In recent years, there has been a focus on 2 intervention points in the educational lives of America’s children: early childhood and high school. Lost is the importance of the upper elementary grades and middle school, and the role they must play in the preparation of students for life after high school.
ACT (American College Testing Program) presented a report in 2010 entitled, “The Forgotten Middle”, which points to a critical defining point for students in the college and career readiness process – a juncture so important that, if students are not on target for college and career readiness by this point, the impact may be irreversible. As suggested by the title, ACT is suggesting that this point is in the middle school years, or more specifically by the end of 8th Grade.
Palm Springs Unified School District understood this early and for the last five years has sustained funding for this program partnering with CVEP to institute a formal Career Explorations Program targeted at 8th and 9th grade students. Data from this local program confirms the ACT report findings. The student goals of this program are clearly defined:
- Enroll in a health care career academy at the high school level
- Sign up to volunteer or job shadow at a local hospital
- Consider pursuing a healthcare and life sciences career
- Investigate local opportunities for post-secondary education/training
Students are given a pre-visit workshop in their classrooms before touring the hospital. On-site, the students visit 6-8 hospital departments and are exposed to the daily responsibilities and duties of professionals within each department. Professionals are asked to respond to the following basic questions:
- Describe your job. What do you do?
- What was your very first job?
- How did you hear/learn about your job?
- How important is Math/Science and Writing in your job?
- What kind of education is required to do what you do?
- What do you like most/least about your job?
- How do your employees work together as a team?
Recently, a group of 30 students from James Workman Middle School visited Eisenhower Medical Center on a Career Explorations Tour. They were greeted by a team of healthcare professionals ranging from an ultrasound technician, a registered nurse, a nursing student, an emergency room physician, a phlebotomist, and an emergency medical technician who was presented on a hospital gurney. The students witnessed an assessment intake by the team of professionals who explained each step in the process. The students then toured the hospital departments and were able to conclude their tour with a Q and A, coordinated by the hospital’s Center for Professional Development, Michele Greer.
Growing our own next generation workforce requires an ‘all hands on deck’ approach—and one that must begin in the middle school years.