It’s a rite of passage – graduation from high school. A milestone. A first step on the road to becoming a successful part of the workforce.
So, where to go from here? For many, the obvious answer is college, the military or a trade school.
Most likely, if the choice is college, the applications have already been filled out and accepted or rejected, with the choice of institution weighed utilizing many factors: the student’s study path, distance from home, school reputation, cost, etc.
All done, right? Not really, according to a recent study.
A 2010 report released by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce discussed the widening gap between job openings and the number of people who have the degree and/or training to fill them.
“Help Wanted: Projections of Jobs and Education Requirements Through 2018,” said students should align their college choices with fields that have a higher demand for employees in order to be successful.
This is something with which Peter DeFazio, guidance counselor at Liverpool High School, is familiar, and he stresses the importance of discussing the viability of many majors in the workplace.
“In terms of marketability, we get a lot of good information from the admissions people that meet with our students,” DeFazio said. “When the students are in the phases of deciding upon what school they want to attend and what course of study they want to pursue, we are lucky to have at least 100 admissions [officers] visit Liverpool and
Cicero-North Syracuse high schools to speak directly with the students, and part of what they talk about is the marketability of majors.”
For instance, DeFazio said they now know that engineering has “been a very popular college major in the past several years, so now there is a saturation of engineering students pursuing that degree.” He added that the volume of students graduating with an engineering degree will most likely make it more difficult to find a job in that field.
So, what does DeFazio feel is a good field to pursue?
“Nursing is very hot,” he said. “Right now, they are looking for people desperately. We are given information about that field and what we do as counselors is impart that information to students as part of the process.”
“We also will talk about the top majors and give students an indication of how marketable their field is,” DeFazio said.
There are other tools available to both DeFazio and Erin Deaver, C-NS high school business teacher and career center education coordinator, including the Naviance system (see story, this page.)
“Naviance is a computer program that a lot of high schools are using now,” Deaver said. “Guidance counselors set it up to assist students with whole college process — application, college searches — huge databases of what is offered.”
Deaver said the program offers a wealth of resources to use for both the private or public institutions, and it can help guide the student to the correct major and future success in the workplace upon receiving their degree.
DeFazio agreed the Naviance system is an excellent tool for students to use in deciding where their educational and employment history might lie.
“A couple years ago, we had to close our career center because of cuts in the budget, but we were able to bring [Naviance] on board and one of the things you do with students is work through their self-exploration, and teach them to do what you are,” DeFazio said. “It’s learning assessment, career interest. When we are training students we run them through the original questions to get started with their personality type to help them get a better understanding of themselves and participate in the career interest inventory.
“What happens is personal and learning style assessment links with and hooks the student up to career clusters tied to college majors,” he said.
“If, for instance, it turned out they were interested in being a journalist, they could look at English or writing as a potential major,” DeFazio said. “[Naviance] also gives a look at the market itself for a particular job. It does tell you, for instance, look up accounting. You can go into the various states and see what potential salary from state to state. That information is sourced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Department of Labor.”
Deaver said each student is “so individualized” with Naviance.
“We do look at what are the top 50 growing careers, look at the economy, and try to give them as much up-to-date info as we can and match it with their abilities and potential,” Deaver said. “We map it out — if you attend this school and get this degree or certificate, these are the places you can go to look for a job. We are matching what interest and skills they have and give them a realistic view of what they can do when they are done with college how they can market themselves afterwards.”
That includes other instruction at the career center such as resume building and how to interview for a job.
“In addition, many colleges and universities have classes teaching these topics before the student graduates and goes out to apply for jobs,” she said.
Deaver said parental involvement is key during these important decision-making times.
“First and foremost the parent needs to be involved in their students’ lives,” she said. “Parents need to play an active role, and we offer programs such as a financial aid fact night that do the involve parent.”
She stressed that parents need to remember that “not every student is going to know what they want to do, that it’s another chapter. They need to [help drive home that college is] not party time, that they are building their future where they are going next.
“I encourage parents to stay involved through college not just high school, and to utilize the services of that particular school. People don’t realize resources available to them and the whole process can be very confusing. That’s another thing the Career Center does help with.”
She said parents should “stay involved and stay on top of things until their finished with school. Many colleges have their own career center, and a lot of them like to boast about high placement programs. Parents can help their kids realize that decisions they make now will last a lifetime.”