Career education in Washington County isn't limited to an aptitude test and some pointers on filling out a resume.
While funding cuts have taken some of the resources once available to teachers, school districts still have programs in place to help students identify potential career interests and goals.
"Students need to have goals," said Rhonda Knoch, career supervisor at the Washington County Career Center.
Research shows one of the main reasons students drop out of college is that they don't have a goal to work toward, Knoch said.
Warren High School guidance counselor Janet Chase said identifying career goals saves students time and money by helping them avoid starting down the wrong path in their education and then having to backtrack.
Students in the Warren district must take a career education class in order to graduate. Most of the time, that happens in their junior year.
The Ohio Career Information System (OCIS) and Individual Academic and Career Plan (IACP) are career search and planning tools for students of all ages. Check with your child's school or a library to see if they purchased a license for OCIS. If they have, request a login and password.
OCIS can be used to:
Learn about different options for post-secondary education
Research up-to-date career information
Find out what careers are in demand nationally and in Ohio
Research colleges, universities and scholarship opportunities
Read real-world interviews given by someone in your career of interest
Find out how to prepare for a chosen career
IACP can be used to:
Make sure a student is on track to graduate
Create a resume
Record information needed for college and job applications, like extra-curricular activities, test scores and career-related courses
Plan work-based learning experiences, such as job-shadowing
Source: Ohio Department of Education.
"We think the junior year is a good year for it because they don't have to make a final decision," Chase said. "It's never too early to start thinking, but certainly (by then) it's coming to light that 'I'm not going to be back after next year.'"
The class includes job shadowing, financial literacy training and resume-writing. Students must also write out a career passport, which includes a career narrative, with a plan and backups.
Chase said students obviously can and do change their minds, but the process gets them started on seriously considering their lives after high school.
Knoch said career passports used to be required and several school districts in the area still use them. But career education varies from district to district now that it is no longer a state-funded program.
"There used to be an individualized career plan in every student's lap somewhere in those late elementary years," said Knoch, who once served as the career development coordinator for Washington, Monroe and Morgan counties. "What was lost was a whole network of teachers that were working together to promote careers that were related to their (subjects)."
Knoch said teachers may still do that but it's not in a formal, supported system.
Some districts still use strategies developed years ago and programs, like the Young Engineers and Scientists Day at Washington State Community College, still endure.
And career awareness efforts start well before the junior year in all Washington County school districts. Eighth-graders in five districts - and seventh-graders from Fort Frye - visit the career center each year to "get exposure to the technical education program and get them thinking about the future," Knoch said.
Knoch also speaks to all sophomores in the county about what the career center offers. Those students are then given the opportunity to visit the career center and get a taste of its programs with hands-on projects.
Eighth-graders in the Marietta City school district in recent years have participated in the Teen Career Awareness Initiative, which takes them to various business and industry locations in the area so they can see potential career fields firsthand.
"Everyone knows what a teacher does. And usually they know what their parents do," said Knoch, a member of the Teen Career Awareness Initiative committee. "But there's a whole wealth of jobs out there ... that exist that these studentsare not aware of."
Knoch conceded that a student usually doesn't make a final career decision until high school or beyond. However, learning about potential career paths early provides a good foundation.
"It helps them identify their strengths and weaknesses in a more general form," she said.
Knoch also noted that when students change career goals, they often stay in the same general field.