Later today, I get to meet some middle school students. Not just any students mind you, but some pretty bright, forward-thinking middle schoolers who know that in order to be ready for the future that lays ahead of them, they have to start thinking about it – and preparing for it – now. And the best way for them to prepare, at this point in their lives, is to hear the stories of those who are making the journey right now. That’s impressive for any K-12 student to recognize. But it’s particularly astounding when middle school students “get it.”
However, these students from City High Middle School don’t just “get it;” they actually enjoy it! Every Wednesday, a group of committed students gets together during their lunch period, to hear from local employers about their career story. Open to all students, as many as 30 students have shown up for a single session, though the core of the group is comprised of ten 7th grade girls. The sessions are quite informal for the guests; they don’t need a prepared presentation, although some still come with one. Still, the kids take it quite seriously and pretty much run the show.
The program started through a partnership between a local Junior Achievement office and City High Middle and is run now by middle school counselor Kasey Hagler. Every week, Hagler finds a different industry professional to come in and share about what they do as well as tell their story – what led them to their career choice, what they’re passionate about doing and any interesting or funny anecdotes they can bring. She explains that the “kids like hearing about jobs, but they like the realness of the people more” as the students connect to the real life experiences shared by their visitors. To Hagler, the students care more about their guest’s career path more than they do about a person’s individual jobs and that their experiences, and their general likes and dislikes about their work are what are most impactful.
That makes sense. A student can’t really be sure they want be an engineer when they don’t know what an engineer does. They don’t know the software and programs they use or how to use them or they types of things they have to deal with on a daily basis. But what they can relate to is a an engineer telling the kids what led them into the field they chose, why they chose it, stories of situations they face in their work and how they respond to them. Hagler states, “They’re constantly looking for connections more than anything else.”
For example, students were totally engaged when they heard a veterinarian come in and share how, when he was 5 or 6 years old, he came across a dog in the road that was barely alive. The boy and his mother took the dog to a vet to see if it could be saved. From that moment on, the boy connected to all sorts of animals, and decided he wanted to do something in the veterinary field as a career.
The program sounds to be a great and successful experience. Not only do the students get to hear about some possible careers they likely hadn’t previously considered, but the current workforce gets to build some rapport with the future one. “They [simply] enjoy being able to talk with adults, to be honest,” says Hagler. Now how about that? What a concept. I can’t wait to go to class!
If you’d be interested in speaking to Kasey’s students about your career path story, you can reach her at email@example.com. Like she said, it’s extremely informal, and she promises the kids will have TONS of questions for you.
Fellow educators; what about YOU? What are some things you’re doing around career readiness? We would love to hear from you. Send us your story at firstname.lastname@example.org.