Don’t leave students’ career success to chance

Career Connections students get a taste of the nursing field at the University of Alaska Southeast in Spring 2018.

By Karragh Arndt, Career Connections Coordinator, SERRC

What do you want to be when you grow up? Some of us know from a young age exactly where we’re headed, but most of us spend our young lives (or sometimes longer) learning what the right path might be.

What we imagine for ourselves is often based on what we experience. Some children see astronauts on television and dream of going to space. Some children see the work their parents do and follow in their footsteps. Then there are the countless people who discover their path some other way — by chance or by design. Why leave it to chance?

We developed Career Connections as an opportunity to introduce students to a wide variety of careers available to them through an experiential week-long camp in Juneau. This is especially valuable to students in rural Alaska, where the career paths they see may be limited.

A Career Connections student gets hands-on with a halibut visiting a seafood processor in Juneau in Spring 2018.

Through Career Connections, students get to visit work sites in a variety of fields, including hospitality, health care, construction, public service, technology, media and arts, fishing, mining and more. Students visit the University of Alaska Southeast campus and vocational center as well, learning about post-secondary training and education opportunities.

In addition to career exploration, students get lessons in employability skills and are taught the value of punctuality, reliability and clear communication in the workplace. Students develop a career plan, write resumés and cover letters, and practice mock interviews.

For Career Connections Alumni, there’s the added opportunity of planning a job shadow experience in a field of interest. Students have shadowed in government offices, at veterinary clinics and more.

Career Connections Students view fish at the DIPAC hatchery in Juneau in Spring 2018.

On top of the obvious benefits of the program, students also practice using public transportation, managing their own pocket money and navigating one of Alaska’s urban centers. Students may have the opportunity to visit museums, public pools, a climbing gym and more.

This program meets an important need in the state. At meetings for the STEPS grant, bringing together educators and advocates from around Southeast Alaska, the need for career exploration and urban experiences for youth in rural districts was a hot topic. People expressed concerns about youth from rural areas feeling overwhelmed and anxious — a form of domestic culture shock — with the drastic change in environment leaving home and high school behind.

These supervised and supported experiences through Career Connections help prepare students of all abilities with all kinds of goals to succeed once they transition into the next phase of life, whether it’s training, post-secondary education or entering the workforce.

We may not know what’s in store for our students when they grow up, but we know we want them to find success in whatever path they take. Why leave it to chance?

Career Connections has two sessions in 2019

Session 1: April 7-12, 2019

Session 2: April 21-26, 2019

Registration Deadline: February 1, 2019

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The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Association of Alaska School Boards. AASB welcomes diverse perspectives and civil discourse. To submit a Guest Column for consideration, see our Guest Column Guidelines and email your 400-1000 word submission HERE.