Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Helping Students Make the Academic-Career Connection

Converge Magazine’s Tanya Roscorla recently reported on the career education strategies of schools in Oakland County, Michigan. As early as seventh grade, students in Oakland County are using a software program that helps them pinpoint their career interests and develop an education plan that will take them through high school and prepare them for the next steps after high school. They begin doing hands-on projects that help them understand the connection between what they’re learning in school and how it will apply in the workforce.

By the time students arrive in high school, they have a plan for the courses they’ll take. They participate in “ACT EXPLORE and PLAN” assessments that show them how they're doing academically to prepare for the career they want, and they learn the different skills required for different careers. Students may elect to participate in a career education cluster of courses where they participate in hands-on projects related to their field. For example:
  • Students in IT repair donated computers and give them to community members in need.
  • Students in marketing analyze Super Bowl advertisements, conduct a student survey, and hold a press conference to publicize results.
  • Students in engineering use Boeing’s simulation design software to design car and airplane parts.

According to Converge’s Roscorla, teachers at Oakland County schools use pre-assessments to determine what each student knows already and still needs to learn; then they tailor the curriculum to students’ needs and prepare students for industry certifications in their field.

Roscorla wrote, “Often, students don't have a focus when they graduate high school and move to postsecondary education. And now, skilled jobs require postsecondary training of some kind, whether it's training at a technical school, a two-year associate's degree in a technical field or industry certification.

That's why Oakland County starts students thinking about careers in seventh grade.”

Mary Kaye Aukee, director of career focused education in Oakland Schools, said, "You have to have credentials and you have to continue life-long learning, and we have to get students thinking in that direction. We also have to get students thinking that their academics are critically important to any of these careers."

What does your school do to help students connect academics to a career path?

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