Funding Student Careers
Funded by a state grant, OC Pathways brings together educators and industry leaders to give all Orange County students career learning opportunities before they graduate from high school. All teachers in Orange County have access to Nepris through a Career Readiness Hub, which contains information about various career mentoring, internship, and job shadowing opportunities. The website is poised to serve 2,000 educators and up to 60,000 students in 2017-18.
“Nepris allows us to virtually connect students to business and industry partners from all over the country,” Kaufman says. “It also helps connect students with local career mentors and internships.”
At University High School, Tran is a CTE mentor in addition to teaching earth science and engineering design. He also leads a voluntary STEM program called UNI Technology & Engineering (UNITE), in which students work in teams on STEM-based projects and take part in robotics competitions.
As a CTE mentor, “my role is to encourage more teachers and students to engage in career education in some way,” he says.
The Power of CTE Mentors
Having CTE mentors in every middle and high school is one strategy that Irvine USD has employed to bring career education to every student, says Janda, who is her district’s liaison to OC Pathways. Irvine also holds frequent career workshops for its middle and high school teachers and guidance counselors, and the district has students take career inventories through Naviance, a college and career readiness platform, beginning in middle school.
“With the rise of factors such as automation and globalization, the job market for these students is going to be very challenging,” Tran says. “They need to be equipped with the skills, habits, and knowledge necessary to forge their own career path. Exposing students to career pathways at a young age gives them a head start.”
Fostering Real-World Learning
Connecting students with industry professionals not only helps set them up for future success; it also shows them the relevance of what they are learning.
In Maureen Foelkl’s classroom at Chapman Hill Elementary School in Salem, Oregon, second and third grade students designed solutions to seasonal flooding and erosion in their community with the help of actual engineers in the field.
In a project that won Foelkl the Presidential Award of Excellence in Math and Science Teaching, she invited civil engineers to talk with her students about these topics either in person or through online video conferences hosted by Nepris. Her students then designed and tested their own prototype structures for mitigating or withstanding a flood.
Foelkl, who is now an independent contractor writing STEM curriculum for several organizations, says her students were highly engaged throughout the project. Having outside experts speak with them “brought authenticity to the lesson,” she says. “My students asked questions that I could not begin to answer. No textbook I know can come close to interacting with students in that fashion.”
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