Getting Technical: Tolles helps students make informed career choices

Emmy Beeson
Guest columnist

It seems obvious.

We should realize that we can’t make choices about topics we don’t have any knowledge about.

Emmy Beeson

That is logical. I never would presume to understand what a brain surgeon really does even though I have some high-level understanding based on all of the medical dramas I have binged in my life.

But, truly, I don’t know essential skills or daily tasks or have any life experience to simulate what a day in the life of a surgeon would be like. And even though everyone reading this article could nod their heads in agreement – unless, of course, you actually are a brain surgeon, and in that case, hats off to you – that we don’t know what it really means to be a brain surgeon.

However, the way we have formatted career exploration for our children resembles this example. We ask young people to make choices about careers that they may know about only from a TV show or that they don’t know about at all because there has been no opportunity to experience a day in the life of ... you fill in the blank.

The Student Research Foundation is a nonprofit organization that provides the latest research data through cutting-edge analysis and strong partnerships. Its goal is to help educators, parents and students strive and reach their higher-education and career-pathway goals.

In 2018, the Student Research Foundation released a study with information about when students begin to consider future careers and what influences their choices.

In the study, 71% of students said “their interests” are a major influencer in their decision-making – even more than what mom and dad think. If that is the case, how do students know what their interests are? When are they exposed to all of the career pathways?

Students need to have firsthand knowledge of careers. We have to provide more than a Netflix experience.

What are strategies parents and schools can employ to help broaden students' experiential knowledge so that decision-making based on interest is not limited to where a student grew up?

Here are some real examples from Tolles Career & Technical Center:

• High school pharmacy students meet with certified pharmacy technicians. In one meeting, the technician working at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center answered questions about her typical workday, the shifts she works, the different floors in the hospital, the hands-on nature of the work and the qualifications and benefits of the job, which include free or reduced Ohio State tuition. Both the students and the instructor found this to be a highly encouraging experience for career exploration.

• Two Hilliard high school students participated in an internship experience that allowed them to work two weeks at a time and take their academic classes two weeks at a time. They gained so much firsthand experience in computer networking and electrical contracting that after graduation, they both were hired into full-time positions at Clarity Technology Solutions and Casa Enterprises, respectively. They were able to “try out” their career path before they said yes to employment. What a gift.

• High school students in exercise science participated in video and virtual presentations with physical-therapy employees from Ohio State to learn therapies applied in the field.  Students were able to explore and see the career field they are considering in action, analyze the work and ask questions.

This sampling of experiences is possible for all students in all schools, and your career-technical center is designed to help K-12 students with these experiences.

As parents and community members, I hope you will consider ways you can help students expand their experiences so they can expand their interests and make more informed choices about future career paths.

Emmy Beeson is superintendent of Tolles Career & Technical Center, which includes students from the Dublin and Hilliard school districts. Contact her at ebeeson@tollestech.com.