If you want middle and high school students to give greater thought to their career paths, one key step is to hire and train good guidance counselors.
So goes one of the primary lessons from South Carolina's nearly nine-year experiment to bring career counseling into its public school classrooms as a way to better connect graduating students to the ever-changing demands of the labor market. "We want students to become more aware of their career choices and understand the ideas in terms of salaries and the job market outlook," says Dr. Sabrina Moore of the South Carolina Education Department.
Helping students sort through career paths is now the primary role for Patricia Reid, who has spent 21 years as a teacher, an at-risk guidance counselor, and now a school career specialist. Reid works at a middle school in Clover, S.C., where she advises roughly 300 eighth-graders each year on their career goals through the state's Personal Pathways to Success program.
Reid begins by meeting and talking with each student about her interests, hobbies, and academic preferences. Together, the two identify a career path that the student can focus on during high school — perhaps technology, engineering, veterinary science, or manufacturing. Then Reid meets with the student and parents to develop an individual graduation plan, which allows students to take electives throughout high school to bolster particular interests. So, if a student expresses interest in becoming, say, a veterinarian, he could sign up for an agricultural science or animal-care classes in high school in addition to enrolling in required courses such as English, math, science, and history.