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Looking Back and Looking Ahead: The Importance of Career Prep in 2022

This past year has proven many young people just how adaptable they are. Many students switched to online learning, and in doing so, learned how this mode’s increased flexibility can open up unforeseen opportunities like internships and volunteering. This was especially true in increased access to career prep where students saw how their current paths in school could also pave the way for a career path. Looking ahead to the new year, here are some of the lessons students can take with them on their continued journeys to success.

1. All students can benefit from career prep.

Given the history of career prep programs, many assume that it is only beneficial for those who plan to pursue vocational training in skilled trades. According to an article in the Journal of Career and Technical Education, career prep has become much broader than this. The authors explain, “Career preparation programs provide students with opportunities to apply what they know in real-world settings and to gain experience in their interested career path.” Those same authors explain that while many students have access to college preparation, the preparation for a future career is limited. They write, “The college preparation activity most students participated in was college search with more than 80 percent of engagement among public high school students; and the career preparation activity most students participated in was attending career day or job fair, which accounted almost half of all students.” A career fair can be very beneficial for students, but it does not offer anywhere near the amount of guidance and support that a formalized career prep program does.

Career prep can also offer all students the ability to gain a “sneak peek” into different fields, which is especially helpful for those who are undecided about what they want to do. Even students who are certain they will attend college can benefit from a career prep program that helps them build their resume and potentially even earn college credit. Whether your child is college- or career-bound, getting them into a career prep program can support their long-term success, even from an early age. According to one study, “Career interests and tentative career plans begin to form as early as sixth grade, gradually developing and taking shape over the middle school and high school years.”

2. Career prep helps student align their interests and strengths with a future career.

A student-first approach to career prep ensures that students choose a path that they are well-suited to rather than choosing one that they think they should pursue. That’s one of the distinct advantages of career prep; it enables students to reflect on what they’re good at through project-based learning. A college accounting course, for example, can do a great job teaching students about the field by studying relevant texts, but an accounting career prep path enables a student to learn these skills by doing the kinds of tasks they would be doing while working as an accountant. This takes the abstract and makes it concrete, helping students visualize their potential career in practice rather than in theory. Internships and apprenticeships also allow students to see what different kinds of work look like “on the ground,” so that when they’re finished with their program and eventually join the workforce, they aren’t in for as many surprises when they actually begin a career.

Strengths like problem-solving are also broadly applicable. Career prep programs specifically focus on different paths, but the skills learned in these programs can be applied to fields outside of their area of expertise.

3. The coming years will be a great time to enter the workforce!

If current labor market trends continue, students graduating in the next several years will have ample opportunities in a wide range of fields. Demand in healthcare has skyrocketed recently, and will likely continue to grow. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the healthcare field is projected to grow 16 percent in the next decade.

The labor force has also shrunk overall, which means that students who will soon enter the workforce will be able to choose from different companies that are competing against each other for workers. Put another way, the ball will be in students’ court as they look around to see which job best suits them. Students who have gone through a career prep program will have an added edge, given their field-specific training. If your student wants to sharpen that edge even more, they should also focus on their academic achievement, which is embedded in career prep programs.

Is your child ready to take the first step on their career path? Discuss the wide array of options available to them now.

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AnnElise Hatjakes

AnnElise Hatjakes is a contributing writer for Learning Liftoff. Her career in education began in 2010 when she worked as a teaching assistant while earning her master’s degree in writing. She has taught in a wide range of educational settings, including a public school, a school for gifted students, a university, and a county jail. She’s interested in issues of equity in education, which she strives to address through her own teaching practices and writing. AnnElise is the recipient of the University of Chicago’s Outstanding Educator Award, and her fiction has appeared in literary journals. As a third generation Nevadan, she loves all things Western, from wide open spaces to wild horses.

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