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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Career readiness starts in kindergarten

Credit: The World of Work

American and British children dream of careers as vloggers or YouTubers, concludes a 2019 LEGO survey of children between eight and 12.

Teacher came second, then professional athlete, musician and astronaut.

A school district near San Diego is introducing students to a wider range of careers, writes Liz Willen for the Hechinger Report.

Fifth graders in California’s Cajon Valley learn how the stock market works. Photo: Liz Willen/ Hechinger Report

Career exploration starts in kindergarten in the Cajon Valley Union School District, she writes. “While they are still learning to read, students hear what it’s like to work as a baker, a doctor, policeman or even a milkman — a dairy farmer drops by from time to time with a cow.”

The district uses “The World of Work,” a K-12 curriculum that prompts children to think about their personality traits — realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising and conventional — and interests as they explore different jobs.

Cajon Valley serves some 17,000 students in 28  schools, writes Willen. “The district includes many refugees; students speak as many as 50 languages and up to 69 percent are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.”

More schools are starting career readiness in middle school, Stephanie Strom reported in 2019.

I’m a little dubious about the personality traits, but I think teachers should talk to students in middle school or earlier about possible careers and what they need to be doing as students to turn their career dreams into reality. What courses will they need to take in high school, what grades will they need to earn, what activities might they pursue? Will they need a certificate, two-year or four-year college degree — or more? How much are they likely to earn? For people not named Kardashian, what’s required to qualify for a high-paying job? (Hint: Math.)

In my mentoring days, I met a boy who told me he planned to study engineering at San Jose State, but added, “I don’t like math.”

“There’s a lot of math in engineering,” I said. His mentor, who worked in high tech, had also told him that.

The boy began talking enthusiastically about a career class taught by a retired firefighter.

More than a year later, just before graduation, I learned he was going to community college to study fire science. He’d just barely passed math, his mentor said.

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