As an educator, I have watched the field of education in the United States ebb and flow over the past 15 years, responding to new research, legislation, and an effort to remain competitive in an increasingly global market. Some of those changes have been frustrating, while others have been exhilarating. I’m excited to say that the latest shift toward an increased focus on career and technical education is the latter.
I’ve had the privilege of teaching a number of middle and high school students over the years, and while trends, interests, and clothing styles have changed, one thing has remained the same about these students—they are all individuals. For too long, we’ve tried cramming all students into the traditional four year university box, when so many of them are talented, hardworking individuals who would be ready to enter the workforce upon high school graduation, filling our nation’s employment gaps, had we properly prepared them to do so.
Fuel Education has stepped in to help bridge that gap. We have developed an incredible suite of Career and Technical Education products that not only prepare students for employment in these fields, but also prepare them for industry-recognized certification in those fields. There are six Career Clusters open to students, including business management and administration, health science, information technology, manufacturing, agriculture, and hospitality.
In my context, I have taught a middle school level basic career readiness course for the past four years. While there remains no shortage of hopeful professional athletes, actors, actresses, and musicians, there are an increasing number of students who, even at the middle school age, show interest in technical fields. I’ve had lots of students share their hopes of someday becoming video game designers, and if you are a parent to one of these digital natives, you know why that is the case. Traditional education is ill-prepared to equip these students for careers in software development, and most of them would have to wait until college to take the courses they needed or figure out ways to learn on their own, to prepare themselves. However, if we are able to shift our mindset in our schools and districts, we can easily open up a world of career options to these kids at a very young age.
Additionally, it’s important to remember that being able to graduate high school with an Adobe ® certification does not prevent a student from going on to college to pursue higher education. It merely allows them to work in a better paying job, for a company that likely sees their long-term potential and may even offer tuition reimbursement, while they do so. Doesn’t that sound better than flipping burgers or waiting tables through college?
As we continue to shift out of the “one-size-fits-all” method of education and into the world of personalized learning, career and technical education should be at the forefront of all our minds. If we have an opportunity to provide our students with training that prepares them for the “real world” while they are still in high school, we must capitalize on it. I’m so excited for the students in the schools and districts who have partnered with us to offer these options. They will begin their careers miles ahead of those who are not afforded this opportunity. They’ll get to focus their education on topics of interest, and they’ll have the chance to cut to the chase if they already have a plan and goal in place.
I look forward to seeing many more districts and schools partner with us in the future to offer these amazing opportunities to their students. Learn more here.
Jennifer Richardson has worked as a virtual educator for the past three and a half years. She teaches civics for Fuel Education and is a graduate student at the University of Florida, working toward a master's degree in educational technology. She is passionate about cultivating and exploring authentic relationships with online students.