Tinh Tran likes to bring his science classes at University High School in Irvine, Calif., on field trips to local companies to get a firsthand look at how scientists and engineers spend their day. But even though these experiences are very powerful for students, they require time and money—and they’re hard to scale so that all students can participate.
A technology platform called Nepris helps solve this challenge. It’s a web-based service that connects students with career professionals through online video conferences.
Tran has used the platform to connect his students with career professionals without having to leave his classroom. In one recent session, he had his engineering students take a virtual tour of a Toyota manufacturing plant in Indiana, so they could see the design and manufacturing process up close.
“Nepris is a great platform for facilitating a connection between students and industry professionals,” he says. “It’s a cost-effective way of allowing students to visit different workplaces without having to physically go there.”
The Irvine Unified School District is part of an Orange County initiative, called OC Pathways, to connect all students to career-based experiences—not just those who follow a career and technical education (CTE) track in high school.
Career education “has to be systemic across school districts,” says Amy Kaufman, executive director of OC Pathways. “Students shouldn’t just be hearing about these pathways at career fairs, but at multiple points throughout the curriculum.”
Focusing on career pathways at an early age means students are less likely to “flounder” when they go off to college, says Patsy Janda, CTE coordinator for the Irvine Unified School District.
“Whether you’re going to major in English or engineering, you’re eventually going to start a career,” Janda says. “Knowing what jobs are available and what skills they require is going to benefit both students and employers.”