Course gives high school students a good look at career fields

A new career exploration class at Marietta High School aims to do more than ask students what they want to be when they grow up.

The semester-long course, required for all sophomores, is designed to help students identify the jobs they do (and don’t) want to have, develop the skills to get them and adapt to inevitable change.

“This generation is going to see seven or eight different careers, up to 14 jobs in their lifetime,” said Kim Depue, a longtime Marietta Middle School science teacher making her own transition to career exploration instructor.

“I can demonstrate to my own students that change is good,” she said, noting that she’s dealt with career-readiness topics before in the Gateway to Technology program at the middle school.

One way students can be viable employees in a changing workforce is to develop “soft skills” – communication, etiquette, problem-solving and critical thinking skills that translate to a variety of fields and allow them to learn jobs that don’t even exist yet, Depue said.

“You can be an A-plus student, but if you don’t have soft skills … you’re not going to be a good employee,” she said.

According to a course syllabus, which can be viewed online at, students in the class will learn about resume-writing, financial literacy and digital citizenship – how to behave online in a way that’s not detrimental to one’s employment prospects. But students will also explore specific careers and map out what courses they need to take in high school to prepare them for the next step, whether that’s college, the military, technical training or stepping straight into the workforce.

“My generation, that’s what we always associated with success, that you would get a college degree,” Depue said. “But there are so many other paths that you can take.”

One way students can find out about which careers they want to pursue is through job-shadowing. And discovering a job isn’t all the student thought it was cracked up to be isn’t a bad thing, said Cindy Davis, administrator for the Washington County Family and Children First Council.

“It’s a good way to weed out what they do and don’t want to do,” she said, noting her own children’s job-shadowing experiences.

During high school, her son, Tucker, took a flight with a family friend who was a private plane pilot.

“It was a free flight, got to go fly around in a multimillion-dollar aircraft for a while,” said Davis, 24, who graduated from Marietta High School in 2007.

Before that, becoming a pilot was something Tucker Davis had thought about, but hadn’t really considered seriously. By the time he worked as a volunteer hangaring and refueling planes at the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport as part of a high school course, he’d already been accepted to Ohio University’s aviation program.

The experience at the airport “more or less … confirmed that was something I wanted to do,” he said.

Today, Tucker Davis is a flight instructor for Carver Aero in Davenport, Iowa, and also does some charter flights.

Family and Children First has emphasized job shadowing over the years, but until this class, approved by the board of education earlier this year, it hasn’t been a requirement in Marietta City Schools as it is in some other local districts.

The class grew in part from the district’s Building Bridges to Careers Initiative, a collaboration between the district and Family and Children First that enlists the aid of local businesses to help prepare students for college and the workforce.