Career Exploration Tools to Better Support Student Needs

In today’s environment, students need to be prepared in four areas to find success after they graduate from high school:

  1. Job readiness: Students need the skills to begin their entry-level position, whether they continue their education or join the workforce right after high school.
  2. College readiness: If students choose to further their education, they need the knowledge to succeed at the next level.
  3. Career readiness: Students need exposure to a broad range of careers to find ones that align with their interests and to take coursework that will prepare them for their career pathway.
  4. Work readiness: Students need to be prepared to meet workplace expectations, such as professional behavior, teamwork, communication skills, and interpersonal skills.

Career exploration tools are ideal for starting students on their journey and helping them see how their education can help them succeed in their careers.

The Challenges of Keeping Students Engaged

Less than half of students report that they are actively engaged at school. While there’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has played a role in this, engagement levels have been dropping for a while, from a high of 65% in 2019 to 45% in 2021.

One of the key reasons students say that they are disengaged is that they don’t see how what they are learning in school applies to real life.

Career exploration provides the motivational foundation that students need. When students see the career options available to them and how their school’s curriculum can help them achieve their career goals, they are incentivized to participate more fully. When they can envision a future doing something that they enjoy or have an aptitude for, they are more likely to take an active role in exploring career paths and planning.

Not only do career exploration and planning improve student engagement, but they also reduce dropout rates, especially for at-risk students.

Career Exploration Tools to Support Students

There are a few free tools online that might be helpful, such as the Career Outlook page of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) website. This section provides basic information about job categories, outlooks, and potential salaries in various industries.

However, schools and school districts need a more robust toolset to provide a more well-rounded experience. Career exploration tools should include self-assessments, matching for career paths, and personalized curriculum plans.

The Value of Self-Assessments

Self-assessment is the first step in career planning. Students have the opportunity to reflect on the things that they like or dislike and to learn how this might help them make career choices. Students, parents, and educators can gain insight into a student’s:

  • Interests
  • Skills
  • Aptitudes
  • Strengths
  • Personality types
  • Values
  • Learning styles

This becomes a positive experience for most students because they begin to see opportunities beyond the traditional jobs. It helps college-bound students start the planning process. It also showcases possibilities for those who plan on going to a trade school or the military or who do not plan to further their education by showing them that there are satisfying and high-paying jobs that do not require a four-year education.

Choices360 by XAP is a cost-effective solution for schools and school districts that enables students to take self-assessments and matches them with possible career choices.

Comparing Assessments to Career Paths

Choices360 finds potential career options that align with students’ skills and interests. In nearly every case, career exploration tools will surface jobs and careers that most students didn’t know existed.

Within the platform, students can research and evaluate various career options and see what it takes to achieve their goals. They can find out what type of education they will need, what knowledge and skills they should attain, and the potential for growth within those careers.

Students, parents, and educators can all be part of the process to participate in the learning and discussions as students make career choices.

Creating Appropriate Curricula

Different careers require different skills. The Your Plan of Study feature of Choices360 creates baseline curriculum plans to help align coursework with career goals. These plans are flexible and can be customized by students to set up a personalized curriculum.

After students build their plans, they can check to ensure that their course plans line up with high school graduation or typical college entrance requirements. The customized planning tools also keep students accountable.

A Comprehensive and Proven Online Solution for Career Exploration Tools

While students of all ages can benefit from career exploration tools, as they progress into middle school and high school, many students start to feel pressure about making future choices. According to a study by the American Student Association, half of all students feel stressed over finding a career that’s right for them.

Career exploration tools can help alleviate that stress and expose students to a wide range of career options. By tying school work to careers, students will see the benefit of staying focused on their school work. When you connect career aspirations to educational goals, it impacts the likelihood of student achievement.

Here at XAP, we believe that exploration lays the foundation for planning. That’s why we help school and district counseling leaders implement equitable programs and strategies to ensure that students graduate high school not only with a diploma but also with a plan.

To see how we can help you better support your students and drive state, district, and school initiatives with greater ease, transparency, and data, feel free to contact our specialists today!

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