Career Pathways Discussion with Students - An Unexpected Turn
By CRTC Director Steve Rothenberg
The Concord Regional Technical Center (CRTC) has a group of 25 or so students who assist us in running the Center - we call them our LADs (Leaders Advisors to the Director). The meetings, which have been going on for about five years, are remarkably candid. We actively seek to hear the good and the bad with regard to our current operations. We also float out new, innovative ideas, which oftentimes lead to unexpectedly rich and insightful discussions.
On November 9, we talked about a new form of “career pathways”- an inclusive high school program of studies that offers high school students a more expansive structure for college and career planning. We looked at examples from District 214 (Chicago-area), as well as locally from Pelham High School (page 12-24).
The driver of the model is a career choice; the elements include:
- Clear set of high school courses associated with that career pathway
- College dual enrollment opportunities offered
- Employment and economic projections
- Descriptions of career opportunities in this pathway
The students found validation in this structure as it mirrored their personal values. Yet they also recognized that not every high school student is ready to choose a career pathway - so they felt strongly that robust normalized career data must be made available as a resource for all high school students.
As an example, a young woman in our Cosmetology Program shared a personal story. Last spring she wanted to take Anatomy and Physiology, which she felt would be beneficial for her career readiness. Sadly, the school official discouraged her from doing so and she relented. She expressed concern that the official possibly underestimated her abilities (as a cosmetology student?); she also considered that the official was simply unaware of what it takes to prepare to be a cosmetologist, and thus unaware of the value of these types of courses toward rounding out her career-readiness efforts.
This experience is not unique, and what became evident to the LADS group was that this was potentially a social justice issue. In their vocabulary - a fairness and respect issue. Students pursuing careers should receive the same quality and richness of counseling services related to college and career planning, as those going the traditional four year widely accepted college route.
A significant percentage of these students expressed dissatisfaction with the services they receive, and felt publishing these choices in the Program of Studies would, in the words of one student, embolden students to better advocate for themselves.
The state of NH is desperate for quality workers in mid-level career jobs statewide. These career jobs generally require possession of an Industry Recognized Certificate (IRC) and/or associate degree to start. Many, if not most of these positions, also have clear pathways aligned to bachelor degrees and advanced licenses and/or certifications (along with greater compensation). Of note, many employers will pay for this additional education as a benefit of employment as they are eager to hold on to engaged and motivated employees!
Documenting formal structures around career pathways to share with students and parent/guardians is not an issue of convenience, but of fairness. We owe it to our students to get up to speed so they can pursue the most productive, strategic, and cost-effective (minimizing debt) method to prepare themselves for future success. This issue is also essential to the economic survival of our state as we need a quality workforce (65 by 25 initiative) to compete in the 21st century economy.
Simply put - our schools need to work to rebalance themselves in order to better serve the college and career planning needs of all students.