High School Career Planning…To What Degree?
By Denise Jonas, Cass County CTE Director
It always amazes how fast the cycle of a school year transpires. Although we are only at mid-year, teachers and principals have already reviewed curriculums, finalized course offerings, and begun planning for next year. Yes, it’s true, high school counselors will begin assisting students with course registrations for 2016-2017 mid-January through February, while middle school counselors will be meeting with all eighth grade parents and students to develop four-year educational plans for their high school experience. It is a busy time of the year, yet, it is one of the most important. The decisions students and parents make during the registration process can set the trajectory for their child’s future and to what degree it has on their career and/or college preparation.
One of the biggest challenges students face is the contradiction and questions raised as to what degree they truly need to prepare for their future. As parents/guardians help their child sift through information during the registration process, we encourage them to take a realistic look at their child’s interest, aptitudes, and future employment opportunities. Check out the Career Resource Network for a wide range of career information. We would also encourage them to ask these questions:
Does being “career-ready” require a degree?
Would a certificate or two-year degree work to support my career interests and goals?
Does college mean a four-year institution or is a two-year technical school an option?
Should I consider the military or would an apprenticeship program pay for my training while I obtain my degree or develop skills?
Once I have made a decision, are there options to advance my career or become an entrepreneur?
As a District, it is the goal of West Fargo Public Schools (WFPS) to help parents and students discover and answer these questions through intentional career planning and career and technical education programs. In WFPS, students begin exploring careers as early as elementary school, with interest inventories and exploration at middle level. In high school, WFPS is proud to offer a wide-range of career and technical education courses in the areas of: automotive, business education, construction, family consumer science, health science careers, information technology, marketing, technology and engineering, welding, agriculture education, aviation, and diesel technology. Additional options through the Cass County Career and Technical Education Center also include: automated manufacturing. Career and technical pathways intentionally align high school coursework with post-secondary programs, giving students a jumpstart on curriculums/skills, options for industry certifications, and, in some cases, dual credit (high school and college).
Is there only one right answer to what degree a high school student should plan for their future? Perhaps not! What we propose is that students and parents try not to limit their choices by the perceptions or stigma of the past, but keep their minds and options open to today’s trends. It is evident from discussion with F-M area local businesses and labor market trends that career opportunities and the ability to earn a solid wage can happen by traveling a variety of career and college pathways. The idea that one must have four-year degree is diminishing as high-tech, high-wage technical careers emerge. The real question for families may be not be just to what degree they will invest to fulfill their child’s passion toward a career, but how can they minimize the indebtedness of the process.
As registration begins in January, we encourage students and parents to truly keep their minds open to all career and college options, take a career and technical education course to explore knowledge and skills in a pathway of interest, and to try not to get caught up in the stigma of the degree. The workforce of the future will look different then the past, and to what degree will be up to each individual traveling that path!