I recently had the opportunity to design a career exploration learning strategy for middle school students. The model is all-encompassing of career development and is adapted to the cognitive function of middle school students.
Some might think Middle School is too early to begin practical career training, as this is the stage in which students connect prior knowledge to more theoretical and complex ideas. It’s assumed that because students are at this stage of learning, the addition of new concepts like career development might be slightly advanced. In fact, the cognitive functionality of middle school students is ideal for introducing career exploration since they begin developing critical thinking, problem-solving and negotiation skills, and other complex thought processes during the middle school years. Additionally, career exploration programs can be largely successful at engaging students’ educational interests. Think about it…..middle school is when students experience lifestyle changes such as puberty and self-identity. As a result, their level of engagement in educational studies is often deflated. Proactively adopting these programs can reignite educational interests and inspire their ideas about future careers.
So what about the benefit of a career exploration program for middle school students, and how can it ignite career interests?
Simply put, career exploration is just that. An advantageous program introduces students to various career options and a program that is not void of simulated activities, project-based learning strategies, and real-world scenarios and experiences. During the middle school years, students can identify with a suitable career, establish attainable goals, and create actionable steps to accomplish them. When career exploration programs are in place, students improve their ability to visualize their future realities. In the truest sense, the end goal of career exploration is to be used as a building block for planning a well-educated workforce.
The industries of focus within a career exploration program should be well aligned with the State’s targeted areas for workforce development, creating an avenue for real-world exposure that is immediately accessible.
Keep in mind that not all students will finish K-12 and proceed to the workforce, just like not all students will finish K-12 and proceed to college, the armed forces, or family. Students will do one or the other or several, and given the choice, they must be well prepared for sustainable career options.
The thought is how to create a well-educated workforce that ultimately bolsters economic development and the promise of upward social mobility for citizens.
“Fortifying the workforce through access to career, employee training & development, and improving business processes.” What’s your missing piece?
written by Chanel Fort, The Learning Strategist