Regardless of our role in education or the grade levels that we work with, we all have a responsibility to bring in a variety of learning opportunities to prepare our students for successful careers. They need to engage in learning that will equip them with essential skills and the right knowledge so they can thrive after they leave our classrooms and our schools. Helping students to learn about potential future careers or options for continuing their education should not be limited to the high school years. By starting to focus on career and college readiness at the middle school level, we can help students to learn about the many options available to them and spark their curiosity for learning.
There are many ways to get started with a lot of benefits to creating college and career readiness opportunities for middle school students. Finding methods and tools or comprehensive resources will have a positive impact on student academic success, increase engagement in learning and foster the development of essential future skills. With online career learning programs, such as Defined Careers, educators can offer an innovative and engaging approach to introduce students to various professions, ignite their passion, and empower them to shape their future.
In this post, I will share the benefits of focusing on career exploration with middle school and even younger students. Exploring the resources provided by Defined Careers is a great way to help students learn about their options and empower them to explore various career pathways.
Early Exposure to Career Options
Introducing college and career readiness in middle school helps to inform students about a wide range of career options. Through career exploration activities and resources, students can explore job roles in various industries and professions. Defined Learning, offers comprehensive career exploration tools that provide K-12 students with insights into different careers. With the K-5 program, this early exposure helps students gain a clearer understanding of their interests, passions, and the skills required for 16 different career clusters. For middle and high school students, interactive modules and videos give students the chance to explore diverse career options such as engineering, entrepreneurship, healthcare, or even art. By learning more about a variety of careers, we can help students to discover their interests and passions, allowing them to make informed decisions about their educational and career paths.
Defined Careers offers resources to help students develop these skills through career courses. Each Career Course focuses on providing students with relevant career experiences and skills needed for a specific career. Once students explore a career, schools can then invite guest speakers from various professions to share their experiences and insights can inspire students to explore different career options and set meaningful goals. By incorporating technology and interactive learning, students can access these materials at any time and experience a dynamic and engaging learning environment. Students learn about careers they may not have ever heard of and it might just be something that really piques their interest!
There are a lot of opportunities available in STEM-related careers. When it comes to STEM, we have many ways to implement STEM activities, even through PBL. By exploring the careers that are highlighted through Defined Careers, students become aware of the different fields that require STEM-related skills. By connecting this learning with hands-on activities that simulate real-world scenarios, we can spark curiosity and help students to think about where their interests may lie. For example, with grades K-5, students can learn about a specific career and then engage in PBL experiences that will mimic tasks typically performed by professionals in different fields. These experiences provide a glimpse into the daily responsibilities and challenges of various careers, helping students develop a deeper understanding of their interests and potential career paths. Students also have a choice in what they explore and create with their projects, which helps them to build essential SEL skills and work through challenges and problems they might experience.
Mentorship and Networking Opportunities
It is important for students to learn about different types of work and what might be expected of them in a potential career of interest. With the options available through methods like place-based learning or project based-learning (PBL), students can be connected with professionals in related fields. With Defined Careers, students can explore careers of interest and then work with teachers and the community to find a mentorship program or seek opportunities to connect with and learn from professionals in different industries. In my experience, we have taken students on field trips to job sites to see first-hand the type of work that is done in a factory or a corporation, for example. Opportunities open up for students to engage in work-based learning (WBL). Students engage in performance tasks and can work with a mentor to build skills. Whether they have these experiences in-person or virtually, a mentorship forms which gives students a space to ask questions and seek guidance from experienced individuals.
Building these connections early, especially through opportunities at the middle-school level, helps students gain valuable insights, learn the importance of expanding their learning network, and offers them a connection to receive valuable advice for their future endeavors. Educators can also offer their own guidance by providing one-on-one meetings with students to discuss their career goals and help them create a plan for achieving those goals. Bringing in community members to talk to students as part of a career day is another great option. When students explore some of the careers in the Defined Careers resources, we can find local community members to create a real-world learning experience for them.
Online career learning programs offer a transformative educational experience that prepares all students for the challenges and opportunities of the future. By exploring diverse professions, engaging in hands-on activities, connecting with mentors, developing future skills, and through the flexibility of personalized learning, students become excited and motivated about their future careers.
Building a knowledge base early on will help students to think about their interests, reflect on their growth, and set goals. We want students to see learning as a process and to be aware of the many opportunities that exist for them in the future.
About the Author:
Rachelle Dené is a Spanish and STEAM: What’s Next in Emerging Technology Teacher at Riverview High School in Oakmont, PA. Rachelle is also an attorney with a Juris Doctor degree from Duquesne University School of Law and a Master’s in Instructional Technology. Rachelle is an ISTE Certified Educator and Community Leader and served as president of the ISTE Teacher Education Network. She was named one of 30 K-12 IT Influencers to follow in 2021.