A Paradigm Shift to Help Students Navigate Career Options

August 25, 2016

Takeaways

An employer-driven navigation system in #K12 can equip students with the knowledge of real career options.

Editor's note: This column originally appeared on Grads of Life Voice.

Lost? No problem. Simply type the appropriate coordinates into your smart phone and within seconds turn-by-turn directions lead you effortlessly to your destination. Although people used to depend on folded maps, sextants, and stars to navigate, today it is easy to take for granted the GPS support we have at our fingertips which will even reroute at any wrong turn or missed exit.

However, as simple as it has become to maneuver on roadways, navigating career pathways has proven to be more difficult. Today’s young adults can easily feel adrift when translating academic pursuits into potential occupations. They are at risk of unemployment, underemployment, large sums of education debt, and a loss of direction. Imagine if we had a similar GPS mechanism to provide the step-by-step instructions and supports needed to transition into successful, fulfilling careers.

Career development practices are designed to help students make informed decisions about their futures. Services include access to personalized career plans and work-based learning opportunities, as well as other activities that instill job-ready skills. Yet exposure to high-quality career development activities is not widespread. A survey of high school seniors revealed that 54% do not believe school support services help them match their interests to potential occupations, and 51% reported a lack of advice on the steps necessary to achieve their desired careers.

Whether a student is entering the workforce directly after high school or investigating how additional levels of education relate to future occupations, all students are faced with navigating an often confusing maze of career pathways.

Students are not alone in their dissatisfaction with the current state of career development. Businesses are in search of avenues to develop relationships with talent much earlier in the education process, but it is unclear if employer needs are being met. If the employer voice is central to establishing real career pathways for young adults, how can new systems designed for the business community expand employer leadership in career development?

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation is answering this question. A new report, Connected to Careers: Expanding Employer Leadership in Career Development, offers a path for businesses to ensure that their needs are met while informing young adults of career opportunities.

The new framework requires employers to position themselves as end customers of career development activities. As customers, businesses are then responsible for locating the right partners to deliver services designed to meet their needs and connect with young adults. We call these services rendered “employer account management,” taking after private sector practices where account managers provide high-quality customer service for clients. 

An employer-driven navigation system offers a new approach to managing employer needs and requirements while equipping schools with the knowledge, skills, and workforce connections to support career exploration and preparation for young adults.

At a minimum, employer account management would provide the following services to employers:

  • Represent the business community within schools.
  • Serve as a subject matter expert on career pathways.
  • Vet and match students with employers.
  • Validate skills acquired during work-based learning experiences.
  • Organize high-quality and diverse talent sourcing networks.

Businesses can lead the way by partnering with schools and intermediaries committed to offering employer account management services. Companies can leverage these partnerships to create stronger ties to K-12 schools and create a pipeline of young talent. However, businesses can scale efforts much faster by working through an employer network or business association.

As a collective of multiple businesses, these organizations are primed to directly embed one of their own agents within a school or district to carry out key services.  For instance, Vermilion Advantage, an economic development corporation in Danville, Illinois, which resulted from a merger with the regional chamber of commerce, took this approach when placing a workforce specialist in local schools.

Whether a student is entering the workforce directly after high school or investigating how additional levels of education relate to future occupations, all students are faced with navigating an often confusing maze of career pathways. An employer-driven navigation system offers a new approach to managing employer needs and requirements while equipping schools with the knowledge, skills, and workforce connections to support career exploration and preparation for young adults.

Learn more at YouthEmploymentWorks.org.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Erica Kashiri is director of policy and programs for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Center for Education and Workforce.