In this episode, Carole speaks with Alicia Mowry from the Delaware Area Career Center in Ohio about the state of career centers. They discuss the best time to start visiting career centers, how to use career centers to get ahead and what’s changed in the past 40 years.

“We talk to a lot of parents and they want to know how to stand out on a college application,” Alicia explains.

There’s only a certain number of boxes that students can check off when preparing for college. They can take all the right classes and participate in extracurriculars but still come out of high school not knowing what they want to do as an adult—or what to major in at college.

“So they feel a little lost,” Alicia says. “We’ve been talking to parents about how they can start looking at some of that college and career preparedness early. And using the career center as a resource to do some of that research while your students are still in high school, instead of waiting and paying college tuition to do that research.”

Career centers are not only beneficial to high schoolers but also to middle schoolers. Even ruling out a career choice at a young age can be a positive step forward.

Alicia talks about how students will come in and say their parents are doctors and that’s what they want to do. Then they’ll visit the health tech lab and pass out when blood is drawn.

“That’s a clear indicator of maybe we should look at something that’s not patient related—or maybe that’s just a hurdle you need to work through,” Alicia says. “But find that out now.”

It’s better than going to college and feeling like the wrong choice was made.

Carole and Alicia talk about how the education landscape looks different than it did decades ago, and how to use career centers to get ahead in several productive ways. There used to be a limited number of options, and either a student was headed to college or they weren’t. Kids have so many options, and fewer of those involve sitting at a desk and listening to a lecture. There’s college credit plus, online and off-campus options, to name a few.

“They have a million options, which is great,” Alicia says. “But at the same time, as a parent you have no idea what to pay attention to, and what’s right for your kid.”

Career centers can mitigate the stress and cost associated with a change of heart.

“They’re doing that on high school prices, not college prices,” Alicia says.

Carole points out that a college degree doesn’t guarantee a job. Research shows that employers care more about relevant experience, like internships and jobs. They want to know that new hires can join the team and not spend a lot of time catching up.

The Delaware Area Career Center allows students of any age to come in and start exploring options. Once a student is in the door, they choose an industry to study and then have an individualized learning plan. Alicia says they work with students to understand their specific goals.

Carole and Alicia talk about the stigma of career centers, and how some people don’t understand the variety of offerings. But like technology, much has changed with career centers over the last 40 years.

“We absolutely bump up against that (stigma),” Alicia says. “They started out as vocational schools. Career centers are just one creative way to really get hands-on in a certain industry.”

Closing out the episode, Alicia recommends the book Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller.

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