- The Chula Vista Elementary School District in California has works in collaboration with its local public library and other local businesses and organizations to expand career exploration efforts to students at a younger age through an Innovation Station — a combination makerspace and STEAM lab inspired by Qualcomm's Thinkabit Lab, eSchool News reports.
- The 6th-graders who visit the Innovation Station on field trips take an assessment using a framework that identifies their strengths as some combination of realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising or conventional characteristics. Then they are matched with opportunities to explore careers in their community that align with those strengths. They also participate in hands-on activities that help them gain a better idea of which careers most interest them.
- In collaboration with local energy-based companies, the district also recently launched another career-focused learning environment called the Energy Station. In addition, students can learn more about these careers by watching related videos on Thrively.
A student that is pursuing a career field that he or she feels passionate about has a far different educational experience than one who is drifting aimlessly through the K-12 experience. The courses that the student takes suddenly become more relevant when viewed through the lens of a future career. Career direction in the middle grades also helps students choose high school courses and programs of study that make the most sense for their long-term goals. For some students, this mean pursuing more advanced courses that prepare them for the rigors of college. For other students, this may mean selecting career and technical education programs, magnet schools or vocational high schools that offer more specialized training in a particular field.
Most attention on future careers is focused on the high school level. But with more emphasis on equipping students with skills for the modern workplace, schools are being viewed less as the end of the K-12 learning experience and more as a precursor to the work environment. As more businesses partner with local schools to provide workplace learning experiences and student internships, students gain a better understanding of the careers that are suitable for them and companies gain access to a rich pool of talent for potential future hires.
Career exploration can begin much earlier. Even students in elementary school can become familiar with different career opportunities available so they know that they have options and can begin exploring as many of those options as possible. Hands-on experiences such as the ones provided by the Innovation Station are the best way for younger students to “get the feel” of a new career option.
Even if a district doesn't have a resource such as the Innovation Station, school and district leaders can partner with local businesses and organizations to host field trips, and school-based career day events can allow students to connect with industry professionals and learn what they did to prepare for a job in that field. Administrators and teachers can also encourage these visitors or mentors to provide hands-on activities at these events that allow students to gain a better understanding of these careers.
A growing number of videos sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor also allow students to visually explore a wide range of career opportunities that may pique their interest. Summer camp programs offered by school districts, local community colleges and other community organizations also allow students to explore careers in a more relaxed environment.