I was going to go right into how our school transitioned 8th grade IEP’s into a high school IEP, but thought it might be a good idea to talk about career planning. I have mentioned that I have more than 25 years in corporate america and most of it in Human Resources. In that time I interviewed thousands of applicants and counseled employees about their career plans. The applicants that were hired, and the employees that were promoted in their careers, demonstrated a clearly communicated career plan and backed this up with related skills and appropriate experience. Those that didn’t weren’t hired.
Parents can help this process by honestly making an assessment of their child’s strengths and weaknesses and by taking the time to research requirements for individual careers. I wanted to build houses, had knowledge, skill and experience (thanks to my father, grandfather and uncles), but my father pushed me into college. It wasn’t that he thought that building houses was a bad choice, but my father thought that a college education would provide me with more opportunities. Although things worked out very well for me, it would have been great if someone would have taken the time to talk to me about why I wanted to build houses and also learn that I liked to draw plans for houses. Perhaps suggesting a career in architecture might have been a great suggestion.
In the 7th grade and 8th grade IEP meetings with the mother of one of my former students, she told us that her son was going to become a lawyer. When we discussed his strengths and weaknesses and selected appropriate classes, she was oblivious of the fact that he was reading below a third grade level. Reading and writing were on-going problems throughout elementary school and his state test scores always showed a pattern of extremely low English / Language Arts scores and very strong Math skills.
When I pointed out this information and explained that lawyers need strong skills in reading and writing, she accused me of trying to destroy his dreams. Since I met with all of my students and discussed their career plans, I knew that he wasn’t interested in becoming a lawyer. The point I am making is that parents need to be realistic about their child’s interests, knowledge and skills.
Career choices begin much earlier than just ten years ago. As a middle school counselor in Gloucester County, NJ, I watched the county vocational school evolve into a program that used an high school curriculum to assist students in improving their chances of entering a career in the medical, engineering, business and computer fields. These became the featured programs that attracted the top students from all of the eight grade programs in the county and the number of vocational training slots were decreased. The number of spots for students with IEP’s also disappeared.
The high schools in our county responded by developing STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) programs to retain their top students. The goal of most public high schools is to provide academic programs to prepare students for college, Most of the shops and home economic programs have been eliminated. The picture I am painting is one that does very little to assist students with IEP’s develop a viable career unless they fit into the all students should go to college mold.
Students in Gloucester County, NJ are applying for these top programs during 8th grade for programs that will start in high school. Since their attendance, grades, type and level of classes and state test scores from 7th grade (along with 1st marking period 8th grade results and possibly 6th grade results) are used as selection criteria, the need for early career planning is clearly necessary. What is the plan for students that are not competitive in this process? When should career planning start for those students? What is the role of the IEP in career planning?
The above comments and assertions require a great deal of additional information and planning. Rather than going into this with this blog, I am going back to my plan of 8th grade IEP transitions and progress from there. But please, start to think about career planning with your children and include them in the discussion as early as you believe that they can participate.