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What does a 13 year old need to know about “Career Awareness”?

Being thirteen holds a poignant place in my memory. This may be due to my new, awkwardly chopped haircut or the emergence of crushes and pimples-- but I’m tempted to attribute this memorable middle school year to something much larger than insecurities.

Middle school is undoubtedly a time of transition; as our bodies warp and change, our brains develop from childish ways of thinking to adult ideologies. We finally get to choose our electives, our extracurricular activities, and our group of friends-- all largely based on our personal interests. As we enter high school, we flock to similar AP courses and clubs to build our college applications. Senior year of high school, we’re bombarded with college essays and the ever-dreaded question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Flash forward to post-college graduation and we’re wide-eyed and bushy-tailed with no nuts planted and no money in the bank for the tedious job search ahead.

So, what went wrong? Where did we lose our sense of direction and follow the only path we knew-- go to college, find a corporate job and make money?

Hands-On Learning

Post-grad, most of us still don’t know what we want to be when we ‘grow up,’ but we do know this: the slightest sense of career awareness, even as early as middle school, would have given us the direction we needed to thrive in our workplaces. And The Michigan Department of Education largely agrees, admitting that ‘Career Awareness activities’ (i.e. activities which educate and prep young students to understand the many occupations

available to them, college degree or not) will aid in preparing students for their futures. These activities should not occur in a classroom setting, with Powerpoint slides, textbook readings, and Youtube videos, but instead need to take place in interactive, visual, and hands-on environments. Interactive activities encourage students to work in teams on projects that are consistent with actual job skills in occupations like construction, manufacturing, and coding, to name a few.

High Demand Industries

Not only do middle and high school students lack sufficient guidance in choosing their future job paths, but these ‘High Demand’ industries (i.e. construction, manufacturing, healthcare, computer science/ IT and energy) lack passionate, talented employees.

Via grassroots efforts to increase the career awareness and hands-on experiences that students lack and need, we (as parents, as educators, as students, and as employers) can resolve the disparity between career opportunities and career awareness.

Career Awareness

You may be asking yourself: Where can I access these ‘Career Awareness’ opportunities? How can I get my middle-schooler involved? How can I contribute as a business? This is where Pathway X Events comes in. Pathway X Events aims to form “connections between business communities and schools” via “a career exploration program for middle school students that can be sustained by the school system and business liaisons.” In other words, Pathway X- lead events like ‘MAKE IT: Manufacturing!’ and ‘BUILD IT: Construction!,’ bridge middle school students, educators, parents, businesses, and communities who will all benefit from initiatives to engage young people in high demand industries that peak their interests.

As students learn about job industries, businesses are ensuring that, two or three years down the road, teens are impressed by and excited about pursuing high demand jobs (i.e. businesses will have employees who are eager to start working when they turn sixteen).

As revolutionary as this sounds, these initiatives are not brand new. A variety of grassroots organizations, MFG DAY, and Amplify included, have been striving to engage young people in workforce development projects and events, as occupations are increasingly in high demand and students are increasingly lost and in debt after college.

If you are still skeptical about starting career awareness as early as age thirteen, consider this: by the time we are transitioning to post- high school and post- college graduation, most of us are conditioned to believe that there is only one pathway to success-- pursuing college and grad school. But, what if we learned, when our brains are ripe and our minds are open, that there are many pathways to success? What if, by age thirteen, we grasped the importance of fulfillment in a rewarding occupation? Through early career awareness, consider how we-- as parents, as educators, as students, and as employers-- can change the course of career development for the better.

For more resources on career awareness and development, see:

-- This article on the new wave of manufacturing by New Equipment Digest.

-- This article on ‘Career Coaching Your Teens’ by Alberta Alis.

-- bSmart Guide, a website which has numerous career development resources for young women.

-- This article on ‘what teenagers really think’ by The Guardian.

Written by Joanna Gaden, Blog Content writer, and event staff for PxE

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