Giving Compass' Take:

• Some education experts believe that career exploration should start earlier in elementary school, and offer ideas on how to make this a priority for  K-12 students. 

• How would career planning impact the trajectory of students' educational plans? How is the onset of alternative education and technical, career education influencing employment paths?

•  Learn how career planning helps middle schoolers prepare for the future. 

Career exploration is a critical part of the learning experience, and most schools incorporate it in some form during the last two years of high school. But does that give young people enough time to determine their life direction?

Educators know that basic career decisions are often being considered during the middle school years. Yes, sixth-graders are thinking about their future and many base their tentative plans on what they know of the careers of family members and others in their immediate circle. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but they don’t know what they don’t know about the other opportunities available. They’re starting their decision-making process with very little data.

Integrating a career focus into everyday learning can be as simple as ‘the Whiteboard Method,’ created by a teacher I know and admire to integrate a Professional Skills (PS) component into every lesson, alongside a Learning Target (LT) and Essential Question (EQ). Each day’s LT, EQ, and PS are written on the whiteboard to proactively answer the question: “WHY are we doing this?” with a career-related answer. She says, “I start the class with the LT, EQ, and PS. While we are working I will reference the LT, EQ, and PS when they pertain to what we are discussing. I end the class going back to the LT, EQ, and PS by having the class write REFLECTIONS.”

By focusing young people on the ‘for-now’ decision, we can bring both focus to career exploration and relevance to academics. Far from being divorced from one another, academics and career exploration should work hand-in-hand to motivate students to increase their performance.

Read the full article about career exploration by Mark C. Perna at Getting Smart.