5 Tips for Supporting Career Development for Students Districtwide

Much is expected of career counselors in today’s secondary school environment, but not all their resources are geared toward helping students find a path to success.

Counselors often play a role in resolving student wellbeing and family issues. With ratios as overwhelming as 479 students to every counselor, it’s challenging to find the time to focus on career development for students.

Now, however, new systems are available that can help counselors do their jobs better by taking a whole-student/whole school approach. These systems combine career planning tools with information resources to support all students, whether they wish to pursue college or alternative paths, such as apprenticeships, the military, or vocational schools.

In seeking ways to support career development for students and the corresponding exploration, districts can improve student engagement and make a lifelong impact.

Tips for Supporting Career Development for Students

Counselors can’t do everything alone, especially in an era of declining resources. The good news is that they don’t have to. New applications can provide greater support for counselors in a broad approach. Here are five tips for supporting career development and exploration at the school and district levels.

1. Form partnerships with teachers

With students lining up outside their doors, counselors do not have the time to communicate the wealth of opportunities that awaits every student. But there are alternative approaches that can integrate career development for students into the classroom through real-world case studies.

One way to build school-wide support is to partner with teachers to bring career development opportunities to larger groups. In setting up these interactive speaking opportunities, counselors can focus on exposing students to the broadest possible set of experiences by including professionals who have succeeded via vocational school, apprenticeships, or in other ways.

2. Start early to align career planning with curriculum

Career and technical education (CTE) learning involves teaching specific career skills to students in middle school, high school, and beyond. Beginning the exploration of what CTE means for students in middle school ensures that students can build appropriate courses into their high school schedule.

Career counselors who can link CTE to curriculum planning have the opportunity to spark unique engagements with students that can pay off in terms of higher graduation rates in the future.

3. Create work opportunities within the school

Another way of expanding the exploration of career development for students outside the counselors’ office is to think of classrooms as laboratories filled with opportunities for career planning.

For example, suppose that a student is interested in being an audio/visual engineer. Counselors and educators can find ways to formalize that interest by creating a “job” in school and naming that student as the classroom director of A/V. By doing this, the student can learn what it takes to be a professional in that field.

4. Utilize social media for learning and communication

Today’s students are often called “digital natives,” meaning they have come of age amid the digital economy. They have grown up spending much of their days online and interacting with networks such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and TikTok. Integrating social media into your efforts to expose students to different ways of thinking about career planning may be a way to build greater connections.

It may also help to leverage the web for resources that can help engage students. The Federal Reserve gives teachers access to lesson plans on career exploration.

5. Teach the art (and science) of networking

Most young people know how to build strong networks of friends, but they may not see how those skills transfer to a career development context.

Challenging them to increase their networking capabilities can support career development for students by giving them the confidence to talk with others about their skill sets and career aspirations.

How the Right Systems Support Career Counseling Districtwide

Schools are increasingly recognizing that preparing students for the next step is no longer the exclusive domain of the career counselor. Changes in the workforce and the increasing awareness of post-high school options point to the need for what the National Career Development Association describes as a “whole school” approach. It means that everyone from administrators to regular and special ed teachers and even the school psychologist plays a role in career development planning.

Having suitable systems in place, such as Choices360 from XAP, can help form the backbone of a districtwide approach. Choices360 is built around administering assessments, starting in middle school, to create a flexible but defined academic plan.

Those assessments provide insights into the needs of students, which is where the focus of career counseling remains. The more that you as a counselor know about student interests, the better able you are to help them.

Systems such as Choices360 also provide data to help you understand how to measure your efforts, find the areas that are working and those that aren’t, and test the efficacy of your approach.

Besides these assessments, Choices360 provides a tool for managing college applications and requesting and submitting transcripts.

Contact XAP to Learn More

It is well-documented that career counselors have a lifelong impact in terms of the advice and support that they provide to students. New systems such as Choices360 are built to support counselors and their students in this mission.

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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