Ground Hog Day has passed and three events have brought me back to a program that I ran for 16 years at Monongahela Middle School (MMS): Job Shadow Day. One was a Facebook post that I made that discussed the more than 150 8th grade students that shadowed employers, an additional 30 plus students that went to work with their parents, and the positive reports by employers, staff members, parents and the students that participated. The second event was a great commercial that featured Bill Murray, the ground hog and great looking Jeeps. The third was my volunteer work with students at Resources for Independent Living.
The commercial was funny, but it reminded me about how difficult it can be to get things right and the feelings that a person can have when they are trying to find a job. They try everything that they know, they try to get help from anyone that will help them, but they wake up the next day and they are no closer than the day before.
The Job Shadow Day program at MMS started with presentations to all 8th grade students as part of our career development program in the guidance department. We used NJCAN (a free career site that includes an interest inventory, research tools to search specific careers, high school and college courses that you need to prepare for that job, on line opportunities to search for jobs and a lot of discussions about their decisions and choices. I worked with employers throughout Gloucester county and established specific jobs available for our students to shadow. Students then had to complete an application and apply for their top three choices.
I stressed the importance of a clean appearance, explained that they had to list their grade averages for all of 7th grade and current grades, their attendance record for the same time frames and a statement about why they wanted to participate and why they chose specific jobs. Next, I interviewed every student and discussed their application, job choices and their long range plans. With more than 25 years in Human Resources, I was able to do a thorough interview.
As I “filled jobs”, I posted the names of the students selected for each job and the jobs that were still available. I made it clear that I was going to find a way to have everyone participate, but like the real world, it is a competitive process and we need a plan B or C. Some students did give up initially because they didn’t get what they wanted, but the draw of getting out of school for the day did draw almost every student back into the experience. Students were responsible for reporting back on their experience and I met again with each student to discuss that experience and their plans for high school and beyond.
It was the first time that some of these students realized that they didn’t get to just choose what they wanted and that they needed to re-evaluate what they have been doing. They also needed to decide what they were going to do next. During the next several months, these students applied to STEM programs, Academy programs, Vocational programs and private schools. The process proved to be very competitive, and again, there were disappointments when they weren’t selected for what they wanted. There was also elation when their plans worked out very well. I spent time with all of the students to discuss this latest round of experiences and we discussed the next round of choices that the need to make.
Now, I am volunteering at Resources for Independent Living and have a much smaller group of students that I can work with. They have been through the education process and are trying to get a High School Equivalency and find a job. There are programs and individuals in your location that are doing the same thing. If you can create or identify a job that would benefit these non traditional students, try to make a connection in your community. The Director of the Federal Reserve reported that we are basically at full employment and that there are still jobs that are available, Please help identify these jobs because there are workers out there that need a start.