Sometimes the adage “you don’t know what you don’t know” holds true at times that you least expect.
The Career Academy development in RPS 205 is proceeding with the first introduction at Jefferson High this coming Spring semester. One of the steps that has been completed is the Student Interest Survey conducted on October 1 – 5th, 2012. In this survey, students were asked to select their top three interest areas. Results were tabulated with some surprises and disappointments.
Valid surveys were submitted by 1,117 students choosing among 19 career pathways. The pathways were in one of four Career Academies; 1.Business, Arts, Marketing & Information Technology; 2.Engineering, Manufacturing, Industrial & Trade Technology; 3.Human & Public Services and 4.Health Sciences.
The highest selected pathway was Medical Sciences; the lowest Engineering (ouch!). Other high selected pathways were Law, Performing Arts and Graphic Arts. Other low selections were Environmental Sustainability, Accounting/Finance and Manufacturing (ouch again!).
So what do I make of this? Maybe the easiest explanation is the exposure factor. Kids are easily exposed to Medical (they’ve all been to doctors) and the Arts (they play video games and have smartphones). The low selections may be their lack of exposure to what these careers consist of and more importantly, the wages that they can earn in these careers compared to other careers.
Take engineering. This region has a growing demand for engineers. UTS Aerospace (formerly Sundstrand) is looking to hire 100 engineers per year for years to come. Add in the other companies that need engineers and we have big demand locally. 100% of NIU Engineering grads are graduating with good, high paying jobs.
Take manufacturing. I heard recently that local manufacturers will be looking to replace or add 1,000 employees per year; their wages are pretty good as well. Growth in these jobs as well as retirements make this demand forecast reasonable. We employ around 28,000 in the local manufacturing economy.
So how do we solve the “exposure factor?.
One way: Jefferson High will be holding a Academy Expo on November 14 and 15th. Students will have the opportunity to visit over 50 companies, at least 15 of which are engineering/manufacturing companies, to see what careers exist. Then as they select their Career Pathways, we will have another measure to see how exposure at the Expo may have changed their mind.
Much more needs to be done. Factory tours, visits to industrial trade shows such as IMTS, internships, career shadowing, more “Surgeons of Steel” at middle schools and many other ideas that need developing. Business getting involved with the educational needs will go a long way to pointing our youth into careers that will satisfy our and their needs for employment.