If you read the Chelsea Bradley column in last week’s edition of this article, or in the Rogersville Review on Wednesday, Feb. 2, you’ve read a bit about courses called “career exploration.”
If you missed this article, I hope you look it up, Chelsea’s story is inspiring and well worth reading. Anyway, in this column, I promised more information to follow on career exploration, so here we are.
Career exploration is a term that can mean many things in Career and Technical Education (CTE).
Each CTE program offered in Hawkins County includes standards and expectations that students enrolled in these courses will explore careers in depth aligned with the content provided.
For example, students in culinary arts courses will complete a variety of assignments and projects aimed at giving them an understanding of the current job market and the types of jobs available in the hospitality industry. Students may also hear from industry professionals when invited into the classroom as guest speakers.
In many cases, students will take a short excursion to visit a local business or industry for a tour. All of these activities are considered career exploration and are incorporated into CTE programs.
However, that’s not all career exploration is about. You see, if we didn’t go any further than that, we would only ever reach students who enroll in CTE courses, and their exposure would be limited to career exploration in specific career fields.
But what about students who don’t know what careers they are interested in? These students might not enroll in CTE courses at all if they do not know they are interested.
“Serious decisions related to their future”
We start asking students in eighth grade to make serious decisions about their future; while they’re certainly encouraged to think about it long before eighth grade, that’s when students should sit down with a high school counselor and tentatively plan how they’ll spend their next four years.
That’s a lot of pressure for a 13 year old, and we want him to have as much frontend knowledge as possible to reduce that stress. Of course, not all eighth graders know what they want to be when they grow up, not all high school graduates, in fact, I’d bet there are plenty of adults who don’t. not really the career they want.
Although the four-year plan established as eighth graders prepare to enter high school is reviewed each year and may change, the earlier it is specific, the more opportunities a student will have as they approach graduation. of the diploma.
For example, a student who has a solid plan in place as a freshman will have multiple openings in their schedule during their junior and senior year in which they can take a dual-enrollment course and earn a head start for college credit, or he may participate. in a work-based apprenticeship and get on-the-job training.
While a student who is unsure as a freshman may bounce between a few different course types to meet their basic graduation requirements, which could result in fewer selection opportunities elective courses.
So how can we help eighth graders figure out what they want to do so they can make that four-year plan accurate and enjoy as many opportunities as possible while they’re in high school?
Simple, we begin career exploration as early as sixth grade and ask students to explore careers in many different industries. Specifically, we use a software platform called Major Clarity.
“Answer a few basic questions”
Major Clarity allows students to spend a few minutes answering basic questions like “Do you like solving math problems?” or “do you like making models?”.
After answering the questions, the software calculates a “Fit Score” which is simply a numerical rating of how likely a student is to find a particular career field interesting.
For example, if a student answered “yes” to these two questions above, and several others, they would likely get a fit score indicating that they might be interested in engineering.
From there, the student can take a closer look or take a “test drive” to learn more about the career, engineering in the case of this example. The test drive consists of several short activities such as watching an interview with an engineer, performing interactive activities like reading a blueprint to answer a few questions, or designing a basic bridge structure and testing its strength under various weight loads.
There are also several other activities and missions that will guide the student to research what type of engineering jobs are available in the area, how much these jobs pay, and what training they should take after high school if they want to be an engineer .
“Advisors will have a mountain of data”
But wait, there’s more… Students who identify one or more careers of interest can then find a list of area post-secondary institutions that offer the required training in the Major Clarity software.
They can see how much student loan debt typical students incur to attend these schools. They can even find and apply for scholarships at specific institutions or specific college majors.
Now, we don’t expect many eighth graders to apply for scholarships, but we certainly hope junior and senior high students will, which is one of the reasons Major Clarity is available to all students in grades 6-12.
All of this is useful for completing those four-year plans before entering high school. You see, Major Clarity allows students to complete these test drive activities and then indicate whether or not they are really interested in the career field.
If a student does this multiple times between sixth grade and entering high school, school counselors will have a mountain of data unique to each student and directly aligned with the student’s interests, which will help set the plan for the high school. school. It is an invaluable resource.
Consider our example of a student who is interested in engineering. The school counselor might then explain that a career in engineering would likely require a bachelor’s degree and that college courses would likely include advanced math and science.
Based on this, the student’s four-year plan could be designed to include a steady progression of math and science courses that could even culminate in dual-enrollment courses that could save them time and money by avoiding a few college classes later. I would call it valuable experience for the student, every time.
“Career exploration is vital for vision”
However, we are not quite done yet. High school students also have the option of making career exploration a formal course offering. Within these classes, students like Chelsea Bradley spend time doing the same type of activities described above, they may even use Major Clarity to help with some of this work, but there is an additional element to those high school classes.
In formal career exploration courses, students will have the opportunity to visit and learn about the CTE programs offered at their home campus while learning about the careers available in each program.
This is essential because even with Major Clarity used at the college level, some students may not be sure until they have the chance to spend some time with the welding instructor in the welding shop, or the instructor in the skills lab, that they are genuinely interested in the CTE courses and, more importantly, in a career aligned with these courses.
This is precisely what prompted Chelsea to pursue a career in welding. It also allowed her to make that decision early enough to eliminate some of the work to get a welding certificate while she was still in high school and at no cost.
Not only did this help her save a lot of money, but the dual enrollment welding courses she took also reduced the time she would have spent earning this certification by more than a month after earning. his high school diploma.
Ultimately, career exploration is central to the Hawkins County Schools vision. We must help students discover the career fields that interest them in order to help them access this career and become active members of society.
If you have a student in grades 6-12 and would like more information on Career Exploration or Major Clarity, please feel free to contact me directly at [email protected]