October 17th, 2017

Exploring future pathways

By Submitted Article on May 24, 2017.

It is that time of year when students, parents, family members and school staff gather to celebrate the milestone of high school graduation.

Following this marked achievement, these young men and women will transition to different pathways. Some will transition to post-secondary education, some will move into the world of work, some will establish families, while others plan to spend a year travelling and exploring the world. Each of these young adults will have their own path and many choices to make as they move forward. When I consider the myriad of choices and pathways that are available, it gives me cause to reflect on how high school provides opportunity to explore possibilities.

First, most jurisdictions have amazing online career exploration programs that track student high school courses, link course work to potential careers, provide detailed background about career choices, have multimedia interviews with real people in specific careers, link to post-secondary options and requirements, and have repositories for resumes and portfolio documents such as credentials.

These programs also have interest inventories that are designed to get students thinking about possibilities. Most jurisdictions in the south use either “My Blueprint” or “Career Cruising.” Students will have been given a user name and password and can access these programs both at school and at home.

Although certainly not new, high school students also have the option of taking “off-campus” programs. One off-campus opportunity is Work Experience. Work Experience provides students with the opportunity to assume a work placement with a business and earn high school credits. It is designed to develop the “soft skills” associated with being in a work environment and experience a particular work setting that may be of interest for future pursuit. Another program is called “RAP” – Registered Apprenticeship Program. Many youth choose the path of trades apprenticeship and education after high school, but for those who identify a specific career interest in a trade while in high school, the option exists for them to get started in the program.

The apprentice credentialling counts for specific credits in high school. Although they do not complete the entire apprentice program in high school, they are well on their way. In Lethbridge we are incredibly fortunate to have business, industry and journeyman trades people that are willing to take youth under their wing and develop their skills. In Lethbridge School District alone, there were over 1,200 five-credit off-campus Work Experience and RAP course placements completed last school year.

Another more recent opportunity for students in high school is something called “dual credit.” Dual credit is a partnership between a post-secondary institution and a school jurisdiction that gives students the opportunity to take a post-secondary course or program while in high school. The student receives the credit hours for the post-secondary course(s) as well as for their high school diploma. This program has been supported by government on different “pilot” opportunities that have proven to be extremely successful. Again, Lethbridge is fortunate to have great partners. Lethbridge College delivered a dual-credit Health Care Aid program in one of the early pilot projects. More recently, the University of Lethbridge is the first university in the province to deliver two courses in collaboration with LCI High School: Supply Chain Management and Liberal Education.

These opportunities have one common theme: providing opportunities for high school students to explore potential pathways into their future goes beyond classroom walls and community partners such as business and post-secondary institutions play a significant role. Our students are fortunate to have access to community partners who share in the vision of building a future for youth.

Cheryl Gilmore is the superintendent of Lethbridge School District No. 51.

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