at the interview stage or quit when they have barely started.

How do we help them overcome this?

The first step to confidence-building in education is to create a safe, inclusive environment in which everyone feels welcome and valued. Insist on respect and tolerance of one another’s differences. A great starting point is to get your students involved in creating a group contract with agreed standards which everyone will adhere to when they are together as a group. Provide plenty of opportunities for students to work on their communication and group work skills when setting tasks. Ensure that you encourage peer support and constructive feedback. Offer plenty of positive encouragement and challenge students to come out of their comfort zone, building upon this in small, achievable steps so that you don’t set them up to fail.


A lack of skills or knowledge

Some students simply lack the skills required to be able to source opportunities and apply for them or they lack the skills and knowledge they need to get into whatever it is they want to do.

How do we help them overcome this?

This will require a more individual approach as there will likely be a broad range of skills or knowledge gaps amongst your students. Get to know your students individually, setting aside time for 1:1 guidance and support wherever possible. Find out what their future goals are and help them to create a plan for progression after your course has finished. Determine what skills and knowledge they need to build on to help them get there. If a general theme emerges, you can plan group sessions surrounding this. You may, for example, need to run workshops on sourcing and applying for opportunities or writing a C.V. Where individuals lack specific skills, such as communication or teamwork, ensure you provide plenty of opportunities for them to work on these during your lessons. To work on teamwork, for example, you could ensure that group work is regularly used as a teaching and learning method. To work on verbal communication, you could set tasks for students to deliver presentations on whatever topic it is that they’re studying.


Not being ready

Some students are simply not ready to function in a professional environment.

These are the students who present significant issues surrounding behavior, attendance or attitude which are preventing them from progressing.

How do we help them overcome this?

You will need to take a very individualized approach to help your students overcome these types of barriers. Whilst it is always good to enforce general standards in your classroom, it’s important to recognize that there are always personal reasons why the most challenging students present the way that they do. These may include learning difficulties (sometimes undiagnosed), mental health challenges and historical issues relating to their experiences either socially or at home. Some may have multiple and complex barriers and mentoring people to change their behavior takes time. There is only so much that you can do during the time you have with them and some will need more specialist support. What you can do is try to understand individual behaviors and where they’re coming from. Make adaptations to your teaching and learning approaches, resources and assessment methods to ensure you maximize participation and achievement. Those who struggle to concentrate for long periods of time, for example, can benefit from short tasks with active elements. Make sure your students understand that working on certain behaviors will set them up for future success; there is a personal benefit and you’re not simply asking them to conform to make your life easier. Support individuals to improve their behavior gradually by creating personalized strategies and reward systems. Use positive reinforcement rather than focusing on negative behaviors. It is not unfair to treat your students differently and, if some of your students view it this way, you can simply explain that everyone needs to focus on themselves and that this may require different approaches from you, as a teacher, to ensure that everyone achieves their best. 


There is no easy fix when helping your students to overcome employability barriers but adopting these strategies will ensure that you’ve done your bit to set your students up for life beyond your classroom. You can be proud of knowing that you have made a real difference to their lives which, after all, is why so many go into teaching in the first place.

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