(The 2nd in a series of articles around career preparation at FHS)
What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s a question we begin asking children from the time they enter school -- or earlier. We know their answers change drastically as they experience new things. However, one of the goals of high school is to “produce Career and College Ready graduates” who can answer that age-old question. Some high school students have a general idea of potential careers, while for many others, the only plan is to start college and figure it out from there. And for those in that situation, that can be a very costly experiment.
A few years back, Fosston High School English Teacher Laura Juve noticed that many of the students in her college in the high school composition class didn’t know how to navigate college websites to find basic information, didn’t have a good idea of what it might take to enter a particular career (if they had an idea of a career), or even some of the duties one might expect on the job. Mrs. Juve recognized the need for students to have increased awareness, and so, the careers paper was born.
A requirement for the College in the High School Composition I class, the career paper is written for an audience of high school peers with little or no background knowledge about the career choice. Students are required to identify a career and then begin research into a college that would get a student ready for the career. The requirements of the paper include all educational background needed for the profession (2 year program, tech program, 4 year college, graduate school, etc.) Writers need to be able to define the terms for their readers, as well as outline costs for the program, admission requirements for both the college and the program, financial aid options and length of program.
The most beneficial requirement of the paper, according to both Mrs. Juve and her students, is the interview. Writers are required to identify an individual that is not a relative or school employee that is actively working in the profession of interest. And not just general, but specific to the writer’s interest. For example, if the student is interested in becoming a nurse practitioner, they would need to interview a nurse practitioner, not a CNA or LPN. Writers then create at least 10 questions that their teacher approves, and then conduct the interview -- either through email, phone or in person.
Several Fosston High School students shared their research and writing experience. Kiana Anderson spoke about how she was interested in art, and by interviewing a graphic designer from Garden Valley Telephone, she learned how she could take her interests and shape those into a career. Kiana spoke about how the interview process broadened her perspective on her career choice. Jace Hanson, another student whose topic blends passion (gaming and bringing people together) and career (game design) spoke about how the interview allowed him to get greater insight into the personal side of his career choice. He was able to learn about overall job satisfaction, which he would not have gotten simply through traditional research. Josh Lee indicated that his interview with a veterinarian also gave a personal take on his potential career. It convinced him that though the schooling was difficult, it would be worth the effort.
Treydon Boushee shared that he did two interviews. He let his passion for robotics guide his career choice towards mechanical engineering. He was surprised to learn how broad the field really is, and “how little an engineer learns in college” about the specific applications. All of these students said the paper forced them to explore their career more in depth and helped them refine their career choices.
Sometimes, the project helped students eliminate careers that didn’t fit. Mrs. Juve shared a story about a student that actually did a job shadow with a veterinarian -- and decided the career wasn’t a good fit, after the experience of having to put an animal down. Olivia Blaser thought she wanted to be a criminal profiler. She interviewed a retired FBI profiler and learned that the process to get to be a profiler (general law enforcement, investigator, profiler) didn’t appeal to her at all. Olivia indicated it was better to learn that now, rather than part way through the process. She is now exploring other options.
Hannah Noel indicated that teaching was a field she was interested in. Hannah noted that the interview gave her both the positive and negatives of the career, and confirmed for her that the work of a teacher is important. She shared that her interviewee expressed how much of an impact a teacher can make….and Hannah indicated that she would consider returning to ISD 601 to teach, once licensed.
According to senior Naomi Swanson, finding the right person to interview can be a difficult task. Some people can’t talk about their jobs, due to the nature of the work they do. Starting early and self-setting deadlines are helpful to work around that issue. Students noted the importance of developing and asking good questions. Hannah Noel explained that the amount of information a writer could get would depend on what was asked, and how they were asked. All of the students noted that the sooner a writer started the paper, the better. They all also noted that doing the paper forced them to really look at their career options and become knowledgeable about how to reach their goals.
Career planning is an important part of high school. The State of Minnesota, through its World’s Best Workforce requirement, expects that students that graduate high school are prepared to either enter the workforce or go on to some sort of post-secondary training. And more importantly, families and communities share that expectation. Just as Mrs. Juve anticipated when she developed the project, students who complete the process are that much more prepared when they graduate. Hannah Noel encourages students to begin career exploration early, noting, “It (graduation) comes up faster than you think.”
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