125 Pre Vocational IEP Goals for High School and Transition

functional life skills how to teach life skills teaching experience transition transition planning Mar 18, 2024
 List of Prevocational Skills Assessment

Early in my time teaching transition my fellow special education teachers and I split up the responsibility of visiting job sites and teaching vocational skills classes.  Like any true novice teacher, I focused most of my vocational skills class time on writing text-based resumes and mock interviews.  If I was asked about the pre-vocational skills I taught, I probably would have asked,  ‘What pre-vocational skills should I teach?’ 

File my complete lack of building better prevocational skills within my students under ‘Things I Wish I Would Have Done Differently.’   But hey, I was a ‘new teacher’ in regards to teaching transition and life skills, and the learning curve was steep!   I’m thankful that when I knew better, I did better.  I’ve compiled a list of 125 prevocational skills that I wish I had as a reference so many years ago. 

Prevocational Skills are Functional Life Skills

Whether your students’ transition plans identify full-time paid employment or part-time volunteer positions in their future, prevocational skills are job skills that prepare individuals for any real world workplace and adult life in general.  

Prevocational skills should be taught to all students, from those with low-support needs, like learning disabilities, to those with higher support needs, like developmental disabilities.   Also, strengthening prevocational skills can increase independence in volunteer positions, paid employment, and in the home settings, because so many skills overlap and/or are transferable between work and living environments.  

What are Pre-Vocational Skills? 

Merriam-Webster defines provocation as ‘given or required before admission to a vocational school,’ but I’m adding my own special education spin to the definition.  

Pre-vocational skills are the foundational skills needed to be successful in nearly any workplace setting, either in the community or other.   

Prevocational skills are required for basically all employees and are separate from the hard skills, like a special certification or knowledge of comic book authors, that would qualify someone for a specific position.  Meaning, prevocational skills are skills that will help individuals work independently, as well as with coworkers, customers, and managers in a variety of work settings. 

The prevocational skill set includes specific skills that are universal enough to fall under all four transition pillars, independent living, education, training, and employment, of the transition plan.  As you’ll see in the loooong list below, there is a lot of overlap between daily living skills and prevocational skills. Therefore, it’s easy to see how prevocational skills are truly foundational skills. 


When Should Students Begin Working on Prevocational Skills?

Pre-vocational skills are an important life skill and worthy of dedicated time in a student’s schedule.  All students, especially special needs students who benefit from repeated exposure and practice, should have prevocational instruction, whether through explicit or indirect instruction.  In short, it’s never too early to start and never too late to begin!


For high school and transition special education teachers, either prioritizing specific time to engage in prevocational skills or organically weaving prevocational instruction into the existing curriculum can ensure that these important skills are a part of the schedules of special education students.  And, after you review the list below you may realize you already cover many of the skills (yay!), and you may be inspired to find additional time or new ways to address other listed skills even more frequently.  

In terms of ‘where’ to practice these skills, prevocational skills can be addressed in the special education classroom or community settings, as part of transition services.  Check out the list of 30 community based vocational settings and opportunities to practice specific skills within a small business for students with higher support needs (i.e. multi-needs, severe to profound) for inspiration.  

And, let it be known that students may progress from prevocational to vocational goals and they may not.  Let each students’ success be individualized.   

Tips for Special Education Teachers

  • Check out the prevocational skills list below and pat yourself on the back for any you already address in your current schedule and curriculum.
  • Identify skills you believe your class or specific students would benefit from strengthening, taking into consideration postsecondary goals and the skills needed to achieve those dreams.
  • Assess students' current skills using a meaningful assessment to develop a baseline (which can also inform student strengths for IEP Present Levels of Performance).
  • Connect with related services staff about methods for addressing specific skill development (because two, three, or four heads are always better than one!).
  • Prevocational skills may be a benchmark of a vocational goal.  Strong prevocational skills can lead to stronger vocational skills and ultimately lead to success in the workplace.  
  • Prevocational skills may check the box for IEP transition goals for independent living, training, education, and/or employment in a student’s IEP.
  • Remember, an appropriate IEP goal expands or deepens a student’s current skill set to increase their opportunities, and a meaningful IEP goal will get the student to THEIR dream job or role.   




This list is for educators who need to bring ideas to an IEP team charged with developing prevocational IEP goals to support future employment to those needing inspiration for new or more prevocational skills to address at the high school and transition level.  Without further ado, here is a list of 125 ideas for pre-vocational skills!


125 PreVocational Skills Goal Ideas

Foundational Skills

  1. Knows left vs right
  2. Gauge distance of an object
  3. Determine if something will fit in a space
  4. Match a picture/description to an item
  5. Attention to precision (ex- lining ends up exactly)
  6. Move and replace an item to the same position
  7. Use memory or visual cues to recall where something is located


Object Placement

  1. Place an item in front of another item
  2. Place an item behind another item
  3. Place an item to the right of another item
  4. Place an item to the left of another item
  5. Place an item above another item (ex-separate shelf)
  6. Place an item below another item
  7. Place an item on top of another item (ex-stacked on top)
  8. Place an item underneath another item
  9. Turn item to face forward
  10. Turn item to face backward
  11. Turn item to face the right
  12. Turn item to face the left
  13. Lines up items left to right
  14. Lines up items front to back
  15. Arranges by height in descending/ascending order
  16. Explain the location of an object (ex- next to the blue blankets in aisle 10)



