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The Bridge from High Schools to Careers

A big topic of conversation occurring within San Antonio is how to prepare high school students for careers after they graduate. The question always arises as to whether they should go to college or into a trade. This is why Texas House Bill 5 (HB5) was created, however, many other states also have similar programs, not to mention some countries have been doing this for years successfully. There continues to be a disconnect between what schools feel they are contributing to the workforce and what companies are saying is missing. San Antonio Works (SA Works) is an initiative to bridge this gap. Go Public and the Texas Association of School Boards held an all-day event focused specifically on this topic. Based on the hard work of SA Works, businesses are now partnering with schools to mentor students regarding how they can collaborate to make a difference. Both parties are very passionate about their point of view, encouraging everyone to look deeper.

High school counselors are completely inundated with students who are having personal struggles as well as an incredible amount of paperwork. I sincerely believe they are doing all they can with the resources and time they have, however, there is no real time for career exploration. The American School Counseling Association (ASCA) recommends a ratio of no more than 250 students for every counselor. In San Antonio, the ratio is around 500 to 1. Only one person during the “Business and Education Forum” stood up and talked about assessments. ONE person. Here we are talking about how to prepare students for careers following high school but the discussion about assessments continues to be missing. I have a senior and she did have a quick online “interest” assessment in the early years of her high school adventure. Too often, the assessments are focused on completing the assessment rather than focusing on the analysis of the results. “Interest” does not determine “ability.”

How and where are students learning what careers are going to be ideal matches for them? They are guessing. And they are being required to guess earlier and earlier due to HB5 as they choose endorsements at the end of their 8th-grade year. They are being told by parents “I think you’d be good at X.” I know because I’m a parent who said the same things to my daughter before she had her aptitude assessed by a 3rd party. Bill Gates wrote an article in March titled “Meeting Students Where They Are” which was brilliant but never mentioned assessments. And I continue to hear from almost every person I talk with, that they have no idea “aptitude” assessments exist, which makes sense if you don’t have a counseling background. But these assessments, from aptitude to interest, have been around 50 to 80+ years respectively.

I see the stress and uncertainty of the young adults, and honestly parents, I work with. They want to make the right decisions. They WANT answers. They are doing everything they can to NOT fail. But I honestly believe we are failing our young adults by not having a more focused and committed plan, helping each young adult know how their brain naturally works, as well as what they are interested in. I know why it’s not happening, because it takes time 1) for the students to take the in-depth aptitude assessments, 2) the interpretation of the results, 3) the one-on-one session to review with the young adult and parents. I absolutely believe it should be mandatory at some level.

I worked with a client this month in California who completed, for the first time at age 53, an aptitude test as she looks to make a career transition. She had a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering. Guess what was THE least career match for her? You guessed it, industrial engineering! Her ideal matches included instructional design/teaching and counseling. She laughed because she felt from the information she obtained from the assessment she had been doing everything wrong her entire professional career.

As I watch young people prepare to either advance to the next grade or prepare to begin college, I strongly recommend you give the gift of career aptitude to your child. Find someone who has extensive experience in counseling young people, who bring a wealth of experience to the conversation and is a mediator for your families. But please, give your young person the time and attention they deserve to have confidence they are choosing the right career path for their future and the future of our workforce so they Proceed With Confidence!

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