It’s never too early to look at career choices. Lincoln County School of Technology’s offerings of career and technical education opens the door to a multitude of careers for high school students. Now that door is being opened for middle school students as well.

“We started to push career development and exploration into our middle schools this year,” Dr. Cale Sain, director of LCS Career and Technical Education said. “We shared our four career and development coordinators into the middle school feeder zones. The goal of that is to create some continuity so that kids would know who their CDCs would be and start having those conversations about what their high school plans might be and what their long-term goals are.”

Students often have unrealistic career plans and know very little about the demands of the workplace and education choices relating to a career, according to Beth Ludwig, the CDC for West Lincoln Middle and West Lincoln High School. 

“Helping students realize the skills they have and how they apply beyond the classroom helps to set the foundation for the successful planning of the step after graduation,” she said. “Career exploration during middle school keeps keep them engaged and helps deal with the challenges involved with coping with puberty, the new environment in high school and forming their own identity.”

What the coordinators have found is that quite often middle school students have a very narrow view of what careers are available to them.  

“They tend to stick to a basic list of jobs such as athlete, veterinarian, lawyer, doctor or firefighter,” Christie Burke, the CDC for North Lincoln Middle and North Lincoln High School said. “It is our intent to implement career exploration with middle school students to help open their eyes to all of the possibilities that could be available to them.”

We’re helping middle school students begin to focus on what skills they have and what they are interested in to make informed decisions during high school and beyond, Ludwig added. 

“Educating middle school students, through these learning styles assessments, interest surveys, and career exploration activities better informs them about career pathway options to explore in high school,” she said.

Once a middle school student has completed the surveys through MajorClarity, a program that offers students a way to “test-drive” career paths, CDCs and counselors will be better able to help guide them into specific pathways and choose classes at the high school level.  When students can find a pathway early on in their education, they can be working towards building a strong foundation for their future. This may be the basis for them going straight into the workforce, joining the military, attending a technical school or heading to a university.

Middle school students are so social and put a lot of emphasis on their peers,” Ludwig said. “If given the opportunity to place the focus on learning what they are good at and how their interests can play out in many different careers can be empowering going into high school.” 

There has been a push from the federal level through Perkins V funding to push career exploration down to levels as young as fifth grade, according to Lisa Koperski, the CDC for Lincolnton Middle and Lincolnton High School.

“MajorClarity allows administration, counselors and career development coordinators to see student progress and which pathways students are matched with. 

“This information will help us to plan appropriate activities and class offerings for the student grade level,” Elizabeth Darling, the CDC for East Lincoln Middle and East Lincoln High School said. “It will also be a useful tool when we do course registration meetings with each individual student. We should have every middle school student using the platform before winter break. Then we will turn our focus to our high school students and get them acclimated to the platform.”

With new courses and programs being added to the CTE program through Lincoln County Schools, students are being offered an array of career options to help them to be successful once they graduate. 

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