Many educators have found that preparing middle school students for career readiness has a positive impact. According to the Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE), middle school is a time when students can benefit the most from career exploration, a process of building self-awareness, learning about potential careers, and developing a plan for reaching future goals.
This is because it engages them when “they are at a higher risk for disengaging from learning due to challenges in forming identity, coping with puberty, and navigating new environments. It also capitalizes on their developing abilities to think abstractly, and their preferences for teamwork and active learning through relevant real-life scenarios.”
Where to start?
But where do middle schools even start with career exploration? Many middle schools are left without resources to implement programs, let alone ones that go beyond the typical interest and personality-based questionnaires.
Hannah Smith and Suzan Potter are career development facilitators (CDF) in Pickens, South Carolina. They wanted more than just an interest survey when it came to career exploration for their students. After hearing a counselor share her success story with YouScience Discovery for middle schoolers, they knew it was exactly what their students needed.
This middle school-specific YouScience Snapshot tool focuses on five science-based “brain game” aptitude assessments and an interest-based survey to match students to career paths where they can thrive. Unlike the longer YouScience Discovery assessment, it helps middle school students identify their best-fit career clusters, rather than specific careers. This allows students to explore various career fields without the pressure of choosing the exact job they want.
Career Exploration is Crucial
One common factor facing students of all ages is lack of career exposure. Through YouScience Snapshot, middle school students are given the opportunity to explore career possibilities within the 16 National Career Clusters.
Hannah says, “With middle school we want to keep it broad, and I think Snapshot does that because it gives them career clusters and then the jobs are just examples that are within the cluster instead of specific career matches. So, they really have a chance to continue to explore that out a little bit.”
Many counselors and teachers have commented on how eager their students are to search through their career cluster matches. They ask questions and start to get a vision of what their futures could look like. Most middle school students are not going to decide what profession they’re going to pursue outside of high school in that exact moment, but it gets them thinking, planning, and visualizing what could be.
Connecting Students to Purpose and Possibilities
YouScience helps middle school students in the throes of creating their identity to understand their strengths and where they can be applied. When students can identify their innate talents while in the process of self-discovery, they build confidence and are empowered to take the classes, get the certifications, participate in the internships, and do the work that leads to careers they have an interest in and know they can do.
According to Hannah, “With YouScience, it doesn’t show weaknesses. It shows you what your strengths are and then it goes in and explains what that looks like. With the students I have a hard time keeping engaged, they stay engaged with YouScience.”
And that’s when the fun begins by providing access to hands-on learning that cultivates interests, implements 21st Century skills, and enables students to build the proper educational pathways that allow them to use their strengths and prepare for a successful future.
In short, when we align what students are learning to real-world possibilities, education begins to serve a purpose. And with that, students become empowered by theirs.
YouScience Keeps Students Engaged
When students are presented with this information as early as seventh grade, they have time to really explore every option. Suzan remembers one student who wanted to be a surgeon. When asked how many years the student wanted to spend in school, she replied, “Two.” Other students claimed they wanted to be surgeons because the money is good but admitted they had a hard time in science. Not having an affinity for science could make the process of becoming a surgeon miserable for these students. Having that knowledge early on means time, energy, and money are not wasted on roads that dead-end or lead to unfulfillment.
But even more importantly, imagine what it could do for individual happiness and productivity.
Career Exploration Provides a Roadmap
Middle school career exploration with YouScience Snapshot gives students a realistic view of opportunities and allows them to open their minds to possibilities they’re capable of and have an interest in. Knowing where their strengths lie and the options available provides a roadmap for education pathways that fuel success and increase engagement. It gets students excited about what they’re learning and gives education a purpose.
Suzan adds, “I would say as a career development facilitator and what we’re tasked to do, YouScience helps us do a lot of it in one place, instead of going to several different resources. And I love how it sticks with the student. This is something we can access easily; the parents and students can access easily – it stays with them and doesn’t vaporize after a while. I like that.”
Ready to change lives? Let’s work together to connect students to their best-fit pathways and careers.
To learn more about YouScience and how this unique platform is changing students’ lives, connect with one of our regional directors.