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Students benefit from early start in career tech

California’s Pomona USD encourages seventh and eighth graders to start thinking about career paths

For years, schools have focused on preparing students for jobs that require a four-year degree from a university, and federal and state education policies “have prioritized college preparation over career preparation,” says Ashley Parker, spokesperson for the Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE).

As it becomes clearer that many high-paying jobs are remaining unfilled—and that many university-educated job seekers are not prepared to fill them—that focus has started to change. But to get students and parents on board, districts must start early.

Last year, California’s Pomona USD began using the WIN Learning System’s Strategic Compass program with seventh and eighth graders to get them thinking about potential career pathways and inform them of the variety of opportunities available in their region, says Enrique Medina, director of career readiness for the district.

The Strategic Compass program allows students to see career options that fit their profile and that are projected to be available in their local economy. In addition to learning about career options, students can also read about the education pathways to get to each career and projected salary information and budgeting tools.

Such programs allow the school district to prepare high school CTE programs to meet the needs and interests of incoming students, and they help students to begin mapping career and education plans.

“Students need to be exposed to the career fields and job possibilities that exist today, and will continue to grow in the future,” says Parker, “and offered multiple pathways to career exploration and skills development.”