Choosing — or just thinking about — a career after high school can be overwhelming for many students. Yes, there are a percentage of high school students who have known since middle school what direction they want their post-high school life to take. Yet, the majority of students operate in a void of knowledge about what is possible.
At Coronado High School in Scottsdale, Arizona we chose to offer our students more of a base of information about careers and what students can expect from the world of work. More importantly, we also want to offer these students a path to follow to meet their goals.
Coronado High School has had a working career center for four years. It was developed by our principal and a community advisory group, which includes local businesses, colleges, city government, and educators. One original focus was to give our students access to career information through speakers. An annual Career Speaker Day was established and all students were able to hear a variety of speakers who discussed their careers. As Career Speaker Day grew we realized it was time to take a further step for our students. The next logical step was to make career information more personal and individual for each student.
The Coronado Community Career Center personnel decided a career curriculum that could be presented in classrooms would be a good way to reach the students. Before designing the career curriculum, certain information had to be gathered. Since Arizona, like most states, has standards for curriculum, the career presentations were aligned with the Arizona standards to add to the credibility of the program.
The first step was to survey business people, educators and community members to determine what they felt were the necessary skills and tasks of which students should be aware. From the feedback, we found that certain themes emerged. These themes were varied, but comprehensive.
The Career Center staff decided to begin with a Learning Styles presentation and survey for the students as this would capture the students' interest by giving them personal information. With this, we gave the students study tips that went with each of his or her learning preferences. The other topics selected were: Soft Skills; Resumes and Cover Letters; Interest Inventories; Career Search; College and Scholarship Search. The culmination of all of the units is a personal portfolio for each student.
Students who participate in the Career Center Curriculum use technology in a variety of ways. Each senior is required to write a resume using software installed on the computers in the Career Center and the computer labs. The students save a copy of themselves on a disk and a hard copy is also kept in the Career Center.
All sophomores take an interest inventory using the "Choices" software. The software is also available in the Career Center and the labs.
Juniors are required to write a career report. Research for the reports is done in the Career Center and the school's media center. At least two Internet sources are required for the reports, which must be typed using the word processor.
Career Center Curriculum Overview
Definition of and purpose for knowing own learning styles; learning styles inventory and interpretation
Definition of soft skills (punctuality, interpersonal skills, etc.) and how practicing them can enhance students' chances of finding and keeping a job
The purpose of a resume; examples of formats; what to and not to include; where to get help writing a resume
Tips on filling out job applications; what to take along when filling out an application at the job site; sample and practice applications
Interviews and Cover Letters
Sample interview questions; appropriate dress; purpose of a cover letter; format; additional tips
Why it's beneficial to take an interest inventory; various types of inventories; inventories offered in the Coronado Career Center
Where to look for jobs/careers; why it is important to know yourself before looking for a long-term career
Video about looking for school and financial aid; information offered in the Coronado Career Center; Internet sources
Steps to building a portfolio; five sections to include; how to package the portfolio; what to do with a portfolio once it is completed
To begin developing our curriculum, we found the general education standards that would most fit with the concepts we wanted to teach the students. It was decided that Language Arts and Economics (under Social Studies) Standards were the best fit. These standards encompass writing, oral communication, technology, business, and employment information
The Career Center Curriculum is aligned with the following Standards:
- Language Arts: 5.2.2. — Produces Business documents — the student will produce business correspondence, letter of application, or letter of inquiry (master)
- Language Arts: 11.2.1 — Uses Software in Writing Process — the student will use computer software (e.g., word processing, desktop publishing, databases, spreadsheets, graphics programs) to write and revise text and to create visual aids. (reinforce)
- Language Arts: 11.2.2 — Uses Word Processing Tools — the student will use word processing tools appropriate to the writing purpose (e.g., electronic dictionary, thesaurus, spell check, grammar check). (reinforce)
- Economics: 8.2.2. — Complete an Application — the student will be able to complete an employment application. (extend)
- Economics: 8.2.3 — Written business Communication — the student will be able to correspond effectively with the business community (i.e. business letter, resume). (extend)
After the curriculum was developed, the first "buy in" had to come from the teachers. A synopsis of what we could offer to their students was distributed and we approached a few teachers to ascertain their interests. The majority of teachers wanted to choose certain lessons that integrated with their curriculum, but a few wanted the entire curriculum presented to their classes. Our records indicate that all or some of the Career Curriculum was presented 130 times during the 2001-2002 school year. While not reaching all students, significant inroads were made with expansion slated for the 2002-2003 school year.
Guest speakers included members of the local community, employees of the City of Scottsdale, and college/university representatives and totaled 70 class period visits.
Besides school-wide use of the Career Curriculum, the ultimate goal is to have the Career Center an integral part of the high school experience.
Email: Hoogi Somerville