11/14/2009: "Superintendent’s Corner"
By Walt Wegener
Parents attempt to prepare their kids for the future. We spend untold hours seeking the job our kids will love and at the same time be great at. Often no one seems to be helping, either our child or anyone else.
About the time my first child was born I became an active unpaid careers geek. Learning as a parent that I was not only the chief-cook-n-bottle-washer on a regular basis, but also the first-teacher, medical-intervention-specialist as well as the career specialist gave me pause.
In time it was interesting as a middle school teacher to see at least 90% of the boys thinking they were going to be professional athletes. More astonishing than the rabid fervor of the boys were their dads. Here stands a kid, limited service on the 8th grade C-squad, shoots 18% from the free-throw line and stands a towering 4 foot, 2 inches, with no ups, dreaming of playing one-on-one with Shaq. And his dad can see it?
By the sophomore year the student has grown a bit of common sense, but, alas and alack, dad is still inspired.
There are, of course, studies that show a bunch of useful info for us amateur career counselors, aka, parents. Some highlights include discovery that the only subject that correlates to later-in-life income is the level of math completed. Better math results in good money in the average future.
Studies also show that success in school is more about parental support than the actual school. Consider State U versus Stanford. Since Stanford doesn’t allow just any ol’ schmuck to walk onto their campus, they get an academic result seemingly better than State U. However: 1) three years after employment there is no stat between the success of the State U grad from Stanford graduates, 2) when adjusted for starting point, the State U students learned more and faster than the Stanford folks, 3) money-wise, the State U folks are way ahead because it cost them $15,000 per year for an average total cost of $65,000 and the Stanford folks $50,000 per year totaling $215,000. However, they are making the same wage each day in their jobs and not one wit happier about it.
Chances are, in their working lifetimes Stanford grads will never catch up to the $150,000 disparity between the State U and them in the job market. And, sadly, they didn’t learn anything different or better because their real training occurs on the job.
Because the number-one life-skill our students learn comes from exposure to diverse others, students who learn to work and play well with others and at the same time have literacy skills in reading and writing together with sound math, reasoning and general knowledge can thrive in the job market.
Another area of interest is the actual jobs and training available. There are, I am sure, more online career help-sites than can be listed here. The Bureau of Labor Statistics helps students align what they like with what is available at www.bls.gov/k12/index.htm. The Department of Labor, Employment Training Administration at www.doleta.gov provides information that aligns jobs, training and availability. And, once you and your child have a plan or at least a concept, www.careervoyages.gov has information that helps find the job slot, where it is and some extra school and training ideas.
Take the time with your kids to discuss and consider, even very early. As you struggle through the numbers you might notice: about 68% (±3%) of our current jobs are skilled, requiring apprenticeship, technical training or internships, community college and probably certification or licensure, 23% (±2%) require at least a 4-year college degree and the remaining 9% are entry-level walk-in jobs.
Without too much conflict we can agree that the 9% entry-level jobs are going to be hard for high school drop-outs to get, have a large number of low-paid youth and are the first to be cut in a bad economy. Generally, real bad career choices and lousy for our kids.
So, what do we learn from looking at jobs for our kids. 1) Our kids must find a way to stay in school and graduate. 2) Math is your friend. 3) Until you have a specific career choice in hand, keep your studies general. 4) Working and playing well with diverse other groups is strength. 5) Stay flexible folks, the jobs in the near future do not yet even exist, thus our kids need a broad general literacy.
Start early. The preparations for reading and numbers happen before our children get to school. Trouble reading is clear in the 3rd, 4th and 5th grade and marks trouble likely in high school. Writing with purpose should be well in hand by the 7th grade.
Students can rarely prepare job-ready in the school years from kindergarten to graduation. But many careers are lost before our kids get out of school. Each student that walks away from math, science and advanced studies is closing the door on entire fields of work in their future.
It is not just effort that matters, nor is it recognition that is needed. It is effort to accomplish a clear target, with recognition of succeeding in a timely, efficient and effective manner.