New “Choices” Help Families Plan

mikeCareer planning tool roll-out. Walk into any fifth grade class in any city in the nation and ask the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The answers will be nearly the same whether you’re in Seattle or San Antonio, Harrisburg or Houston:

• Doctor
• Lawyer
• Fireman
• Police Officer
• Athlete
• Teacher

By no fault of our own as parents, mentors, or teachers do our children offer up this short list. In truth, it’s all they know. The three main forms of adolescent entertainment (video games, television, and books) glorify these occupations with little divergence. All are great occupations to be sure, much-needed ones as well, but society also needs skilled electricians, plumbers, plant operators, chemical engineers, petroleum engineers, and radiologists.

Exposing children to the many, many career possibilities out there has to become a necessary and embedded part of our school curriculum. Schools need to provide opportunities for students to explore careers in meaningful ways that allow students to tap into careers that directly tie into their own growing interests.

I will never forget Billy Ramirez, a former student of mine when I was a high school English teacher. There was one reason Billy came to school—to go to welding class. As a freshman he took to welding early on and then for him everything else was just a way to explain the existence of the metal shop. By the time he was a senior, the school had decided to wipe out the welding and crafts programs in lieu of desktop publishing and filmmaking. While filmmaking is a great career, in Houston the demand for welders is much higher. Needless to say, Billy did not come back to school. I ran into Billy some years later. He explained to me he had opened his own shop working industrial jobs by day and art projects by night. Billy’s story is a common one. Schools, much like all of society, glorify the jobs that few people will access and over look the good jobs that most of us have.

It doesn’t have to be this way, however, and luckily there are tools available to assist educators, parents, students, and adult job seekers in identifying those interests and transferring them to something marketable. Recently, Workforce Solutions rolled out a new online career planning tool, Choices, to allow people of all ages the opportunity to explore their own interests and careers related to those interests. The robust system allows users to interact with a large amount of content about the wide array of occupations in demand in our area in a way that may keep schools from making hasty decisions about what programs to cut or start while at the same time providing families with much-needed information about crafting and planning the future.

I couldn’t be more excited to see such a useful interface offered up to the public. Over the next six months, Workforce Solutions will monitor the usage of the product and make changes as necessary based on your feedback. This powerful new tool is a great way for the public to move beyond the lives on the television to real life work that leads to successful lives.You can access this new resources at the Workforce Solutions website.

Michael Webster serves as an Industry Liaison to the Education Sector for the Gulf Coast Workforce Board. With over a decade of experience in teaching and staff development, Michael is passionate about ensuring all students achieve an enriching and successful life beyond high school. In his current capacity, he services school districts in developing a strong workforce and in delivering career resources to students and their families.



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