Middle School Curriculum Sets Students on Their Career Path
A new program has local middle school students thinking ahead to their adult lives and future careers. The Kern County Superintendent of Schools’ new “I have a Plan” Career Exploration Curriculum introduces students to a variety of different career options that they can explore and learn about before they reach high school.
“If you get them aware of it before they get to high school and get them excited about it, then they’re looking forward to it,” said Scott Raymoure, Program Specialist for KCSOS’ College and Career Programs.
Raymoure and his team travel to middle and junior high schools across the county for the five-day workshop, where they introduce students to different job sectors, pathways, and careers. He says the program will help students figure out what they may want out of a job after high school.
Once they reach high school, students can sign up for Career Technical Education (CTE) courses. Raymoure says CTE is the next frontier in education, because it allows students to customize their learning and follow their own path.
“They are tailoring their education to their future and what they want to do with their life. It makes everything just that much more relevant and important to them and so they engage more.”
CTE covers 15 industry sectors, such as agriculture, education, manufacturing, finance, and more. Those sectors are broken down further into 58 career pathways. Students look at a sector that interests them and then narrow it down to a more specific pathway that can lead them to their future career.
According to the California Department of Education, CTE has been proven to help students become college and career ready. Students who complete CTE courses are more likely to enroll in college or a postsecondary program.
Studies also showed 95 percent of CTE students who did not go to college worked for pay within two years of high school graduation. And, students who focused on CTE also had higher annual earnings than those who did not.
In addition to college and career advancement, the Department of Education says CTE helps improve student performance while they’re in high school, and decreases dropout rates, especially among high-risk students. Moreover, millions of jobs do not require a bachelor’s degree but do require specific skills and higher learning. CTE provides training so students can quickly enter the workforce.
Khristyn Webb is a seventh-grade science teacher at Emerson Middle School. She says this is a perfect time to introduce students to different options and get them excited about their career path moving forward.
“I would say seventh grade’s a good time because they’re out of the elementary mindset usually by this point,” she said. “And then once they hit high school, they must know what they’re doing.”
Webb says she wishes she had been introduced into something like this back when she was in middle school.
“A lot of these kids aren’t thinking that far ahead,” she said. “The big thing is just even getting them thinking about it, rather than putting it off.”
Raymoure says many high school students are sampling CTE courses, but more students must finish them. By introducing kids to different pathways early in middle school, he says they’re more likely to choose a course and stick with it until it’s complete.
Specific sectors that are the most popular among local students include Arts, Media and Entertainment, Health Science and Medical Technology, Public Services, and Business and Finance. From there, the sectors expand to dozens of possible career pathways, ranging from video game developer to police officer.
Raymoure says CTE courses help kids to look ahead to their adult life. “They’re preparing for their life at 35. The world is not going to look like it looks today,” he said. “CTE helps them see that and put them on the pathway.”
The KCSOS College and Career Programs team has completed 12 workshops so far this year. Raymoure and his team plan to host 24 workshops before the school year ends. More information about available pathways can be found by visiting www.ihaveaplankern.org.
Students don’t have to have it all figured out while they’re still in middle school, but Raymoure says he’s glad to get them thinking about it.
“13 years old is not the time for final decisions, but just to know there’s choices,” he said.
By Katie Avery
Katie Avery joined the Kern County Superintendent of Schools in 2023 as a Communications Specialist. As a former journalist and marketing professional, her passions include media and storytelling. Before joining KCSOS, Avery worked for various local TV stations as well as the health care industry.