In early September, there was an interesting article in the New York Times called Is “Your Student Prepared for Life” about the importance of “career training” in college. While I agree with the sentiment, college is way too late. The author, Ben Carpenter, cites fear-inducing stats like a recent poll conducted by online entry-level job site AfterCollege noting that 83% of college seniors graduated without a job in spring 2014, and another poll by consulting firm Millennial Branding that surveyed over 4,000 students and found that 61% said Career Services was “never” or “rarely” effective in helping them land a job (hard to know how much weight to put into polls like this really…)
Carpenter then proposes a course in career training that would begin freshman year and end senior year, noting that career training “must start early because getting students to decide what job they want — and teaching them how to thoroughly research that job, get internships and conduct a job search for a full-time position — is not a quick or easy task.” Indeed, so why would we wait until college???
The course that Carpenter proposes “would ask students to consider their skills and interests. What are they good at? What do they like to do? Then students would be taught how to thoroughly research the industries and jobs that utilize their talents.” Yup, that’s what CityPathways (CPaths) proposes to do, during the vital middle school years when identity is still quite malleable and when this information can help kids try on “possible lives” in the course of figuring out who they want to be and what they need to do in order to get there.
Carpenter goes on to claim that the best way to go about career training is “by arranging dozens of one-on-one informational interviews with contacts generated from family, friends, and their school’s alumni database.” Ooomph, what an oversight if the notion is to not simply perpetuate the social order. I suppose Carpenter is writing this for the demographic he hails from without recognition that many in less privileged strata don't have the wide web of job contacts “generated from family and friends” which is why programs like CityPathways and others are so essential in exposing kids to a wider range of opportunities and individuals who can broaden their horizons. Carpenter does note later in the article that career training is an issue of equal opportunity, albeit as a bit of a throwaway line.
Overall, I applaud articles in this vein, I simply want to encourage earlier engagement if we REALLY want to prepare students for life.