April 11, 2022
Career pathways exploration may involve those fantasy jobs like astronaut or deepwater diver that aren’t found on every corner of every town. But Y4Y’s course on career pathways can direct you toward activities you can plan to expand students’ awareness of education and career opportunities close to home. Some students in 21st CCLC programs may not see themselves ever straying far from the community they grew up in, while others may think leaving is their only option. Either way, early connections to career paths and possibilities right in their own backyard will give students more investment in the community today and better ensure their future success and contribution to the world around them, no matter where they end up.
When taking a place-based approach to exploring career pathways with students, you might start by asking yourself a question: How do local commerce and industry — whether historically based on plentiful natural resources or recently developed based on community needs like technology or healthcare — impact the community’s success and culture?
- Who can help you answer this question? Consider new partnerships with state and local commerce offices, employment and workforce guidance departments; labor unions; media outlets; military recruiters; and organizations like the Rotary Club. Tools like Y4Y’s Identifying Partners, Community Asset Mapping, and Mapping Needs to Partners can help you figure out the best place to start. Other tools in the Y4Y Strategic Partnerships course will be useful in reaching out, like Creating a Program Elevator Speech and Planning for Developing Program Champions.
- What will student research look like? You have many options to help students better understand the relationship between commerce/industry and community success and culture. Representatives from your new partnerships can come speak to students. They can recommend internet sites to explore. Or they can answer your staff members’ questions so they can share the information with students through engaging activities.
- Remember school partners. What school curriculum involves research on local or state commerce/industry? Where can your program support that learning, and where can you fill gaps?
An Age-Appropriate Approach
Your 21st CCLC program is the perfect environment to introduce early career exploration! Y4Y’s new course on this topic offers a useful framework and many tools for designing age-appropriate activities. And centering those activities on your community will make them all the more relevant and meaningful to young minds.
- Share Y4Y’s Tips for Families: Preparing Children and Youth for Success. This tool guides families through the kinds of everyday practices and day trips in their neighborhoods that can help ensure that their students start connecting early with the idea of a future profession in the place where they live. Examples include visiting nearby nature centers and attending cultural events — anything that’s offered in the neighborhood will do. Even young students can be brought to college and job fairs in the community; encourage families to ask lots of questions of the booth attendants. If you’ve ever staffed a booth, you know how nice it is to have people genuinely interested in what you’re there to talk about, no matter their age!
- Work with community partners when reviewing results of the Y4Y Elementary Student Interest Inventory. For example, the Rotary Club president might have ideas on how students who love measuring and paper airplane designs could connect with a local architect for a “day at the office,” or how one who loves animals and gardening might spend time touring a nearby farm.
- Y4Y’s Career Pathways Activity Design Guidebook offers many more ideas. Through the lens of place-based learning, make the most of suggestions like the guidebook’s Strategy 6: Use Coaching and Mentoring Opportunities. At all academic levels, find special adults in the community to cement those magical two-way relationships. This way, the community is making a personal, direct investment in its future through your students, and the students begin to see themselves as an integral part of the community.
Author Paul Gruchow, in his work Discovering the Universe of Home notes, “Nothing in my education prepared me to believe, or encouraged me to expect, that there was any reason to be interested in my own place. If I hoped to amount to anything, I understood, I had better take the first road east out of town as fast as I could. And, like so many of my classmates, I did.” Yes, you want your students to believe — to know — they can become astronauts or deepwater divers if it is their greatest dream. But you can and should begin at home with the wealth of career possibilities hiding in plain sight in your students’ very own place.