Career Exploration Ideas for Middle School
As adults, we ask a lot of developing minds when asking them to consider their futures.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Where do you want to go to college?
What do you want to major in?
What will you be able to do with that degree?
I didn’t know I wanted to be an educator until after I had my undergraduate degree, and I know I’m not alone in that sentiment. For any young teenager still struggling to find themselves in the chaos of middle school, the idea that certain decisions will set a path for the rest of their life is certainly an intimidating one. Additionally, a large percentage of our student base are already underserved and statistically face an uphill climb into successful adulthood. Luckily, an evolving understanding of this issue (and some newly available tools) can help educators work to overcome the challenge of an unleveled playing field.
Career & Technical Education classes
One of the best tools in modern schools are Career & Technical Education (CTE) classes. First funded at the federal level in 1917, these classes include experiential learning and go beyond the typical classroom learning environment. We also know that, according to a 2014 report put forward by the Obama administration, 8th grade academic achievement is a significant indicator of college readiness – 8th grade!
What are we, as educators, to do to best help our kids in this situation? How can we help them explore options before they have to start deciding on diploma paths in high school? How can we increase their investment in their own education when so much is on the line so early? While we don’t have the option of completely overhauling our school systems, we can certainly take advantage of the awesome tools that are already around to benefit our students. The free online resources from EVERFI can be especially useful.
While CTE programs are in a period of expansion right now, they still don’t reach all high school students and aren’t always able to expose middle school students to their options. These digital programs from EVERFI do an amazing job of increasing access to a quality, engaging learning system that’s getting them future-ready. Sometimes, starting students on a path by themselves is the best thing we can do as educators. That’s where EVERFI comes in.
Ready-made lessons to connect your classroom to the real world:
For middle school students, EVERFI has an amazing variety of CTE-like programs tailor-made for that age group. If you’re looking to expose students to future-ready skills, I recommend the following digital lessons on EVERFI—
- Endeavor STEM Career Exploration. In Endeavor, students not only get to explore careers connected to their interests and aptitudes but also practice skills with high levels of carryover in multiple career areas.
- FutureSmart. In these lessons, students become mayor of a virtual town and advise their citizens on matters related to responsible financial choices like budgeting, running a pet store, and planning for college/career.
- Venture Entrepreneurial Expedition. Students get to explore what traits successful entrepreneurs have and then make a business plan for their own virtual food truck. They cap it off by developing an effective business pitch.
For the teacher looking to get a start with younger elementary-age students, EVERFI has something for you as well.
- The Future Goals program has both a math and science component, sponsored by the NHL. Students get to apply the same math/science from class in the world of sports – a surefire way to get them engaged, entertained, and educated.
- Vault: Understanding Money has learning games and quizzes designed to introduce financial concepts to students in a fun, engaging way. They’ll learn about budgeting, income, careers and more while playing along the way.
Oh and one other thing — don’t forget to check out the Resources button for each of these programs in EVERFI. They’re filled with offline lesson plans, activities, worksheets, and discussion guides to help you teach the real world skills students need. I recommend the activity from FutureSmart Lessons 4, called Investing in You – College and Career Planning Worksheet.
Research Notes & Sources
- American Education Research Journal says CTE classes boost ON TIME graduation rates. Real world context increases involvement and buy-in from non-college bound students.
- Brookings – first federal law for vocational school passed in 1917 – before compulsory education. CTE evolves with labor market and also counts internships and other work-readiness programs. CTE coursework is a wage predictor, with each upper-level course equal to a 2% wage boost.
- High school grad rate for students in CTE/internship programs is 93%, compared to freshman average of 80%. Wisconsin economic study says citizens receive $12.20 in benefits for every CTE dollar investment. Half of all STEM jobs require less than a 4-year degree. Subbaccalaureate credentials increased 73% in CTE fields from 2002-2012, compared to 54% increase in undergraduate awards.
- 8th grade academic achievement is a significant predictor of college readiness.