Published by Florida College Access Network
- Ian Fletcher, Vice President, Education and Talent, Greater Gainesville Chamber
- Chris Laney, Workforce Education Director, CareerSource Suncoast
FCAN host: Kathy McDonald, Assistant Director for Network Partnerships
The last 20 years have brought seismic and dynamic changes to the global economy that have shrunk some industries while growing and establishing others. Yet the careers that students see as their potential “dream jobs” have not evolved accordingly.
On August 27, FCAN’s Kathy McDonald welcomed Ian Fletcher of the Greater Gainesville Chamber and Chris Laney of CareerSource Suncoast, who each shared examples of communities with local college access networks (LCANs) bringing together employers, students, and education institutions to help students better understand careers that are available — and in-demand — in their community, as well as the education options that will help students prepare.
Each example highlights the key growing industries in their regions, so students have a better understanding where the high-growth jobs are and can make more informed choices as they plan their education beyond high school.
Students’ Dream Jobs, Then and Now
A recent study by OECD found that many teenagers are concentrating their professional aspirations into 10 careers, with 50% of U.S. students hoping to enter careers in this limited range of options.
Broken down by gender, 7 of the top 10 occupation aspirations cited by girls have not changed since 2000, and the ratio of girls focusing their aspirations on these fields has grown from 49% to 52.9% in the ensuing years. Meanwhile, the top 10 occupation aspirations cited by boys remains unchanged from 20 years ago, although the ratio of boys interested in pursuing these fields has jumped from 38.6% to 46.8% during the same time period.
The risk of job loss due to automation means students need exposure to a broader array of careers, especially ones that lead to greater economic security. Career guidance helps students see the relationship between their future and the education needed to get there that can help keep them on track.
Career Discoveries Days
Fletcher, who also serves as head of the Alachua County Education Compact LCAN, shared highlights from their community’s Career Discoveries Days. Held for the last 5 years on a Saturday in the fall, Career Discoveries Days expose students to exciting career options in Alachua and provide them with tools for their career pathways.
Alachua’s school district helps to promote the opportunity to middle and high school students and their parents. The event also gives employers the chance to connect with students about their industry, so students can learn more about potential futures they might aspire to.
“It’s an easy sell to employers because they understand this gives them a chance to showcase their career opportunities to students,” Fletcher said. “Many of the students don’t know what career pathways they want to take, and I haven’t met an HR recruiter who doesn’t love interacting with students and helping them find their career path.”
Exposing Students to Opportunities at the State of Jobs Conference
Laney shared how CareerSource Suncoast’s communities are connecting careers and education options for students so they can make more informed choices at the annual State of Jobs Conference (SOJC). Now in its 7th year, SOJC reaches more than 1,500 students in Florida’s east and west coast regions serving seven counties.
“It’s the environment that gets you excited and motivated at times,” Laney said of the importance of getting students out of the classroom and into a professional conference setting at SOJC. “Throughout the day, we absolutely put an emphasis on, ‘How do we make this student feel good about the career trajectories going on in their community.’”
SOJC offers students hands-on experiences for students to learn about businesses and industries in need of talent, along with round-table discussions and presentations from local leaders. Laney shared findings from the 2020 State of Students Report — which utilizes data gathered at the SOJC each year — revealing that 15% of students who were asked about their ability to find a job in their local community changed their answer from “Not Sure” to “Yes” after attending the conference for a day.
“One conversation at one event can make all the difference for a student,” Laney said.
To learn more about how to connect students in your community with a greater array of career opportunities — or to view the webinar and download the presentation — take advantage of these resources:
2017 Career Discoveries (Video)
2019 State of Jobs Conference – West Session (Video)
Dream Jobs? Teenagers’ Career Aspirations and the Future of Work (OECD study)
Plan It Florida – College and Career Readiness Guide
“A State of Anxiety: Survey Reveals High Schoolers Need More Support with the College-going Process”(FCAN webinar)
“Students Can’t Be What They Can’t See: Making the Most of Career Fairs” (FCAN webinar)