Preparing for the Future: Exploring Careers

Career-connected learning is essential to prepare students for future jobs, especially in STEM-related fields. Strategies such as career days, interest surveys, community projects, mentoring programs, and work-based learning experiences help students gain awareness, experience real-world connections, gain future-ready skills, and network-building skills to make informed decisions about their future careers.

 

With the rapid advancement of technology and its impact on jobs now and in the future, providing students with a variety of opportunities to learn about future careers is more critical than ever. As educators, we are responsible not only for teaching the curriculum but also for guiding students to explore different career paths and be career-ready. Through career exploration and different learning opportunities in and out of the classroom, we can help students discover their interests and passions, better understand the world of work, and use these experiences to make informed decisions about their future education and careers. 

There are a variety of strategies that educators can use to facilitate career exploration for students. Engaging in discussions about some of the most in-demand careers by conducting research or reviewing the World Economic Forum’s Job Skills Outlook will help provide insight into the possibilities. Beyond the discussion, there are some ways to give students firsthand experience with some of the careers available.  It may seem like a challenge to find the time for career exploration within the curriculum; however, there are a variety of options available that will be beneficial for students and educators in becoming more informed.  In particular, there is an increased need for STEM-related skills, and through career exploration, students can learn where these skills can be applied.

 

Strategies for Career Exploration

  1. Career Days and Guest Speakers: By organizing or attending a career day or job expo or inviting guest speakers from various professions to speak with students, whether in person or virtually, we can provide firsthand insights into different fields of work. These opportunities give students a chance to ask questions, understand the day-to-day responsibilities of different careers, and learn about the required educational pathways. Also, exploring the Defined Careers is a great way to learn about careers!
  2. Career Interest Surveys: There are a variety of career interest surveys and assessments that help students learn more about their interests and find compatible careers. These assessments can also help students identify their strengths and interests and then provide insight into careers that match their profiles.
  3. Careers in Demand: As the job market evolves, certain careers are emerging as in-demand, many of which require a background in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Students can conduct some research about which careers are in demand and the predictions for growth in these areas and share them with classmates.  
  4. Community Projects: Engaging students in community service projects or local initiatives can inform them about careers available in public service and community development. These projects promote more global understanding and awareness of social issues in their community and the world and consider how they can potentially solve them. Project-Based Learning (PBL) is a great way to connect academic content to real-world challenges. By engaging in projects tied to community needs or global issues, students can explore various career fields, from environmental science to technology and entrepreneurship. These opportunities can also provide STEM-related learning as students get involved in designing solutions and applying STEM skills.
  5. Professional Mentoring Programs: Establishing mentoring programs where professionals mentor students can provide valuable guidance, career advice, and exposure to real-world work environments. Mentors can inspire students, help them set career goals, and navigate educational pathways.
  6. Work-Based Learning Experiences: Internships, job shadowing, and cooperative education placements offer students real-world experience. Some schools even require that students complete a few job shadows so they can learn about the opportunities available. These opportunities through career-connected learning can be transformative, allowing students to apply academic skills in professional settings, explore potential careers, and develop workplace competencies. Schools can also partner with local businesses to offer these opportunities to students. These partnerships not only provide practical experience but also help students build impactful connections that can lead to future job opportunities. Exploring x2VOL can also be helpful for schools as they support students in work-based learning and volunteering.

 

Growing Areas of Work

To learn more about the skills most sought by employers, referring to the World Economic Forum Job Skills Outlook for 2027 is quite helpful. It lists some essential skills employers look for, many of which have consistently stayed on the list. However, in the new top ten job skills outlook for 2027, number three is now artificial intelligence (AI) and big data.  Some areas of work where there is an increasing demand include cybersecurity, AI, and coding skills, as well as many areas of healthcare.  In our classrooms, we can highlight these and additional in-demand careers, with an emphasis on the importance of skills like critical thinking, creativity, and digital literacy, which are transferable across many fields. Students need to continue to build skills to be adaptable to a changing landscape of work and be technologically savvy to navigate life and work in the digital world.

 

Benefits of Career Exploration

  • Greater Awareness: Students who have a variety of opportunities to explore potential careers will be better informed with knowledge about the options available to them and any required education or preparation for careers of interest.
  • Real-World Connections: When we help students see the connection between their academics and potential careers, it can help to spark interests they may be unaware that they have. It also boosts student engagement and motivation as they see the relevance of their education and can use it to make decisions about their future.
  • Skill Development: Through access to opportunities such as work-based or project-based learning, students develop essential technology skills as well as some of the most in-demand skills sought by employers. 
  • Network Building: Career exploration through these experiences and community connections helps students build a supportive network that can be highly beneficial as they consider their career options and later enter the workforce.

 

For all students, having opportunities to learn about the career options available to them now and in the future is essential. As students engage in learning, thinking about how that learning is applicable to real-world jobs makes it more authentic, meaningful, and relevant. Whether through job-shadowing, guest speakers, mentoring programs, or other career study, these prepare students for the future by showing them a variety of diverse career paths and helping them discover their interests and talents.


About the Author:

Rachelle Dené Poth is a World Language and STEAM Educator at Riverview High School in Oakmont, PA. She is also an Attorney, Edtech Consultant, Speaker, and the author of seven books about education and edtech. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @Rdene915 and connect on LinkedIn.


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