It’s funny how Education (like life) is cyclical. I remember when I first started teaching, as a wet-behind-the-ears rookie back in the Detroit area more than a decade and-a-half ago. To help explain the era, No Child Left Behind legislation was JUST becoming the latest fad (for legislators, that is). Words like “highly qualified” and “curriculum mapping” became the buzz words of the day. And, as a young PE and Health teacher, I am willing to admit now that I started to panic and worry what it would mean (more for me than for the kids).
But I’ll never forget the response I received from the grizzled old art teacher. He was beloved by the students, even though he’d been teaching for more than 30 years. He told me, “Eric, this is nothing new. It’s the same thing with different packaging. They did the same basic programs 30 years ago; they just called it something different.” What he was saying was that the latest and greatest ideas aren’t always all that new or fresh; they just have a fresh coat of paint on them with fancy new names or titles. They might not be exactly the same thing. In fact, they probably won’t be. Oh, they’ll be touted as the next NEW thing, but in reality, they’ll simply be a distant and vague memory of something we’ve heard or seen done before. Much like how the tight-rolled pants of the 80’s-90’s mimicked the 50’s and the newly released Nintendo Classic Mini mimics the 80’s-90’s.
How does this apply to Career Development? For the past 20 years, give or take, our Education system has put a premium on students “getting a college degree” (by this, most take this to mean a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree). We told students (and rightfully so) that if they wanted to have a good career, they needed to get a good education. However, what was once a holistic approach to a solid, well-rounded, high school education – where students could explore their interests by trying different classes with their electives – has transformed to taking all the “right” courses necessary for a “college” degree, even for those students who have no interest in getting a four-year degree! And if you don’t get a University degree, you’re somehow short-changing yourself. Talk about students feeling defeated before they even walk through the doors!
Which brings us to today. Now, in my current role, I’m definitely seeing the concept of Career Exploration and Career Development becoming the “next big thing.” And I’m beginning to see other people nodding their head and agreeing with me when I say that “not every student needs a four-year degree, but every student needs some sort of post-high school training.” And that there are some really great, high-paying jobs in the skilled trades that are just begging to be filled. And that an Electrician’s license is just as valuable (actually more) as the Philosophy degree that’s sitting on the shelf but not being used. OK, I haven’t said that last one before, but maybe I will now.
But that’s just it. This whole idea of exploring careers and finding out what one is passionate about while still in high school isn’t really all that new. Neither is the idea that there are multiple pathways to a great career, and not ALL of them require a four-year degree. Nope, it’s just a repackaging of another idea from long ago.
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