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Hands-On Career Ed: Groundhog Job Shadow Day




Will Punxsutawney Phil see his shadow on February 2? Thousands of U.S. workers will see shadows as they provide opportunities for young people across America to "shadow" them for a day. Job shadowing enables kids to get an up-close look at what a "real job" is like and how the skills they learn in school can be put into action.

Students around the country will shadow scientists, firefighters, graphic designers, mechanics, doctors, architects, teachers, government employees and workers from hundreds of other professions as they all observe, not just any Groundhog Day, but Groundhog Job Shadow Day.

Groundhog Job Shadow Day aims to

  • provide students with an up-close look at what a "real job" is like,
  • help students see the connection between what they learn in the classroom and what they will need to achieve their goals,
  • show students that they have choices in life, and
  • motivate kids to achieve.

A job shadowing experience might make a difference in the life of a student by giving that student a new vision for their future. It may even provide inspiration that can change a student's life forever. For example:

Malissa Yeglie of Louisiana never liked math until Beverly Loud, a Bell South employee, showed her how she uses it everyday to calculate customer bills. "I didn't know her job consisted of all that math," stated the 13 year-old middle school student, "I'm going to try harder in math now."

That job shadowing experience inspired Malissa to be a better student, and for Beverly it served as affirmation of her value as an employee and a mentor.


The first Groundhog Job Shadow day was spearheaded by a coalition that included America's Promise - The Alliance for Youth; Junior Achievement; the Association for Career and Technical Education; the Society for Human Resource Management; the U.S. Department of Education; and the U.S. Department of Labor. The program is modeled after the Groundhog Job Shadow Days conducted by the Boston Private Industry Council in 1996 and Bell South in 1997.

"Corporate America say they want to help educate and mentor our youth. Here is their opportunity to step forward and make those promises real," said General Powell. "It's going to take more than one day to make the difference for many of our nation's children, but this is a great way to get started. It can be the beginning of many long-term mentoring relationships between adults from all walks of life and children who lack regular contact with a caring adult in their lives," he said.

General Powell first challenged communities to take an active role in education during the Presidents' Summit for America's Future in April, 1997. As a way to begin addressing that challenge, the partners in Groundhog Job Shadow Day are asking that employers, employees, schools and community leaders volunteer to be involved in this effort.

JD Hoye, Director of the National School-to-Work Office, said, "Research shows that the most effective lessons are those that connect the classroom with the real world. Groundhog Job Shadow Day provides a wonderful opportunity for students to see how academics are applied in the workplace, and to be inspired and motivated by successful adults."

"Adult mentors who make a commitment to children can have a profound and lasting effect on their lives," adds Hoye. "The employers who participate in Groundhog Job Shadow Day will no doubt see the value and rewards this investment in kids can bring."

"The program hopes to target, to some extent, at-risk students whose parents might not be able to take them into a workplace," Ed Grocholski, a spokesperson for Junior Achievement, told Education World. "We hope to expose those students to some possibilities they might not otherwise have the opportunity to explore."

"The goal is to get business and government behind mentoring," Grocholski adds. "Mentoring programs such as this benefit everyone."


"Our audience is those people in the community and in corporations who are willing to be America's promisers," Don Maple, a spokesperson for America's Promise told Education World. "Our goal is to enlist, rally, recruit and mobilize individuals, communities and corporations to step forward and make a commitment to the problem of 15 million at-risk students."

Groundhog Job Shadow Day is just one opportunity for "promisers" to step forward to serve as mentors, Maple adds. This special day can go a long way toward providing at least two of the five resources identified by America's Promise -- resources that all young people must have access to if they are to thrive. Those resources are

  • An ongoing relationship with a caring adult: mentor, tutor, coach;
  • Safe places and structured activities during non-school hours for learning and growing;
  • A healthy start, including vaccinations and healthcare;
  • A marketable skill through effective education; and
  • An opportunity to give back through community service.

"Access to one of those resources is not enough," adds Maple. "In order to grow, young people need access to all five."


Contact your local Junior Achievement or United Way to get involved in Groundhog Job Shadow Day. Also, be sure to check out the Groundhog Job Shadow Day Teacher Guide. This guide includes tips for participants; suggestions for activities; program evaluation forms; follow-up activities; emergency forms -- you name it!

"Just a few short hours are all it may take to open a window into the real world of work for America's young people," coalition organizers say. "Groundhog Job Shadow Day can be an important first step in providing students with the knowledge and skills they will need to achieve their dreams."

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World®
Copyright © 2010 Education World

Updated 1/21/2020