CTE: Connecting Students with More Career Opportunities

Since the post-WWII era, students in the US have been encouraged to pursue a bachelor’s degree. A four-year college education is considered by many to be the best route to a rewarding career and a secure financial future. Conventional wisdom holds that a college degree will lead to a middle-class lifestyle and a desired level of social prestige. Students and their families often view other career pathways as lesser routes designed for those who cannot consider college, whether for financial or academic reasons. This perception is changing.

In a January 2021 ECMC survey of high school students, only 53% of respondents said that they expect to pursue a bachelor’s degree. Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed said that they wished that their high school provided more information about the variety of post-secondary options. School college and career planning programs are often geared toward preparing students for college admissions. While college prep is important, expanding career programs to include CTE and work-based learning (WBL) opportunities will better align counseling department programs with the needs of a diverse student population. It will also better serve myriad industries as employers seek skilled workers to fill good positions that don’t require a bachelor’s degree.

Connecting students with more career opportunities makes it more likely that they will discover a field that they find exciting, one that matches their interests and talents. Both college-bound and non-college-bound students will benefit from this. The most effective programs expose students to a variety of postsecondary learning options so they can discover the pathways that best align with their career goals.

While college is essential for many careers, it is not a good fit for everyone. Students can forgo the expense of a four-year degree and develop the necessary skills and knowledge that they need to achieve their career goals with CTE and WBL. With these hands-on experiences, students will be better equipped to make career decisions, and they will begin to gain valuable skills in their chosen field.

Integrating CTE and WBL with Academics in a Career Planning Program

An effective career and college planning program will provide students with the tools that they need to assess their interests and aptitudes and explore career clusters that match their assessment results, and it will enable them to take a deeper dive into areas that spark their interest.

However, programs connecting students with more career opportunities require a high degree of individualization to meet the unique needs of each student and handle the logistics of varied learning pathways. Implementing a program that gives equal weight to college prep and CTE presents several challenges for counseling departments and school counselors, who on average, are carrying heavy caseloads. Consider that:

  • Students will need support organizing their research and coordinating their coursework with hands-on learning opportunities.
  • Out-of-the-box solutions often fail to consider the specific demands of a district’s local labor market and the CTE opportunities available to the district’s students.
  • Counselors will be tasked with tracking student progress over several years, often across different school buildings and WBL sites.
  • The school counselor serves as the contact point between school and home. They will need to maintain a flow of communications with students and their families to keep students on track and bring in families for support.

Technology offers a solution to these challenges.

Connecting Students with More Career Opportunities Using Modern Career Planning Technology

An online platform such as XAP’s Choices360 gives students the tools to explore a broad range of occupations and post-secondary education options. These modern career and college planning programs lead students through a series of developmentally suitable learning activities, and they provide a system for students to organize and save their learning.

Students begin by taking self-assessments to better understand their interests, values, aptitudes, and aspirations. With their assessment results, they can discover paths that interest them and explore the multiple routes available to gain the skills and knowledge they need to pursue their career goals. The sense of autonomy and self-efficacy gained by the self-directed learning model drives motivation and gives students a sense of purpose as they select classes and learning experiences that support their ambitions.

Technology to Expedite Counseling Department Functions

A modern career and college planning program can expand its capabilities to include multiple postsecondary pathways while also streamlining a counseling department’s work in several ways:

  • Counselors can track student progress and schedule meetings with students and families from an administrative hub.
  • Counselors can maintain communication logs between the counseling department, students, and their families.
  • Administrators can modify the program curriculum to fit the unique needs of the district’s students and local industries.
  • Robust data collection and reporting functions simplify clerical tasks that are essential to monitoring program effectiveness and creating internal and external reports.

More students and their families are seeking alternatives to a four-year college degree. New industries, such as renewable energy, and job growth in areas such as healthcare offer well-paying, fulfilling careers that require education beyond high school but not always a bachelor’s degree. A career and college planning program that integrates academics with CTE and WBL will benefit college-bound and non-college-bound students. Hands-on learning and skills training enables students to experience the world of work so they can develop realistic expectations of the field that they have chosen.

A modern college and career planning program taps into the power of technology to facilitate connecting students with more career opportunities while simplifying communication and data collection systems for the school counselor.

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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