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Parents and educators need to help students and high school graduates focus on--and prepare for--life and a career after high school.

Concerns mount as high school graduates express career uncertainty

Research shows that parents and educators need to help students focus on--and prepare for--life after high school

Key points:

New survey data reveals a number of concerning trends among high school graduates, including uncertainty regarding post-graduation plans, a notable gap in career exposure, and disparities in post-high school guidance experiences between genders.

The statistics come from YouScience, a technology provider focused on solving the skills gap crisis for students and employers, in its YouScience Aptitude & Career Discovery solution and its nationwide consumer survey.

Concerning trends include:

1. Students don’t feel prepared

Findings show that many students feel they need more preparation for the critical life transitions that follow graduation, highlighting the pressing need for comprehensive support systems. In fact:

  • 55 percent of graduating seniors reported either opting out of a four-year college path or delaying the decision, a 14.6% increase over previous years
  • 31 percent of students said they are not confident in their education or career path

2. Career exposure is limited

Research of more than 500,000 students demonstrates a vital issue in education today: an educational and career exposure gap. Despite having untapped potential for in-demand careers, students often need a clearer comprehension of their skills and relevance to a variety of careers. Neglecting the issue deprives students of invaluable insights into their capabilities and their connections to the ever-changing landscape of career opportunities. Key findings include:

  • 43 percent career exposure gap in Health Science careers (a field that is projected to grow 16 percent in the next decade)
  • 75 percent career exposure gap in Computers & Technology (a field that is projected to grow 23 percent in the next decade)

3. Gender disparities exist

Several pieces of research demonstrate that students–regardless of gender and race–are experiencing inequalities when it comes to post-grad high school preparedness and exposure to in-demand careers.

  • For instance, this report reveals that female high school graduates are increasingly pursuing alternative pathways to traditional 4-year colleges or universities. Only 44 percent of female graduates from the class of 2023 opted to pursue a 4-year college or university, compared to the 53 percent of female grads from the class of 2022.
  • Male high school graduates displayed a significantly higher level of readiness (60 percent) in selecting a career path or declaring a major upon graduation, contrasting sharply with their female peers, among whom 36 perrcent expressed feeling unprepared for this pivotal decision.

Female, Black, and Hispanic students have the necessary aptitudes to fill the workforce skills gap plaguing many industries today and well into the future. For example:

  • 87 percent more female students have an aptitude for careers in Computers & Technology than interest
  • 73 percent more Black students have an aptitude for careers in Advanced Manufacturing than interest
  • 69 percent more Hispanic students have an aptitude for careers in Computers & Technology than interest

This collective data underscores the urgent need for parents and educators to equip students with the essential skills, knowledge, and confidence required to make informed decisions about their future paths and successfully navigate the complexities of adulthood.

“We’re witnessing an increasing number of parents, consumers, and school districts embracing YouScience ® Aptitude & Career Discovery. The urgency to assist students nationwide in determining their pathways has never been more pronounced,” said Edson Barton, CEO of YouScience. “Time and again, we have seen that when students can recognize their innate aptitudes and leverage that insight to make informed choices about their educational and career trajectories, their success is significantly amplified.”

Solutions: What families can do

Families can get involved and leverage existing tools and resources. Dawn Mann, a mother whose daughter utilized YouScience Aptitude & Career Discovery, shared, “My daughter utilized her aptitude assessment data to apply for multiple scholarships, resulting in the coverage of her full tuition–approximately $200,000. These outcomes facilitated her focus and guided her towards the ideal path for her, where she found her perfect fit.”

Additionally, the following actions can help:

Support student personal exploration and career discovery

Encourage your child to explore careers, college majors, and pathways that include their interests and their aptitudes. Engage in open conversations about their aspirations and help them identify potential career paths that align with their passions and aptitudes.

Consider non-traditional pathways

More than 50 percent of students either delay or choose not to attend college or university. There are many reasons, including concerns about taking on too much debt, interest in taking a break from formal education, or lack of clarity on what to study. Family members can help by having open conversations about non-traditional pathways that are in demand, pay well, and provide flexibility.

Leverage available tools

Leveraging various tools can help students understand what they are naturally good at and see where those talents can be put to work. These tools include aptitude and career discovery tools and work-based learning opportunities through internships or apprenticeship programs.

Develop the in-demand, durable soft skills required to be successful in any field

It’s important for students to continue to grow in their education. Encourage your students to develop the following skills that will always be in demand: critical thinking and problem solving, resilience and adaptability, communication and team building, financial literacy and management, and a work ethic.

Explore internships

Highlight the benefits of hands-on experience gained through internships or apprenticeships, such as practical skills development, industry exposure, and networking opportunities.

This press release originally appeared online.

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