Utah educators Chanel Maestes and Jeri Marshall are tackling the challenges of career guidance in a revolutionary and scientifically proven way.
Chanel, a third-year teacher at West Jordan High in the Jordan School District focuses on college and career prep with her seniors. Jeri is the college and career center coordinator at Provo High in the Provo City School District. Both teachers use the YouScience Platform to help students map out pathways for college and career.
Too many career guidance efforts lack relevance
One of the challenges Utah educators face is finding ways to connect what students learn in the classroom to how they think about their futures.
Jeri said, “I started looking at what our students were choosing for classes. And where they were. And what they were doing. And if it was helping. And there’s a huge disconnect between what the students were doing at the high school and what they wanted to do when they left.”
Jeri found that a lack of connection leads to lack of interest and engagement. Attendance goes down, behavior issues go up, and education programs lose critical funding. When students don’t see the value in what they’re learning, some get bored and just go through the motions rather than work towards something they can find success and fulfillment in. While others drop out. Ten percent of Utah students dropped out in 2021.
Jeri said, “We need to stop thinking of school as something that has to be accomplished for you to move forward. It isn’t just something to finish. It’s actually a place to gain experience and skill.”
Best-fit career choices can’t be based on experience and environment alone
Many students choose careers based on what they know, or what their siblings, parents, or other relatives do. They don’t look outside of their immediate circumstances and aren’t aware of the options available to them.
Too many students don’t even know what they’re capable of. Self-selecting careers based on interest, experience, and environment leaves doors unopened when it comes to best-fit career options.
This includes girls who get stuck in “traditional” roles. Jeri said, “If we can get them into those classes, they never thought of taking in the first place because it’s not traditional, it really is just breaking these stereotypes, these bad traditions of, girls don’t take robotics. Girls don’t take automotive. Well, what if a girl wants to work on cars? She should be able to.”
Jeri’s’ experience in the school environment is backed up by the finding in the 2022 Utah Talent Report. It found that “Utah students are interested in careers they don’t have aptitudes for and have aptitudes for careers they don’t know about,” which creates an exposure gap. The report goes on to say that “of the top 50 career recommendations for interest-only, 74% directed students to arts and entertainment, education, social work and life sciences careers. On the flip side, 0% of the top 50 interest-only recommendations directed students to in-demand careers, in engineering, healthcare and technology — but 50% of aptitude-based recommendations directed students to these careers.”
Understanding the basics is important for college and career guidance
During their senior years, most students start preparing for what comes next. Resumes, cover letters, and college entrance essays are tasks that often make students realize that “real life is coming their way, and it’s a big wake up call,” explained Chanel.
Students are left questioning what steps to take first and how to use the certifications and knowledge earned in high school to land basic entry-level jobs, apprenticeships, or to get into college.
“If we can get them into those classes, they never thought of taking in the first place because it’s not traditional, it really is just breaking these stereotypes, these bad traditions of, girls don’t take robotics. Girls don’t take automotive. Well, what if a girl wants to work on cars? She should be able to.”
—Jeri Marshall, career center coordinator, Provo High
Jeri explained that most students don’t understand the importance of their certifications and don’t know they can (and should) be used for resumes and interviews. Again, showing the disconnect between what students are learning and how it helps them in the future.
According to Chanel, it can be just as overwhelming for teachers to know where to start when it comes to preparing students for these tasks as it is for students to learn them.
The YouScience Platform changes the way educators prepare students for college and career
Aptitudes — the natural ability to learn or acquire certain skills — and certifications are critical for career guidance. With the YouScience Platform, educators can expose students to career options they may have never known they could do before.
When Jeri began exploring YouScience Discovery, part of the Platform, she realized that students were missing the aptitude piece of career guidance. And to help foster the connection between education and their future, and truly find success, students needed to know their aptitudes.
After implementing Discovery, Jeri was able to guide students to classes that aligned with careers they were capable of, not just careers they already knew about and sounded interesting. Her excitement grew as she saw the career options open up to students who’d completed the assessment.
In addition to YouScience Discovery aptitude assessments, the YouScience Platform includes Precision Exams by YouScience. It offers educators over 200 industry-recognized certifications that validate student’s knowledge and skills for employers, programs, and college requirements.
Utah uses the YouScience Platform for its statewide Student Credential Account and Aptitude Assessment offering.
With Discovery results in hand and access to certification courses, students can begin choosing classes and programs based on their aptitudes and interests. Career and Technical Education (CTE) classes can be filled with students interested in that skill based on the results of their aptitudes and interests. They can plan a course of study where they can gain skills, get certified, and gain experience. Learning relevant meaningful content can change the way they see school and how they perform.
After Discovery, Jeri said, “It was easier to help students see a connection between their options at the high school and their aptitudes — things they could be good at, things they’re interested in, things they may want to consider.”
The YouScience Platform helps students learn who they are
The YouScience Platform includes aptitude discovery, interests, certifications, careers, and employers that lead students to explore multiple career options, map out career pathways, know which classes and programs to take, and graduate high school prepared for college and career. It fosters the connection students need to engage in and be excited about their education.
For Chanel, the YouScience Platform inspired her to create a unit where students present what they learn about themselves through Discovery. One of the benefits of Discovery is that it gives students language to describe their aptitudes in essays, resumes, interviews, and cover letters. Using their results, Chanel has students write a resume, a college entrance cover letter, and participate in mock interviews outside of school.
Throughout the unit, Chanel’s students learn about themselves while doing hands-on activities that actually prepare them for life after high school. Chanel said her students appreciate Discovery because it gave them direction and a way to get where they want to go.
Talking about her experience Chanel said, “I just felt really successful as a teacher. Sometimes you have wins and sometimes you have losses, especially with a new unit. And I found that to be a big win when it came to my students in the classroom.”
For more ideas on how to integrate Discovery into your classroom, find classroom activities in the YouScience Help Center.