  1. Sort by 2 different sizes (letter and number)
  2. Sort by 3 different sizes (letter and number)
  3. Sort by 4 or more different sizes (letter and number)
  4. Sort by color
  5. Sort by length
  6. Sort by date
  7. Sort by type (ex- pants vs shirts)
  8. Sort by quantity



  1. Match by size (letter)
  2. Match by size (number)
  3. Match colors
  4. Match type (boots with boots, gym shoes with gym shoes)
  5. Match visual to physical object
  6. Match and place an object based on the layout of a picture


Body Awareness/ Fine Motor/Gross Motor

  1. Use fingers to turn an object
  2. Use hands to press down on an object
  3. Use hands to pull up on an object
  4. Use fingers to tie a knot
  5. Use upper arm for strength
  6. Use body to hold a heavy object
  7. Use body to push an object
  8. Use body to pull an object
  9. Use body to help complete a task (ex- foot to hold door, then walk through)
  10. Use 2 hands to complete a task/carry things
  11. Tie/Untie a knot
  12. Clasp or buckle/Unclasp or unbuckle a buckle
  13. Type into a keypad or keyboard
  14. Lift an object
  15. Set down an object according to weight and/or fragility
  16. Get low to the ground
  17. Reach up high


Task Completion

  1. Using visual cues and awareness to determine tasks to be completed 
  2. Sustain attention for on-task behavior
  3. Reduce/Remove distractions to remain on-task
  4. Re-engage with task after becoming distracted
  5. Follow a task schedule
  6. Task importance (ex- what tasks must be completed and which are of lesser importance) 
  7. Task prioritization (ex- which make the most sequential sense or is of higher importance according to superiors)
  8. Task initiation
  9. Task independence
  10. Using a task analysis to complete a new(er) task
  11. Follow written directions
  12. Follow directions given by example (ex-steps explained as manager completed a task by example) 
  13. Changing steps in a task to meet an updated/new expectation
  14. Identifying when a task has been completed
  15. Maintaining attention to task until task is complete
  16. Completing less preferred tasks
  17. Complete task steps in order
  18. Complete a 1-step task (in writing and given verbally)
  19. Complete a 2-step task  (in writing and given verbally)
  20. Complete a 3-step task  (in writing and given verbally)
  21. Complete a 4 or more step task  (in writing and given verbally)
  22. Task accuracy compared to example or standard
  23. Consistency of task accuracy
  24. Transition between tasks smoothly/efficiently


Time Management

  1. Read analog clock (helpful resource)
  2. Read digital clock
  3. Identify 5 minutes before a specific time (ex- to be present at work to sign in on time) (helpful resource)
  4. Follow a time schedule
  5. Recognize when time indicates being behind schedule
  6. Recognize when time indicates being ahead of schedule
  7. Calculate span of time (ex- 2-6pm = 4 hours, length of a work shift)
  8. Recognize time remaining and need to increase task speed
  9. Read a schedule (date and time) formatted in a grid
  10. Accept a change in a schedule
  11. Request additional tasks if time allows



  1. Welcome all team members
  2. Welcome all perspectives and ideas
  3. Accept assistance from others
  4. Offer assistance to others 
  5. Work with one or more people on a task


Problem Solve  (helpful resource)

  1. Recognize a problem
  2. Choose the best person to provide support/ideas/assistance
  3. Choose the best and safest solution
  4. Take action to execute the solution
  5. Choose another solution if the first choice is unsuccessful


Safety  (helpful resource)

  1. Identify common safety signs to reduce risk
  2. Abide by general safety expectations (assumed and labeled)
  3. Anticipate safety issues and request assistance as needed
  4. Change locations smoothly/quickly
  5. Refrain from sharing personal information with unsafe, unfamiliar people
  6. Engage in self-regulation/coping strategies to maintain safe behavior


Communication Skills

  1. Introduce self to others
  2. Recall the names of others
  3. Initiating communication with a familiar or unfamiliar communication partner
  4. Interrupt using non-verbal cues and appropriate wait time with familiar or unfamiliar communication partners
  5. Using respectful word choice when communicating with superiors
  6. Choose appropriate conversation topics and word choice in workplace settings (i.e. no curse words)
  7. Request information or support from familiar and unfamiliar people
  8. Share information with familiar and unfamiliar people
  9. Make note of directions given verbally (ex- by repeating back directions, writing directions down, requesting directions be written, etc.)
  10. Remain engaged with a task while communicating with others
  11. End communication with others when no longer appropriate or distracting to task



  1. Basic math skills using mental math or calculator (add, subtract, multiply, divide) 
  2. Identify and interpret various ways to write and read a date


Social Skills/Other

  1. Knock before entering a room or space with a closed door
  2. Recognize abbreviations of common words
  3. Match abbreviations to full words
  4. Use only one’s own personal items
  5. Initiate and exchange general greetings and niceties (ex- good morning, hello, welcome, please, thank you, goodbye)
  6. Stand an appropriate distance away from someone/something
  7. Complete personal hygiene routine/tasks for a professional appearance

While the list of 125 prevocational skills was comprehensive, the Transition Skills IEP Goal Bank resource is a great way to get EVEN MORE IDEAS for skills and IEP goals.  




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