"(We Suck At) Teaching Kids About Careers," by Liz Ryan

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Liz RyanWe chanced upon a provocative piece from The Denver Post’s “Personal Interests” blog the other day. It was written by CEO and Founder of the Human Workplace, Liz Ryan. Click on her photo to the right to read her entire blog commentary from The Denver Post.

Here are some excerpts from Ms. Ryan’s blog:

“I don’t get it,” says my son, a high school freshman. “You’re supposed to pick a college based on what you want to study. You’re supposed to study something that you might want to do for a career. How would you know? You apply to college when you’re seventeen. How could you make that decision then, when you haven’t done that kind of work before?”

Career HashtagThe kid is wise, and so are all the kids who ask the same sensible question. The school-to-career chain in our country is badly broken, if there can be said to be any such chain at all. In the high school my kids attend, the students get a cursory career unit in tenth grade Health class. When my daughter took that course a few years ago, I asked her how the process worked. We take a test,” she said, and it tells us what we should do professionally.

I teach career workshops at community colleges, and the kids (and adults, too) are rapt, because there’s no simple guide to Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Every Job in the World that I know of. The information I present is news to nearly everyone, only because we don’t have good channels for learning about careers once we’re in one. In my experience, most folks don’t know Jack about many jobs apart from the one they have themselves. As the child approaches graduation from school, he’s encouraged to visit the Career Office, where the valiant but understaffed-relative-to-student-population career counselors help get the kid ready for the working world.

The kid’s visits to the Career Office are not required by most schools, and the college doesn’t give the kid extra time for job-search preparation. The counselors in the Career Office have to take a kid all the way from choosing a career direction to writing a resume, targeting locations and industries, prepping for interviews, etiquette, appearance, and tons more. It’s an overwhelming task. Why would we leave such a critical part of the college experience out of the picture for most of the child’s college career? Why would we treat career planning as an afterthought, and the academic content of the kid’s major as the Really Important Stuff? We’ve got it backwards…..”

careers1How will a kid know what she or he is cut out to do without working in different environments? How will a kid learn what he likes, hates and needs from a career without the chance to experience work in different settings, among different people?”

That’s the right question, alrightOur own RE@L STEM Water Quality Investigations product is all about engaging students in real world career exploration.  Our three phase approach includes a total-hands-on work in the classroom, in the field and in live connection with professionals working in their career.  All of this interactions is made possible through the wonders of the new world of mobile technology communications.

Here are some additiional career-exploration suggestions from us at RE@L:

  • Small groups of volunteering professionals need to visit schools weekly and present a couple of seminars on what their job is about and why they like it and what, if anything, they don’t.
  • We could also use a host of well-made, free career videos, like Khan Academy produces, ones that students could access on their own time. Those same services should remain available and free in college and even in your early Professional worklife.
  • How about some retired professionals whose experienced viewpoints could be accessed online conversations?

What we each must find is the passion we seek in our work!

As that old saying goes“Choose a job you enjoy doing and you’ll never work another day in your life.”

Click on the globe below to post any questions or comments!



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Tom King & Dale LaFrenz

Dr. Tom King has served for over 40 years as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Saint Thomas in the School of Education. The Saturn School of Tomorrow, formerly a St. Paul Public School, and his visionary response to educational reform, was a lighthouse on the frontier of school change. Tom was an experienced high school teacher of mathematics, a school administrator, and Director of Technology for the St. Paul MN Public Schools. He is also a member of the RE@L Team. Dr. Dale LaFrenz is Chairman of RE@L and one of the founders of MECC Software who brought “Oregon Trail” to millions of K12 kids everywhere. He has written extensively on the history and evolution of Ed Tech. His work in forging new paths for MECC’S “edutainment" software was instrumental in connecting school-markets, kids, teachers and consumer-markets/kids/parents, and now serves as the new launching pad for RE@L apps and software.

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