Why Middle School is the right time for Career Exploration

When in senior school, the students as well as the parents have career exploration as the top priority. The children at this stage begin to explore all the options they can choose from, with the help of school counselors and teachers. But research has identified that middle school as a time when students can benefit the most from career exploration. Then why do the schools not adopt strategies for doing the same? Lack of funding, focus on the core academic courses and time constraints of the school counselors are a few reasons for not having this exercise in at the middle school level.

Why is career exploration desirable and even crucial at middle school? The reasons are as follows-

· At this age, the children are at a higher risk of disengaging from learning due to challenges like identity crisis, coping with puberty or adjusting to new environment. It is period of transition for them.

· The children are in the process of developing abilities to think in an abstract way. Such processes will benefit in using these abilities.

· Growing children have a preference for team work and activities during career sessions will help in building team spirit

· Career exploration will involve relevant and real life situations which will promote active learning

· Skills like problem solving and critical thinking will develop through these activities

· The children will have further opportunities to explore future options through student organizations and students clubs.

· The children will develop a better capacity to think about and plan for future

· Minorities, girls and at risk students may limit their career aspirations because of stereotypical notions. Starting early will help breaking this chain

· Children may have unrealistic career plans and know very little about the demands of work place or how their educational choices relate to future careers. If they start getting that awareness from middle school it will help them make up their minds.

Self knowledge is a necessary first step towards decision making skills. Middle school children’s brains are receptive to developing the 21st century skills which include critical thinking, adaptability, problem solving, oral and written communications, collaboration, creativity, responsibility, professionalism, ethics and technology use.

So what kind of activities could be included in the middle school curriculum?

· career related project based learning activities

· Projects and activities to develop employability skills

· Scalable online tools

· Short term interactions with business and community leaders

If schools are able to incorporate these activities it will benefit the children tremendously by increasing their motivation and enhance their job related skills and knowledge.

To know more about career exploration in middle school, please refer to ACTE (https://www.acteonline.org/general.aspx?id=12066#.WWhy84SGPIU)