Expanding Horizons: Helping Students Redefine Educational and Career Opportunities

By Meury, Veronica K. | Techniques, September 2009 | Go to article overview

Expanding Horizons: Helping Students Redefine Educational and Career Opportunities


Meury, Veronica K., Techniques


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TEACHERS, COUNSELORS AND SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS PLAY A HUGE ROLE IN HELPING STUDENTS and their families select the right college and career path. Guiding future graduates who aren't interested in a traditional college education is an especially important undertaking. For many parents, having children opt out of college is a devastating blow that can make them feel that they have flunked their final exam in parenting. Educators have an important responsibility to assure these parents that there are other avenues to a fulfilling, relevant and successful career.

Of the nearly 3 million Americans who graduated from high school between October 2006 and October 2007, nearly one-third--or one million did not go on to college that fall, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Studies show that there are a variety of reasons these remaining graduates do not enter college. after high school, ranging from insufficient availability and understanding of financial aid to reluctance to accumulate debt from college loans to concern about missed earning opportunities if they don't immediately enter the workforce. But we know that postsecondary education, of nearly any kind, can be an investment worth making, as long as the investment fits the student.

American College Testing (ACT) says that 25 percent of freshmen in an average year never make it through their sophomore year before throwing in the towel. For these students, valuable time and money is squandered, and their future becomes uncertain. Clearly, postsecondary education is not a one-size-fits-all proposition rather it's a personal, individual investment, and students need guidance to make decisions that fit. Educators and administrators have a great opportunity to help high school students and their families become better informed about their options, the costs, and future earning potential so that they can make smart education choices. Advisers should encourage parents and students to think as broadly as possible about the future, and understand that the right education may look nothing like the traditional college experience. Career and technical education offers numerous opportunities for students to embrace a passion while learning the skills to command a rewarding living.

As families consider various options, including technical education, help them answer these common questions:

isn't a Four-year College Degree Critical for a Successful Career?

A four-year college degree is not necessarily critical for a successful career. While that may be the traditional path for many students, the path to an advanced education should fit with a student's career aspirations, skills and learning style. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates there are more than 50 million jobs that don't require a college degree, but most of these jobs do require skills available from a technical school.

When talking to parents about the future of their son or daughter, numbers can speak volumes. The Occupational Outlook Handbook, published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is a resource that can help educators provide statistical reassurance that a technical career has great promise and long-term financial security. For example, the demand for automotive service technicians is expected to increase 14 percent through 2016, compared to 10 percent for all other occupations. More than 110,000 new jobs will be added over the next decade.

Do Technical Schools Offer the Some Rind of Structure and Support that Four-year Colleges are Known for?

The right technical school may require leaving home; this can be more than a little scary for everyone in the family. It is important for parents to feel assured that a technical school will have learning as its central focus. …

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