Career Ready: Three Strategies to Prepare Teens for Life after School

Career Ready: Three Strategies to Prepare Teens for Life after School

March 01, 20245 min read

Article Courtesy of Family Features and Connections Academy

For some time, heading to college or joining the workforce have been the standard choices for teens upon high school graduation. Today, in part due to technology and social media, students have access to myriad career paths that are all but traditional.

With an increasingly dynamic career landscape creating an awareness of jobs that didn’t exist even ten years ago and a shortage in the workforce, there’s a willingness for both potential employees and employers to look at careers and young talent from a whole new perspective.

“There isn’t a ‘typical’ career anymore,” said Dr. Lorna Bryant, Gen Z career expert and head of career education for Pearson Virtual Schools. “With the perfect storm in the workforce of boomers retiring, many people still not returning to work in the wake of the pandemic, and a population that has declined for the last fifty years, this generation (ages eleven to twenty-six) is positioned extremely well. Employers want and need them. In short, the scales have flipped to the supply side and demand is causing many employers to remove barriers to work entry. Whether high school grads go to college, trade school, or work, developing in-demand skills early will help them secure and succeed in the jobs of the future.”

Consider these tips from Bryant to help students explore the many options in front of them and prepare for the possibilities that await after high school.

Help Kids Cultivate Durable Skills

Career Ready: Three Strategies to Prepare Teens for Life after School

While technology has transformed the world of work, an increasing number of careers prioritize durable skills over technical or hard skills. Durable skills (also known as “soft” or “human” skills) include collaboration, leadership, communication, and attention to detail, along with traits like empathy, grit, and resilience. According to Pearson’s Power Skills report, these are some of the most in-demand skills for employers. In addition, research from America Succeeds found employers seek durable skills 3.8 times more frequently than the top five technical or hard skills in every location, industry sector, and educational attainment level. Possessing these skills is not only attractive to employers but is also attractive to colleges and universities, too. One of the best ways to prepare for the jobs of tomorrow that don’t exist today is to focus on timeless durable skills.

Many students already possess or are actively developing these skills in high school. The key is to raise awareness of their importance, seek ways to boost them, and showcase them on college and job applications or resumes. For example, teens can display their leadership skills by captaining sports teams or starting a club at school. They can showcase collaboration and communication abilities by holding and thriving in student government positions, volunteering, or working part-time jobs.

Bridge Passions and Hobbies to Careers

Beginning conversations with children as early as middle school that expose them to job roles, responsibilities, and salaries connected to areas of interest is important for setting them up for long-term success. Nurturing interests—rather than dismissing them as flights of fancy—and finding paths to explore that align with those hobbies or interests in real-world applications can open doors to potential careers that may not have previously been considered.

To help students align their values and interests with potential careers, ask questions such as:

  • What is it, specifically, that you enjoy about your interests?

  • What jobs rely on related skills (working with your hands, serving others, being creative, etc.)?

  • Do you have the skills to do those jobs? If not, what research and training do you need to acquire the necessary skill set?

  • Are there related jobs available in the geographic location you want to live?

  • Can you make enough money to live the lifestyle you want doing this job?

  • Can you envision enjoying this type of work for eight (or more) hours per day?

Get a Head Start on Credentials or College Credit

Career Ready: Three Strategies to Prepare Teens for Life after School

As earning college credits, career-ready credentials, and specialized training for future careers is becoming more accessible for high school and middle school students, it’s important to research available options. From online resources, workshops, career counselors, and accelerated career readiness programs that allow students to enter college or the workforce “job-ready,” there are more options available now than ever before. For example:

  • Connections Academy, a K-12 online school program, has expanded its slate of college and career readiness initiatives for middle and high school students to offer an innovative tri-credit approach where courses can deliver high school credit; industry-recognized micro-credentials (to help qualify for careers in data analytics, UX design, software development, cybersecurity, and more); and eligibility for college credit toward more than 150 bachelor’s degree programs at partner universities in the United States. Visit ConnectionsAcademy.com for more information.

  • Utah Tech University partners with local high schools to offer students the option to enroll in college-level courses while still in high school, earning both high school and college credit simultaneously. Visit utahtech.edu for more information.

  • SUCCESS Academy, a charter school partnering with Utah Tech University, provides high school students with the opportunity to earn college credit towards an associates degree with an emphasis on science, technology, engineering or math while also earning their high school diploma. Visit utsuccess.org for more information.

  • High school students can take college classes on the Dixie Tech campus. Most of their programs are open to current high school students, with some early morning cohorts made up entirely of high schoolers. They even waive tuition! Visit dixietech.edu for more information. 

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