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Intro | A Model for Career Development | Elementary | Intermediate | Secondary | Links & Resources

Secondary Strategies

Career development and employment skills are learned behavior and we are in the teaching profession. A career focus can be fun, rewarding, and is imperative if our young people are going to become the professionals of tomorrow. Take a look at the shortage of educated folks needed in the workplace now. What about the future?

Awareness – Ideally students should be in the preparatory stage of career development and already have had a good exposure to careers by this level but in many districts this is not the case.

Career speakers in the classroom – Employers are usually more than willing to spend time talking to students about what they do or will send one of their employees. Most business/career related classes at the high school level incorporate speakers, but it seems this is not as true in the core subjects. With a little thought and "stepping out of the box", all teachers can find a career speaker to fit at least one of their units. Ex. A US History teacher could bring in an antique dealer to share artifacts from the period being studied and share info about her career field. An athletic trainer or physical therapist would be good for PE classes. English could bring in someone from the local newspaper and maybe an engineer for a science class. Open the yellow pages in the phone book, find a source, call, and just ask!

  • Ask the speaker to bring "tools of their trade" to share with the students.
  • Have the students brainstorm questions prior to the speaker's arrival.
  • Bale the speaker out if need be – they usually are not teachers.
  • Make sure there is a question and answer time.
  • Have the students write thank you notes. This is very important as well as a lost art!

Fieldtrips to different places of employment – This activity is logistically more difficult at the secondary level than at the elementary level. If there is a way, a need and the desire to give students this experience, the information on fieldtrips for intermediate educators will be helpful.

Current events, reading books and watching videos are prime times for career awareness activities. Asking students to identify careers during these times or finding careers in the news makes for an easy career focused activity. Researching a health career that deals with a certain body system in biology or anatomy is a good career enhancement activity. What about the camera man shooting the documentary – what a neat career. With a little imagination, the list can go on and on!

Self assessment activities – "Getting to know myself"
In order for students to be in control of their future, they must know their personality styles, interests, values, lifestyle wishes, learning styles, temperaments, abilities/skills and aptitudes. Many think these are guidance activities but in reality it can fit into an English class quite well. Social studies teachers can also fit some inventories into their curriculum. Building this type of portfolio for your students is a wonderful way to integrate with other curriculum areas. There are many resources available. See the links listing to begin your search.

Research – It seems we all have research opportunities. Why not research careers or career clusters. For this to be most meaningful, students should have completed at least the self-assessment section of the awareness section so they can research careers relevant to them.

There are some good resources for this research in cyberspace and in the library. Also there is a sample lesson plan here (Adobe Acrobat file) for you to download if you choose.

Shadowing - This is the best way for a student to see the real world but does require work to organize. If the entire school or team is involved and all teachers along with those dedicated volunteers put their heads together, it can be done! Solicit local industry to provide a 1/2-day experience for a youth or two. These days can be throughout the year or all on the same day. Maybe "Take your daughter to work day" could be expanded and all students could have a place to go. Ideally, students would be matched with a career area of interest but any workplace experience is good. If you want to try this and the entire school isn't interested, find a few workplaces willing, a good parent volunteer to help, and send your kids. Make sure you share the results with the rest of the school. Make it grow.

Career Fair – Bringing the professionals to the kids is easier than sending the kids out and almost as good of an experience for students, teachers, and employers. A 2 or 3 hour fair is plenty of time.

  • Schedule the day with the office including a place either the library or cafeteria.
  • Send a letter to local businesses 3 or 4 weeks before the fair is planned. Plan on having at least a 1 to 3 ratio of different careers to your number of students. Make sure the careers are varied. Ask businesses for several professionals to attend.
  • Send a return postcard and RSVP phone number.
  • Call if no response is received.
  • Have students pick a partner – solo is ok and 3 will work.
  • They need to write 10 questions to ask.
  • Discussion behavior at the fair.
  • Plan to have refreshments. Use last year's students as host/hostess.
  • On the day of the fair, have professions sitting at tables and the students will have sit down interviews with however many you require. 10 were a lot for some of my students and not enough for others. Tie a grade to the activity.
  • Teacher or parent needs to send thank yous.

A mentoring program is an excellent way to get community involvement and if a match is made based on career interest they can provide a great school to career transition for students. At a time of life when parents and teachers "know nothing", this adult can mean the world to a young person. Maybe this is a good place to use a VISTA or AmeriCorps volunteer. What a wonderful learning opportunity it would be for this person too.

Skills building – Building their resumes!

  • A CPR and first aid certification course can be offered even on a Saturday. The Red Cross or some community agencies can help here. You can even invite parents.
  • Community Service activities translate to skills not to mention community involvement. Arrange for volunteer opportunities for students – Adopt a nursing home, send reading tutors to an elementary school, maybe a local museum could use volunteers. Also almost all scholarships for college are looking for recipients who have community involvement and service.
  • A good job search unit on resumes, applications and the like is needed somewhere at the secondary level and is a skill some folks never learn. Build it into your curriculum. Solicit expertise from Job Service and a human resources manager.
  • Encourage students to enroll in technical education courses at a local technical school affiliated with your district. Also almost every school offers courses such as typing, computer applications, welding, etc that result in skill attainment.
  • Internships and work experiences all add to skill development. Most high schools have coop programs and many have internships available. Get a program rolling if there is none. A student who has had a good dose of career development throughout his education is easy to place in a internship or work experience. "I want to design automobiles in my future" or "I want to be a mortician" is a whole lot better to work with than "I don't know". Employers want young folks with direction and goals!

There is nothing better than a high school diploma AND entry level skills and/or certification for employment for students to take into their adult life. This is the way we can focus on giving our student s something real for their future. Making a living for most of our students is so important. They want to be independent!

ALL students need to have skills, smart and not so smart. College and non-college bound - Who knows who they are anyway. By the way, what would you do if you got laid off?
Remember "Every scholar has a skill"

Workplace skills are taught in the classroom daily. Instead of disguising them as classroom procedures, rules, behaviors and the like, teachers need to dress them up as workplace skills. Following are some examples of easy ways to do this:

Why not design some type of "promotion or commission" for 3, 6 or 9 straight weeks of completing work and perfect attendance.

Employee evaluations from local business can be used or adapted to use in the classroom. This is a great addition to the "report card" and for parent conferences. Workplace skills such as time management, quality, cooperation, completeness, dependability, etc can be rated in this manner. Make sure the information is presented in the context of workplace skills not just classroom manner.
Many of you creative teachers already have activities and resources nailed down. Many of you will develop some wonderful activities this summer. This is a jumping on place. Career development can be fun, is beneficial to students, and is truly an enhancement to your curriculum. How about sharing with other teachers by using the Teachnet Teacher-2-Teacher mailing list? Together, let's prepare our students for a productive future.

Intro | A Model for Career Development | Elementary | Intermediate | Secondary | Links & Resources