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Career Education: Setting Your Students on the Path to a Valued Vocation!


"Only rich people can go to college!" That is what one third grader told teacher Heather Root. Now, Root and other educators are emphasizing career education in their classrooms, even at the elementary level. With the resources of the Web as your guide, you too can implement a study of occupations that enlightens, inspires, and encourages your students to succeed! Included: Online resources for screening personality and interest, writing rsums, and the all-important job interview. Lesson plans for teachers too!

The casual comment of a student who remarked that only the wealthy could go to college prompted third-grade teacher Heather Root of Barnard Elementary School in Rochester, New York, to incorporate a study of careers into her curriculum. A special project Root created, the Occupations Project, allows students to perform research about careers on the Internet and talk about their plans with other students and with parents.

"We discussed student loans and the fact that there was a time when women and blacks were not even allowed to go to college," Root recalled. "That one really got them fired up! And [we talked about] the different subjects that you could study, and the idea that 'you' are in control of the classes you take, whatever interests you."

Root described steps involved in the Occupations Project, created to encourage the students to think about their future, for Education World:

  • The project began with students' discussing different occupations with their families and bringing in lists of jobs. The students then talked about the various jobs and shared their ideas.
  • The students chose occupations in which they had an interest and conducted online research, visited libraries, and interviewed family and friends.
  • They then created rough drafts of their career reports and began the editing process.
  • The final copies of the text were posted on the project Web site along with pictures that featured the students participating in their would-be careers.

"Students brought in a picture that they felt reflected the occupation," said Root. "After scanning in the occupation picture, I took digital pictures of each child's face and used Paint Shop Pro to clone their face over the occupation picture. The students had no idea what we were going to do with the pictures! What a surprise when I displayed these images for them."

Root feels an obligation to introduce her students to the endless career possibilities that lie ahead of them. "Many students come from families that have very little education or parents who never went on for additional education," she explained. "It is extremely important to educate and open their minds to the possibilities that are available when a person has an education, to help students establish good routines, and to prove to them that demonstrating responsibility now will benefit them in the future -- so they will look to their future and have aspirations, hopes, and dreams!"


Root's occupational project brought career education into her language arts curriculum. If you are looking for more ways to incorporate career education into classroom activities, check out these suggestions that make use of career resources from the Web!

Rsum writing. The rsum is an indispensable tool to help job seekers obtain their goals, but how many children have them? MyFuture's Work Interest Quiz will help students explore their skills and interests, while the site's Rsum Builder will help them match those skills and interests to a career. JobStar also provides tips for creating resumes and cover letters.

Dream job classified ad. What would your dream job look like on paper? This is the question your students get to answer as they design an ad for their "job of a lifetime" with our Dream Job teaching master. Students reference job search Web sites to find descriptions of opportunities after which to pattern their ads. The ads should reflect their skills and interests as well as the demands of their chosen profession.

Taking inventory. Not only can tests help students get to know themselves, they can also point out possible vocations that may be of interest. An online inventory based on theories by Dr. John Holland is available at Taking the Self-Directed Search. Taking the test is free, but participants must pay a fee to receive results. You may have your students engage in the test and look for indications as they work about what areas they favor over others. The categories for the questions, which denote the different groups or styles of personalities, are included at the top of the page for each question. When they have finished with the test, send students to The Career Interests Game. This Web site explains the various groups and suggests occupations that may appeal to individuals who display some characteristics of each type.

Finding a career. How many people wish that they could change career decisions they made when they were young? Perhaps your students can avoid those regrets with the aid of The Career Key. This inventory, also based on Holland's theories, is presented in two different versions online, one for older students and adults and one for middle schoolers. For those without a computer lab, a printable copy in Adobe Acrobat can be downloaded and distributed to students. The test assesses students' personalities and careers that appeal to them at this time. It helps students match their interests and skills with types of work.

Building skills. What skills are employers looking for in new employees? What should your students learn now that will help them secure jobs in the future? The U.S. secretary of labor's appointed group the Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS) developed a list of skills that employers need and students should have. How many of the SCANS Skills do your students possess? Allow them to investigate this list to see, and have them examine Life Skills Standards to determine their achievement of these additional skills. How many skills have already been cultivated? How many do the students need to refine?

Seeing the state of the states. If your students are planning on specific vocations and know where they want to live and make their homes, America's Career InfoNet can show them whether they have made a wise decision before they are ready to leave school. At the State Profile Search, students may select any of the 50 states and find out about its population, employment statistics, and projected opportunities for various fields. Are veterinarians needed in Alaska? Will many teachers be hired in California? Instruct your students to list a few occupations that interest them and choose some states that might be good places to call home. Then have them research opportunities with this site to find out whether the occupations they chose are among the fastest growing and well-paying jobs in the states.

Finding hot jobs! Choosing a job is an awesome task for young people, and it is one that is best made when they are well informed. The Outlook Handbook is the handbook of career opportunities. Through this online publication, students may research jobs of interest and find out about the nature of the work, the working conditions, employment statistics, training, earnings, the outlook for opportunities in the field, and more. Encourage your students to examine a few careers and record the earnings that are commonly paid. Then allow them to use The Salary Calculator to find out how much they would need to make in your area and in others that they like. In addition, if students would like to see the outlook for the future of these vocations, tell them to read Money Ranks 50 Hottest Jobs. They may go back to the Occupational Outlook Handbook to see whether it concurs with the Money findings and discover whether these growing careers hold interest for them.

Performing at the big interview! One difficult experience common to almost all job seekers is the crucial interview, a moment that can make or break a candidate's chances for employment. With Interview Tips from and Movin' On: Tips for Interviews, your students won't be caught in this pitfall. Schedule an opportunity for your students to play the roles of interviewer and interviewee for each other by gathering questions and answers. When your class performs the exercise, have students work with partners to practice their interviewing techniques, and rotate the groups so each student has many opportunities to play both roles.

Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
Copyright © 2005 Education World

Originally published 02/07/2000
Links last updated 05/25/2005