Schuylkill Technology Center: Using Employability Skills to Improve Culture and Teach Social and Emotional Learning

Posted on Categories Career Development & Postsecondary Prep, Employability Skills

At a Glance

The Schuylkill Technology Center team recognized that the best way to improve school culture and integrate effective Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) was to connect the five domains from the CASEL SEL Framework to the employability skills framework that the school was already using to prepare students for the workforce. The CASEL SEL framework, known to many as the “CASEL wheel,” helps cultivate skills and environments that advance students’ learning and development.


Beginning in 2016, the Schuylkill Technology Center (both campuses) joined the Pennsylvania School Climate Improvement Network with the goal of changing negative perceptions toward career and technical education and their school. The School Climate Initiative focused on three domains: SEL, student support, and safe school climate. The initiative yielded positive benefits such as:

  • More positive perception of STC/CTE
  • Increased enrollment with higher-level students 
  • Increased attention to student voice 
  • Increased morale and pride among staff and students 
  • Creation of new student activities and increased participation 
  • Improved relationships among constituent groups
  • Improved relationships with community and industry partners 
  • Increased demand for student workers/Co-Op

However, the 2016 School Climate Survey revealed the lowest scores in Social Emotional Learning across all constituent groups. This prompted the development of an action plan focused on supporting student social and emotional learning.

In a recent interview, Assistant Director Stacey Minaghan shared that as the team began to explore the best approach to improving students’ SEL and school climate, they discovered that the easiest way to teach SEL is “do what we do” and that was through the SkillsUSA Employability Skills Framework that they were already using. This had a two prong benefit. First teachers and students were already accustomed to using the Employability Skills Framework, so they would not consider this a new initiative. Secondly, it provided a way to strengthen the school climate as a whole.

The SkillsUSA Framework provided a basis for school leaders, teachers, and support staff to focus on skills like:

  • Work Ethic: work ethic daily grade; time cards  
  • Communication: student ambassadors; public speaking; announcements; LAC/OAC student representatives 
  • Teamwork: shop projects; shop supervisor; job assignments 
  • Technology: Google classroom; portfolios; Cengage soft skills  
  • Integrity: Restorative Practices; discipline with SEL reinforcements; trustful relationships; Co-Op recommendations 
  • Professionalism: dress code; industry standards rubrics; phone; shop orders; conflict resolution training 

The team then worked to connect the SkillsUSA Framework to the CASEL Framework. Similar to academic skills, social and emotional competencies create a foundation for students to pursue their career and life goals. By aligning and integrating SEL and workforce preparation efforts, they could intentionally promote the competencies and environments that will prepare their students to thrive and succeed in the workplace.

Connections to Social Emotional Learning

CASEL Framework Component  Connected SkillsUSA Framework Components 
Self-awareness  Professionalism 
Self-management Responsibility
Social awareness Service orientation 
Responsible decision-making  Work ethic 
Safety and health 
Relationship skills  Communication 

Employer surveys indicated SEL as essential to workforce development efforts and college, career, and community readiness, which made the connection between CASEL and CTE all the more important. Employers are seeking employees who have social and emotional competencies, emphasizing communication and interpersonal skills, self-management skills, and the ability to collaborate or work in teams. Employers also desire workers who can solve problems, have respect for people from different backgrounds, and think critically and strategically to make wise and ethical decisions. These combined findings highlight the role SEL can play to ensure students are ready for the workforce.


Stacey Minaghan shared that by connecting the teaching of employability skills to the five domains of the CASEL Framework, teachers were the key to improving SEL, school climate, and ultimately, student success in the workforce. The key strategy was intentionally showing students that this is what they were already doing at STC by pointing out the connections as they occur on a daily basis.!



Stacey Minahan, Assistant Director

Gretchen Witman, Social Worker