February is Career & Technical Education Month so let’s all celebrate together by exploring opportunities available in all of Halifax County Public Schools; from kindergarten through 12th grade.

In grades K-5, teachers and counselors work with students exploring a multitude of careers through coloring of career objects; reading stories of people in different careers; using career examples such as carpenters, construction workers, bakers and engineers to explain math questions; journal writing and discussion of what you want to be when you grow up; and the study of famous Americans and how their careers contributed to society. 

Elementary schools have career fairs where people of different occupations come in and talk with students about what they do on a daily basis. Many bring objects used daily with them so the students can participate in some hands-on demonstrations. At this age, the favorite is the veterinarian that brings a puppy but there are a variety of careers participating in each career fair. Career focused bulletin boards line the hallways and career dress up day is always a big hit.

When students enter the middle school, they are required to take a 9-week class called Career Investigations.

In this class, students take a skill assessment, values assessment and interest assessment in an online program called VA Wizard (www.VAwizard.org).

These results are recorded in the students’ account and can be taken as many times as they would like. The results can be viewed by parents/guardians using the student’s login and password. The results of each assessment point to as many as three of the 19 career clusters and suggest job titles based on the students response to the assessments.

Students may watch videos of a real person performing each of the jobs and can search the database for education requirement, colleges that offer a related program, percentage of job growth in the next ten years and salary range. When students are in this class they begin to work on a Career and Academic Plan.

This plan helps them decide what classes to take in high school to help achieve their career goal.

Middle school counselors work with students to help as well as this plan should be started no later than seventh grade and finished by eighth grade. Students are not bound by this seventh grade decision as it will be reviewed each year with the counselor and can be changed at any time.

In addition to the class and extensive career research, all students are eligible to take a variety of exploratory classes at the middle school. These classes are to help them see what they might be interested in and what they may not like.

Students can take classes all three years in agriculture, keyboarding, information technology, computer solutions, lego robotics, smart lab, go-tech lab and family and consumer science.

Each of these classes give students hands-on experience and skills as if they were on the job in many, many different areas. Students should try to take as many of these classes as possible while in middle school and not the same one all three years. These are the exploratory years and they will get a wide variety of experience if a variety of classes are taken.

When students enter the high school, they should have already chosen a general career cluster.

Again, students are not locked into this cluster and can change at any time but following a career cluster or a narrower pathway will go further in helping them reach their career goals, job experience and scholarship opportunities.

In the 9th and 10th grade, students are taking mostly core classes and career prerequisites but by the time they reach 11th or 12th grade they should be ready to earn Industry Certifications and participate in some type of Workbased Learning opportunity.

In addition to classes, all students are eligible to join a career and technical student organization such as Future Business Leaders of America, Health Occupation Students of America, Distributive Education Clubs of America, Virginia Family, Career and Community Leaders of America, Future Farmers of America, Educators Rising, Skills for the Future and Technology Students of America. Each of these organizations provides opportunities for leadership experience and competitions locally, regionally and nationally.

There are many different types of Workbased Learning opportunities.

This is where the student without experience get his or her first experience that is needed for many job applications. It is important to remember, the focus of this experience has to be tied to a career field the student is studying in school. An example would be, if the student is taking welding, the work experience must be in welding.

By the time students become seniors, most have taken what is needed to graduate and they have the time and opportunity to learn a skill and get experience at the same time. Thus, making Career and Technical Education a win, win for the student, career bound, military bound or college bound.