Through the online First Career Steps Survey, The Skills Library has been gathering insights into high school students’ career planning. The survey, now with over 3,200 results, is available from the Skills Library home page or directly from this link.
With a trend toward more and more students entering college after high school, it is not surprising that most – 87.4% of respondents – indicate that they are planning to attend a 2-year or 4-year college after high school.
But what are the plans of the 12.6% who are not currently planning to attend college? At this point, there are 411 survey respondents who indicated plans other than college, from a total of 3,259 survey respondents. Many of these 411 respondents have specific plans: working full-time, entering the military, attending a career training program, entering an apprenticeship program.
Some are planning a “gap” year to work before starting college, sometimes saying that they want to work fulltime before going on to college; others mentioning specific plans such as spending a gap year in Israel or to spend a year writing a book.
When asked about specific career interests, many of the non-college-bound group have specific goals, mentioning military careers, construction trades and other career options. Some of the career areas mentioned include carpentry, culinary, cosmetology, childcare, horse training, house painting, law enforcement, masonry, plumbing, pipefitting, truck driving and welding. A few of those who plan to work full-time mention “working for my dad” – reflecting the once-more-common path of working for a family business.
This data provides a conversation-opener about alternative paths after high school. With the current emphasis on college, are schools and youth programs doing enough to support other options and to help students find and navigate the wider variety of postsecondary choices?
Skills Library research and projects show that most of the strongest schools and youth programs show students that there ARE a wide range of postsecondary choices. Rather than a polarized “college or work” set of choices, those who work closely and observantly with youth see a healthy range of options, with a blend of school, work, apprenticeship, on-the-job training and formal and informal learning as important elements in career and life paths. They also see the early post-high-school years as being about much more than career development. These are years when young adults are shaping their own approaches to all aspects of life, making day-to-day choices around not only careers and work, but also community involvement, civic engagement, voting and politics, faith/religious involvement, health, diet, exercise, and much more. Many of the same skills that help young adults to navigate first career steps are valuable in navigating in all of these other day-to-day aspects of life. Knowing how to network with others. Finding mentors. Communication skills. Knowing how to use (or how to learn to use) all kinds of tools and technology. Knowing how to analyze information. Creativity and critical thinking. An attitude of lifelong learning.
Food for thought: What trends have you seen? What are some promising career paths that are accessible through apprenticeship, on-the-job training and other full-time employment paths? What is your school, youth program or community doing to support and acknowledge young adults choosing a variety of different paths after high school? If you are a young adult who went from high school to work, training, apprenticeship or other options, what are the elements that have made it work well for you?