Strategic Academic & Career Planning
What do you want to be when you grow up? This is an age old question asked of children and teens. It is one that I asked myself until I was in my 30s. I worked in several diverse fields before discovering my passion for education. While the journey to my chosen career had several detours, I gained valuable skills from each path I followed. Looking back I can say that the skills that make me successful today are directly linked to the adults that supported my journey as a young person. The high school journalism teacher who taught me to love technology; the accounting teacher who convinced me I was good with numbers even though I never liked math; the coach who taught me dedication and work ethic; and my parents who knew I could do anything. As a Virginia Beach City Public Schools employee I am lucky to be able to help young people on this journey and I hope that each finds the road to a fulfilling career and becomes a life-long learner who is a responsible, industrious and engaged member or our global society. Today’s students have many opportunities to begin their career journey before graduating from high school. The process of planning this journey is known as “Academic and Career Planning.” The name speaks to the options our students have in school. Virginia’s secondary career and technical education programs are world class. For many kids these options are enriched by Junior Achievement programs that become a rich part of the journey and a link kids to the adults who help them reach their potential.
Academic and Career Planning ideally begins in elementary school with that tried and true question. What do you want to be when you grow up? Kids today still want to be the star baseball player, a scientist, a police officer, an artist... But have they considered the benefits of regionally in demand careers in cybersecurity, advanced manufacturing, medical systems, or hospitality. The Academic and Career Planning process helps students explore which fields they are drawn to, what jobs match their talents and how those options will impact their lifestyle in the future. By the end of elementary school students should have been exposed to multiple careers, engaged in career-related experiential learning activities, and been helped to identify middle school elective courses that align with their career interests. JA Days are a highlight of elementary school exploration.
In middle school students should be completing more formal career interest inventories. These inventories will help them create an Academic and Career Plan that outlines the courses that support their career dreams and personal interests. Don’t be surprised if the dreams change over time. Middle school is all about changes, choices, and exploration. Students also take on more responsibility and middle school is the perfect time to explore financial skills for the first time.
As students enter high school they will work with school counselors, teachers, family members and peers to become college and career ready upon graduation. Course selection in all areas should ideally support each student’s plan. Whether students choose to go straight to work, pursue a career certificate, attend college, or join the military, the Academic and Career plan will help make sure they are ready. Academic and Career Planning is a student-driven, adult-supported process in which students create and cultivate their own unique and information-based visions for post-secondary success. High school students find that JA is still there to offer more rigorous programs that help them tackle tough topics like ethics and plans pursue entrepreneurial dreams. Like the Academic and Career Planning process JA programs begin in elementary school and help students build their futures by teaching work readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy every step of the way.
-Dr. Sara Lockett, Director of Technical and Career Education, Virginia Beach City Public Schools