by LA Fellow Elizabeth Thibeaux-Clay

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As the dynamics of the economy change, our instruction in career exploration has to change as well. In all grade levels, there needs to be career exploration. The depth of instruction has to be age and content appropriate. Also, the goal has to be to provide our students with resources to achieve success in their careers.

In addition, students should be exposed to nontraditional careers. For example, boys can be elementary teachers and girls can be welders. In our classrooms, we should exposed students to those careers and invite people who work in nontraditional careers to give presentations to our students. The exposure to nontraditional careers should be on going in all grade levels. Additionally, there needs to be job shadowing in middle and high schools and internships during the summer for students.

Years ago, I met a young lady that followed in her father’s footsteps and became a welder. It was not an easy journey for her. Yet, she had a supportive group of mentors and was exposed to the welding career pathway at an early age at home and at school. Her middle school began career exploration in the fifth grade and all students were encouraged to follow their interests. In addition, the students were paired with groups of mentors in their career fields.  Because of the support this young woman received from her family, mentors, and school, she was able to successfully navigate the pathway to become a welder.

Students need time to explore and analyze their interests and potential careers for employment. In career exploration, students desire independence so they can make informed decisions. Career counseling and interest inventory should be used as stepping stones to career exploration. Students need time to process information to make sound decisions. In addition, there has to be opportunities for all students regardless of their career choice. These opportunities should be available in all middle schools and all high schools.

We are living in a time period where we are preparing students for jobs that do not exist yet. We need to equip students with basic skills that are flexible and based on their interests. Our students need to be exposed to more than one career opportunity in their career exploration. Some students need to travel outside their cities and their states to experience these careers.

Our school systems can achieve these objectives by partnering with the community, using mentors, and providing online resources. Early career exploration aides in the developmental growth and career success of our students.

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