Top 5 Myths about Career Education in High School
With enormous upheaval in technology and the job market in recent years, it’s little wonder that myths abound concerning career education. Many don’t realize that the proper career training in high school can put students on the cusp of high-paying, rewarding careers immediately after graduation.
“We’re living in an economy that is exceptionally different than it was 20 or 30 years ago,” says Patrick Keeney, director of college and career programs for high school product management at K12. “For many who are preparing to enter the workforce and seek that high-paying job, there’s a need for more than the usual high school diploma but less than a four-year college degree. That’s where our career readiness program in high school comes in.”
Make sure you and your kids haven’t fallen for a myth about career planning by checking out these top five myths:
Myth 1: Career Education Is the Modern Version of Vocational-Tech Education
Times have changed and with it career education. In fact, the old vocational tech that adults remember from their school years no longer exists.
There are technology centers, but they are now equipped with high-tech equipment. Students are no longer learning how to work with a carburetor on a car. But the complexity that they’re working with is matched by the complexity of the equipment needed to diagnose and troubleshoot.
“In the end,” Keeney explains, “the skills that today’s workforce needs are no more complicated than they were 25 years ago but the technology that people use is what requires knowledge beyond a typical high school education.”
Myth 2: Career Education Is Not Necessary for College-Bound Students
All students can benefit from career education in high school. It will depend on the career of choice as to what additional degrees may be required, especially in the fast-growing fields of health science and health care.
“Most students who acquire a pharmacy technician’s certificate will go on to earn another certificate, credential, or degree by the time they’re 25,” says Keeney. “The same thing applies to those becoming a CNA (certified nursing assistant).
“In some cases, students would be well-served to attend a community college while working after graduation—not simply as a steppingstone to a four-year degree, but as a way to build marketable skills and find even higher-paying jobs.”
Myth 3: Career Education Cannot Be Taught Online
“Most training today is online,” Keeney says. “In fact, I would propose that online is the best delivery method for career readiness education—especially in areas like information technology.
“Our students at K12 are skilled with how to use, not just a computer, but applications like spreadsheets and word documents, in a way that students don’t ordinarily have the opportunity to natively learn and understand. Because of that, when we move into areas in which students might be learning programming or other complicated skills, the computer is something that feels natural to them in their everyday experience.”
Almost every area can have an online curriculum. Manufacturing can be taught online, for example, and could also have some type of a hands-on component associated with it such as an apprenticeship or internship. But online simulations are also helpful.
Myth 4: Middle Jobs Will Pay Less than Jobs Requiring a Four-Year Degree
Writing for USA Today, Mark Schneider, a former commissioner for the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, says that while college is often a good investment, many positions that don’t necessarily require a four-year degree are high paying, especially technical and healthcare jobs.
“Not all students have the time, money, or inclination to earn a bachelor’s degree,” says Schneider. “For these young adults, looking into credentials such as associate degrees or career-oriented certificates makes a lot of sense.”
The Department of Labor lists occupations that, through training or an associate degree program, offer median annual salaries ranging from $40,000 to $77,000.
STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education plays a large role in career planning and is actually the road to a high-paying career. According to The Cheat Sheet (a content partner of USA Today), the best-paying degrees for graduates earning a bachelor’s degree in 2015 were in engineering (average starting salary of $62,998) and computer science ($61,287), with healthcare ($50,839) not far behind.
“K12 gives students a chance to experience all facets of STEM like never before,” Keeney says. “That’s important because that can lead directly to some of today’s best job opportunities. But many of those opportunities require even entry-level employees to understand technology and apply science and mathematics. Everything from composing music to taking retail inventory employs those elements.”
Myth 5: There Won’t Be a Job for Me
The “middle job” market is booming and has a huge upside. Middle jobs are those requiring a high school diploma and some specialized training but not necessarily a four-year degree. Those jobs include dental hygienists, lab technicians, and paralegals.
“What we’re finding, across the country, is that there is a 10 to 40 percent gap between the number of the middle jobs and the percentage of people who are ready to man those jobs,” Keeney says. “In one state, approximately 60 percent of the jobs are ‘middle’ jobs but only about 32 percent of the people in that state are middle job-qualified.”
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, almost 8.7 million high-paying, STEM-related jobs will exist in 2018. From 2000 to 2010, STEM employment increased at a 7.9 percent rate, three times the rate of non-STEM-related employment. Business leaders are concerned that the workforce will not be ready to meet that demand.
Knowing the truth behind the myths will help your student navigate the ever-changing paths to the right career. There are also a number of myths surrounding online learning. Some parents don’t realize that public online schools are tuition-free and provide the same structure, support, and accountability as all public schools. Others are unaware that K12 students are encouraged to participate in national clubs and extracurricular activities, including athletics sponsored by local public schools.
And when it comes to career education, online learning can be the best option for career-minded kids as K12 offers an advanced career education as part of the curriculum and even has career academies in some states. These online schools include courses built around different career fields and students can even earn certifications for a variety of jobs. Visit k12.com for more information.
Seth Livingstone is a veteran writer and editor who has spent much of his career in sports journalism covering multiple Olympic Games, Super Bowls, World Series, and Daytona 500s. He covered the Boston Red Sox throughout the 1980s and 1990s before joining USA Today and Baseball Weekly in 1999. He maintains his membership in the Baseball Writers Association of America and is a Hall of Fame voter. Seth holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University and has also worked as a substitute teacher (all grades and subjects). He lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and has two grown children.