Discussing how career centers are changing with Rick Smith

In this episode, host Carole Dorn-Bell speaks with Rick Smith about how career centers are changing to match the demands of the workforce. Rick is the Superintendent of Ohio Hi-Point Career Center and the Career and Technical Center Representative for the Ohio Small and Rural Collaborative.

In Ohio each school district is assigned to a career and technical education center, which makes the system robust. Rick says even rural and small schools are benefiting career centers.

When discussing how career centers are changing, Rick points to new applications for STEM knowledge, such as autonomous vehicle engineering.

Rick notes that one of the ways that career centers are changing is to match that every field is becoming technology-driven. For example, HVAC/electric educations now involve programming because of the ubiquity of Amazon Alexa and Google Home devices. And new jobs are continually available.

“Manufacturing jobs, for example, people thought were going to totally be leaving America, and they’re coming back,” Rick says.

There is a workforce gap—expected to grow to 4 million unfilled jobs nationally— that can be shored up through career centers. That means the perception of these services is changing and that kids who are strong students are now exploring the possibilities.

“The idea that the career center student was the one that could not make it in their traditional school so we just sent them to the career center—I think we’re changing that paradigm,” Rick says. “You’re definitely looking at a different type of student coming into these engineering classes.”

Rick cites the example of an Ohio plumbers’ association with an average age over 50, and how it needs younger workers. Rick says the recession had people look away from such careers.

“And we need to be trying to fill those fields again,” he says.

School counselors, parents and youth pastors should talk to students about all their options, including an education at a career or technical center. What’s important is different for each student: finding work right away? Graduating debt free?

Rick suggests students should consider job shadowing someone in the community. They also should consider career inventory websites, as well as visit local career centers and take personality quizzes.

Tunnel vision when choosing a career is a common mistake. Students should not feel beholden to a single career because that’s what they’ve chosen to study. Learning medical terminology, for example, is important to go into medical insurance or to be a medical receptionist. People will change careers many times during their lives.

“Use this time in high school to explore those career options,” Rick says. “And you might find out by doing some of them you don’t want to do it. And that’s just as well as knowing what you do want to do.”

Read about the full We Love Schools podcast episode about how career centers are changing. 

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