ACT game

Volume 12, Issue 1
January, 2018

Games of Summer

The Attitude Communication Teamwork (ACT) board game helps learning and orientation to the world of work

Original, student-crafted and personalized game board
Functional Training Services (FTS), a vocational rehabilitation agency in Ohio, offers two summer youth training programs: Career Exploration (offered just before a student’s sophomore year) and Work Experience (offered the following summers of high school).

Career Exploration 
Held in a small group setting every day for three weeks. It includes brief lectures; group activities; and community visits to public service agencies, vocational training facilities, and employers. Specific career interests of each student are explored, and the impact of attitude, communication, and teamwork is related to those specific career settings.

Work Experience 
Starts with one week in a classroom to teach soft skills for vocational success followed by four weeks of community-based work experiences.

The challenges in integrated summer vocational training programs for students stem from the wide range of accommodations needed to serve a diverse group of individuals. The depth in which topics and areas are covered must be varied on an individual basis to meet each student where they are. With only a few weeks available, the programs are limited to the most important topics. In addition, off-topic interactions are guaranteed in a group of young people.

Through these challenges, the program must meet its goals and engage each student at an individual level. FTS uses a modified form of the Skills to Pay the Bills curriculum, developed by the Office of Disability Employment Policy at the U.S. Department of Labor. The curriculum includes the concepts of attitude, communication, and teamwork.

The goals of the program are to:

  1. Impart basic information about the world of work and rehabilitation services in a fun and interactive way.
  2. Familiarize students with services that can accommodate their needs to successfully enter employment.
  3. Instill and encourage interactive behaviors that make a worker a valuable and productive team member.

In the process of measuring the effectiveness of meeting goals, the state vocational rehabilitation agency requires pre- and post-testing for the programs. But the specific test design has been left to FTS.

Developing the board game with student involvement

Jerry Waits, Career Exploration Counselor, the creator of ACT.
The development of a board game came about in the quest to engage students in the topics they would need to demonstrate for the pre- and post-tests. It is important to give students a reason to focus on the concepts of how to be a valuable employee in a way that appeals to their real interests.

The premise was that most young people want to interact, especially in the summer after a school year of being restricted to a classroom. So in the summer of 2016, Jerry Waits, an FTS instructor, asked the students to design a study game.

The classroom had various mementos from community employer visits. Restaurant seasoning packets and candy wrappers, business cards with logos, and various types of marketing materials such as coupons were among this debris. These items sparked the creative process and were used to design a game board. Jerry needed only to supply the students with poster board, colored markers, scissors, and glue and they were off and running.

Because the objective of the program is to have a successful career, that also became the objective of the game. Employers became spaces on the board. Knowing the important vocational success principles (i.e., the goals of the program) became the strategy. To play, students have to apply those principles to specific questions. Knowing vital rehabilitation services and demonstrating a positive attitude, good communication, and teamwork are how a player wins. (See “How ACT is Played” below for further details).

Initial results

During the first use, the students had fun and Jerry saw the post-test scores go up. An FTS supervisor noticed the colorful game board and, after a few questions, provided time and resources for him to refine and duplicate the game for use the following year.

Other agency workers were happy to pitch in and help. They collected employer logos from the internet and helped make game pieces such as “Career Bucks” that are used to purchase items in-game that increase the player’s success. Four copies of the ACT game were hand produced, two for each FTS training site. They were used this past summer and proved successful in keeping the students on topic, helping one another, and again increasing their post-test performance.

The level of student enjoyment of this game and the impact on overall post-test scores makes this teaching strategy valuable in FTS summer programming.

How ACT is played

Students roll dice to move around a game board with spaces representing major entry-level job employers. Corner spaces represent important employment components: High School Diploma, Vocational Training, Public Transportation, and the all-important Payday. Those spaces increase the number of Career Bucks players receive as they pass Payday and help them reach employers.

Employer spaces represent employers in six different areas of entry-level jobs. When landing on an employer square, a player is asked a question related to the world of work by the Interviewer (class instructor). If the player answers correctly, they are “hired” by the employer and that employer is marked on their resume sheet.

There are six career categories and five employers in each category. The categories are Fast Food, Grocers, Family Restaurants, Convenience Stores, Department Stores, and Service Employers. When a player has been hired by all five employers in one category, they have completed their Career (Even though that individual player wins the game, everyone in the group is also a winner as they learn new skills and define new paths in mastering attitude, communication, and teamwork).

Job Placement and Job Coaching can be purchased in-game with Career Bucks. Job Placement increases player chances of connecting with (landing on) employers they need. Job Coaching helps them successfully answer an “interview” question to add the employer to their resume sheet.

There are also two board spaces that prompt the player to draw an ACT Card. The card provides movement to desired spaces and additional Career Bucks. The card also directs the player to include another player in the benefits. This is an important feature that encourages teamwork and communication among the players.

FTS received exemplary recognition on a recent accreditation report for its development and use of the ACT game to assess and teach core work behaviors. The recognition says, in part, “Staff is commended for the initiative and creativity in the development of this approach to workforce development.”

If you would like more information on the process of developing a game for your agency’s summer employment programs, please contact Debi Kuhn, Executive Director, by email at [email protected] or visit

Copyright © 2018 CARF International, All rights reserved.

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