This is the first year that incoming ninth graders across Georgia will have to choose a career pathway. The state hopes the program will help reduce a dismal high school graduation rate.
Ninth graders are now required to pick one of 17 broad career clusters. Completing the pathway gives them three of the 23 credits needed to graduate.
Matt Cardoza, a spokesman for the State Department of Education, Said this isn’t pigeon holing kids. “We’re not asking a ninth grader to pick the career pathway that they want to pursue for the rest of their lives.” he said.“ It’s simply to try to make the education they get in high school more relevant to any kind of career.”
Students will have a chance to switch pathways if they change their minds but they will have to complete a pathway before they can graduate.
Cardoza says students can choose from 17 different clusters. There are about 100 different pathways within those clusters. He admits individual schools won’t be able to offer them all. Cardoza says schools will likely focus on careers already in their area. “For instance in Savannah, obviously a major transportation logistics hub for Georgia. That’s an area where I’m certain they will have career pathways built around that particular cluster.”
Students who are looking for a broader perspective can choose between fine arts, world languages or advanced academics.
Marietta City Schools have been offering career pathways for three years. Career Tech Director Tim Brown says they are seeing students become more engaged. “I see students seeing more of the connection between what they’re learning here at school to their future and what they endeavor to achieve in the future. They see more relevance in what they’re doing here.”
Brown says some of their most popular pathways include culinary arts, graphics and audio, video and film.
Brown says businesses have told them they are looking for students with so-called soft-skills. So they train all students on how to be good employees. “Showing up on time, wearing the appropriate attire, appropriate speech. We do study how to make a resume, the interviewing skills, following directions and using good judgment and good safety skills.”
He says businesses are also offering advice on how to make sure the courses are relevant to what their employees will have to know.
Cardoza says even if a student completes a career pathway and finds out it is not what they want to do for the rest of their life, the program hasn’t failed. In fact, he says, that could be a good thing. It will guarantee that students won’t waste four years in college working on a degree they will never use.