• Joanne Jacobs

Students go farther when they have a plan

Connor Opdahl began planning his future in eighth grade, writes David Tobenkin on The 74. Wisconsin requires students to develop an "academic career plan" in middle and high school.

Connor Opdahl in the welding/manufacturing shop at his Wisconsin high school. Photo: Amy Kenyon/Milton High School

While he graduated with a 4.12 GPA, he balks at the cost of a four-year college he views as unnecessary to his career objectives and a likely source of massive debt. He’s also a highly athletic, outdoors kind of guy who does not fancy being chained to a desk.
So this month he starts a nine month technical training program at Blackhawk Technical College to become a utility power lineworker.
The cost: a mere $7,000.
But more importantly, he’ll join a stable profession that pays more than $50,000 per year for new entrants and $78,000 for seasoned professionals with five-years experience.

In high school, Opdahl "participated in job fairs and field trips to learn about trades and completed a youth apprenticeship at a golf course," writes Tobenkin. He evaluated possible careers, toured Blackhawk and took dual-credit courses in senior year to get college requirements out of the way.


He's also started a plumbing apprenticeship in case his lineworker plan doesn't work. Plumbing, he told the reporter, "is another high-income, rock steady career choice."


Twenty-one states now require students to develop an academic career plan, according to reports Advance CTE.


“Implementation of [academic career plans] in Denver Public Schools has led to increased attendance, GPAs, test scores, and graduation rates, and decreases in dropout and behavior challenges,” said Samantha Haviland, the district’s executive director of career development and student supports.


Some districts train students in "time management, personal finance, and professional demeanor," reports Tobenkin. "Students in fifth through 12th grades at Lone Star (Colorado) have been required to participate in 'Adulting 101' — designed to emphasize practical skills from filling out tax forms to fixing a car."

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