When you were a child, full of curiosity and mischief...how did you respond when asked: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Looking back, I realize like many young children, my view of career options was based on exposure. I saw Superwoman on television, and in retrospect, my mother/grandmothers. Therefore, becoming Superwoman was something I wanted to do, yet how to become Superwoman was a mystery.
We as a society need to do a better job of supporting students in answering, “Why do I want to pursue that career?” and “How do I get the skills needed for that career?” This is what CareerConnect, Denver Public School’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) program, is doing. Classes are designed to prepare students for career and college. Classes in engineering, business and health care, careers typically associated with college degrees. Certification options translate to employability immediately following high school, providing students a head start in career in college.
The American Dream of career success has long been messaged and prescribed as “University for ALL.” As an educator and parent, I have echoed this message with the best of intentions. CTE today is for students planning on going to college.
The future of jobs and job training is here right now. Studies show that 3 out of every 4 jobs will require some kind of training or credentialing after high school. Nine out of ten employers will need employees who are bilingual. To address these two factors, Denver Public Schools is working on a pilot that will allow students to use CTE classes as a means to develop English. The DPS Seal of Biliteracy also an excellent way to highlight the value of bilingualism, allowing the pursuit of coursework and career experiences that include language.
Back to childhood. I wonder how my quest to become Superwoman would have been different had I been asked a different question. Perhaps we are asking our youth questions they cannot answer. Perhaps we should be asking the next generation questions more in line with passions, questions like “What problem would you like to solve in the world?” “What about that interests you?” “What classes are available in high school for you to explore these interests?” Meaningful career conversations. My belief in the value of a college education has not wavered. Still, as students require a broader array of education and skills-building programs to thrive in the 21st century, I have adjusted my belief to ask each student, “What experiences have helped you make your decision about college and career?” I firmly believe that the magic ingredient to success is education, which includes a clear purpose. Career and College Success are symbiotic. One cannot exist without the other.