Whites Creek High School freshman Aaliyah Cartwright has her heart set on being an anesthesiologist.
The possibility of any other career for the 14-year-old, however, wasn’t a topic of discussion until she recently took a test on a Nashville-based company’s online program that helps detail career aptitudes.
One of the hundreds of jobs the YouScience program said Aaliyah has a career aptitude for was casting director and fundraising manager.
“I didn’t know I could be a fit for a casting director,” she said. “It’s not something I was ever looking into.”
For Metro Nashville Public Schools, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce and the program’s heads, the reaction by the teen is exactly what they are hoping for through the use of YouScience.
The program is meant to expose students to a range of career opportunities that fit their skills to get students thinking about their future. But the goals also extend past just opening students’ eyes to possibilities.
The Nashville school district plans to use the information from this year to better tailor the Academies of Nashville and school programs to student interests through the use of YouScience.
“The objective is to see what kids are interested in at school,” said Ameerah Palacios, Academies of Nashville program manager. “We still want them to get exposure even if it isn’t a school pathway. We are thinking about how to support those students.”
This is the first year the district used YouScience and it was made available thanks to the Nashville chamber, which paid $30,000 to buy 4,000 licenses for Nashville schools’ freshman. The chamber touted it as a way to help students understand how their abilities align to real-world careers.
While the district looks at how to use the YouScience program to provide long-term changes, teachers at Whites Creek have used the program to connect students such as Aaliyah to the more immediate future.
Teacher Amanda Adcock said Whites Creek freshman used the program to research jobs during Metro Schools’ annual career fair.
The YouScience program identifies careers for students aptitudes and interests. It then details the level of post-high school degree needed to work that job. It even lists average salaries.
Adcock said the program helps give students options because many might find later that they don’t like the career or aren’t a good fit. Others might have never thought about possibilities after life at Whites Creek, she said.
“This gets them thinking beyond high school,” Adcock said. “Most think that college isn’t a reality when it actually is.”
The narrow view of the career field by young kids is known as an “exposure gap,” said Armando Garza, a senior vice president of sales and marketing.
“What we found is that when students are using interest-only surveys that they are limited,” by the careers they are familiar with, he said.
By connecting students with more career options that they have an aptitude for, it helps the students build confidence and broaden their horizon, Garza said. That sort of exposure especially helps economically disadvantaged, minority and female students, he said.
“If you ask a young woman or female if they have an interest in manufacturing, they often say they don’t know. The default answer is usually they aren’t interested,” Garza said. “When we tell them they have natural ability for it, that becomes a different conversation.”