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September 2019

Catch the Career Train While Still in School

Mentorships, Internships and Shadowing

Career Pathways: September 2019

By Mary Gaukel Forster

Summer is almost over and I hope that your young people have had many opportunities to explore careers. As we begin the new school year, I will be highlighting the opportunities for exploration that are provided by our local schools in partnership with the non-profit Your Future Is Our Business.

Work Based Learning is an educational approach that links learning in the classroom to careers, providing greater exposure and access to future educational and career opportunities.

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In the first step, teachers bring representatives from many occupations to demonstrate and speak about their careers. Students can ask questions about the careers.

In another, schools invite three panelists from different industries who visit a classroom for 1-1.5 hours. They each take about five minutes to describe their career and how they arrived where they are now. With the help of their teachers, students prepare questions ahead of time.

There are also informational interviews with professionals, which are casual conversations where a student can ask questions and learn more about their career and background. 

The student may find that the job requires skills and tasks that are fit for them, and other times they may find that the job is completely different than imagined. 

At College and Career Expos, high school students (traditionally 11th graders) learn about each of the 15 standard industry sectors, colleges, and other post secondary educational institutions. Two to three companies or individuals from each sector staff tables that provide students access to information about careers, jobs, training and education needs and resources. This can be a real eye-opener for students, exposing them to career options they never knew existed.

Older students visit job sites and get tours. They incorporate explicit student preparation, student interaction with employer representatives during the tour, and student reflection following the tour. Workplace tours offer students the opportunity to learn about the careers available with a particular employer and observe the work performed by people in those careers.

There is also job shadowing, which places students in workplaces to

interact and observe one or more employees. The job shadow is minimally three hours and includes pre/post conversations regarding the career. Students learn more about the nature of the job and the work environment as well as the education and training required to succeed.

A mentorship allows students to develop relationships with industry and community professionals through structured conversations.

Internships are often viewed as culminating Work Based Learning experiences because they bring together skills and knowledge developed through previous career awareness, exploration, and preparation activities, connect them to classroom curricula, and apply them on the job. An internship is an activity in which students spend consecutive days for a period of time (usually weeks) working for an employer to test their interest in a career with that industry, occupation, or employer and develop critical workplace and occupational skills.

Career questions have been a part of Mary’s life since she was first asked what she wanted to be when she grew up. She began teaching elementary school, had her own children, taught in middle school and high school, became a high school principal, finally a grandparent, and currently the executive director for the non-profit organization, Your Future Is Our Business. Mary now focuses on fulfilling the mission of “providing all youth in our county with career explorations.”  Reach Mary at [email protected]

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