An early start to future readiness can pay off huge dividends in the long run.

Here are a couple of questions for Moms and Dads:

  • When you were 5 years old, did you know what you wanted to be when you grew up?
  • Is that your job today?

Chances are, one of your answers to those two questions was no. Five year olds aren’t equipped to make long-term, life-defining decisions, which is why elementary school students have long been excluded from college and career readiness (CCR) curriculum. The rationale goes that you can’t really know yourself and your skills well enough until you’re in middle school, when secondary school pathway decisions are made.

We know better now.

Does a 2nd grader need to know the difference between majoring in biomedical and chemical engineering in college? Of course not. But they can begin to think about how the things that they like to do (and are good at) can translate to a job someday.

Plus, exposing kids from an early age to careers beyond the ones around them (parents, teachers, friends, movies) opens the door to future readiness and broadens their world view of work.

The Benefits of CCR for Elementary School Students

There are other advantages to beginning CCR education early, particularly when using a future readiness tool with lessons and features designed for elementary school-aged students. They include:

Articulated aspirations: Children as young as five years old can express occupational dreams, offering a valuable opportunity to influence and socialize career readiness at a young age.

Reduced gender stereotyping: Occupational gender stereotyping starts at a young age. When kids are exposed to non-traditional workers in different fields, their world opens up.

Improved outcomes: Youth who understand the processes and complexities of career development experience better academic outcomes and well-being.

Better self-awareness. When students create visual portfolios using an online future readiness tool like Xello, they can showcase their unique personality and preferences. When they use it throughout their school career, they can watch how it expands and branches out into new interests.

Understanding of careers. By giving young students the opportunity to see the big picture—how interests, skills, and abilities relate to careers, plus what careers are available and what they involve, including salaries, tasks, and more—they can start to think about their futures in an informed way.

Learning how to set goals. Future readiness tools help students set short- and long-term achievements by creating measurable, age-appropriate goals. They can set and track milestones, from kindergarten to Grade 12.

What Does CCR Look Like for Elementary School Students?

The Forest Hills School District in Cincinnati empowers students as young as third grade to participate in career exploration using Xello. They start by playing ‘Career Town’, a game that underlines the variety of work and workers in a community, and the importance of every worker in a community.

School Counselor Kate McKenzie also has students in Grades 3-5 log their interests and achievements in Xello. “I want to get them thinking about, ‘What am I good at?’, ‘What do I like to do?’. It lends itself beautifully to goal setting and expanding their hobbies. They can start expanding their experiences which will help them craft a better story of themselves as they grow up,” she said.

Offline, CCR can include wide-ranging activities such as:

  • Conducting peer-to-peer career fairs for elementary students who research a career and present it to their peers and younger students
  • Pairing elementary school students with members in their community to help them learn about careers

The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) recognizes the importance of an early start. Their college and career readiness standards outline the mindsets and behaviors students need to build for success as early as kindergarten. And both the Michigan State Board of Education and the Pennsylvania Department of Education have designed career development models and standards to begin in the elementary years.

What Role Do Parents Play in Encouraging Future Readiness?

According to a Southwest Educational Development Laboratory research report, “Many studies found that students with involved parents, no matter what their income or background, were more likely to:

  • Earn higher grades and test scores and enroll in higher-level programs
  • Be promoted, pass their classes, and earn credits
  • Attend school regularly
  • Have better social skills, show improved behavior, and adapt well to school
  • Graduate and go on to postsecondary education.”

Clearly, parents are key to the success of a child’s education, including future readiness. When a student has access to a tool like Xello, they can log in at home and explore colleges and careers, share their personal profile, and review future goals with their parents. This allows their folks to gain a deeper understanding of your child’s interests and plans so you can provide more meaningful support and have more constructive conversations about the future.

The adult world of work is a complex, ever-evolving place. When parents, educators, and educational technology work together to make the on-ramp to the future as long as possible, we can help set our kids up for success – whatever that looks like to them.

ABOUT HEATHER

Heather Hudson is a Toronto-based freelance writer and journalist. She specializes in content marketing, corporate storytelling and good old-fashioned journalism. You can read some of her work in The Toronto Star and learn more about her at heatherhudson.ca.