Why would anyone ask elementary kids what careers might interest them? Because that is a time when possibilities explored can stimulate visions for the future! So the value of career fairs for K – 12 students is easily seen. There is nothing better than seeing and talking with adults who are engaged and enthusiastic about their chosen Life Plans, as I have come to call career choices. A career fair is a fantastic opportunity for students to become inspired about potential careers and to connect what is being learned in school to later real life choices.
When elementary kids attend a career fair, it’s a great way to get them to understand early the importance of learning. Just beginning the thinking and exploring process is extremely important. By middle school, students are not likely to be sure about what they want to be when they grow up, but they do have ideas of what they like and do not like. When high school days arrive they have started to narrow down what they want to do, but have little idea what preparation will be needed to fulfill their dreams. Career fairs help kids identify their strengths and begin researching and deciding which careers might be a “great fit” and how to plot a course academically that will move them toward their goals.
Career development obviously has multiple stages which correlate to stages in a person’s life. Career awareness is the first stage and starts when kids are learning more about themselves and beginning to understand the world of work. In the elementary years they should begin to see that reading, math, science, music, art, and physical education connect to different career pathways. Middle school students are in the career exploration stage of career development. They should begin to have a broader and more meaningful understanding of the relationship between the academic school subjects and future career goals. This deeper understanding should help them make good choices with their schedule of classes. Students develop their own Individual Learning Plans (ILP) during their middle school years.
The ILP is created by students selecting vocations that interest them. The ILP software takes the courses and the likes and dislikes selected by the student and summarizes occupations that would be a “best fit.” This ILP summary of occupations can then be referred to when selecting courses for the following year. The ILP is an ever-changing instrument dependent upon the addition of each year’s courses taken and any changes in the student’s likes and dislikes as he/she matures. High school students begin the career concentration stage of development. Some will know exactly the career pathway they want to pursue, such as engineering or health sciences, for example. Others will need to continue with career exploration to find their “best fit.”
Remember the phrase Life Plan, used earlier? As I interact with students throughout the community, I always ask the same question, “What is your Life Plan?” I ask this question to try to set the wheels in motion so that a student will think, “What do I want to do next?” Some students know exactly what their next step will be after high school; others do not. Students transition to many different pathways. Some enlist in the military. Some student athletes enter college to begin both a sports and academics journey. Other students attend universities or career technical schools, some local while others are outside of Christian County or even Kentucky. Some students transition directly into the local workforce. A career fair may sound like a simple event. However, in the big picture, career fairs expose students to information that may very well help them to make more informed decisions related to their futures.
Our schools understand the importance of career fairs. Recently there have been several career fairs held at elementary schools such as South Christian, Pembroke, and Freedom, to name a few. Christian County High School had career booths set up during their Colonel Commit program. Local businesses and industries were contacted to determine their willingness to participate by having a booth and sending a representative to share information one-on-one, to answer student’s questions and perhaps to distribute brochures that might be helpful.
As with every endeavor, cooperation and collaboration are extremely necessary. Parent involvement in this school and business community project is a big part of the equation, as well. Always we want to say a big “THANK YOU” to the many businesses and industries in our community that participate in our career fairs! We appreciate these business people giving of their time and talents so willingly to enrich the learning experience of our many students. After all else is said, we know that our young people are our future. We are all enriched by their successes with their Life Plans!
Major is also member of the Kentucky Prichard Committee of Academic Excellence.
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