Incoming Freshmen Participate In Program For Students To Prepare For Life After School

Thursday, August 25th 2022, 10:22 pm


We're getting an inside look at Oklahoma's "Individual Career Academic Planning" program, which aims to help students better prepare for life after grade school.

It's the third year all incoming freshmen must participate in the program, but students of any age can start a profile.

A few years back, Oklahoma pursued a grant along with 42 other states and was one of 10 awarded; Oklahoma used that $2 million grant to get this program started.

Technology helps support planning and keeps everything together for students in a profile that sticks with them through the end of their post-secondary pursuits.

The ICAP program is meant to help students learn what they're interested in now as opposed to down the road when they've already started pursuing a degree or a career.

"We are introducing students to many different career fields, understanding the learning institutions whether it's a career tech center near them, or a university and they begin to understand those opportunities that fit many different career paths that are closely connected with their own interests in science or in agri-business or in those types of careers that maybe they never even heard of or thought of," said Joy Hofmeister, OK State Supt. of Public Instruction.

Ninth through twelfth graders are exploring careers before being thrown into them.

"The earlier we can expose students the more opportunities they will have," said Dr. Marla Robinson, Director of College & Career at Union High School.

Hofmeister said many students were dropping out and weren't pursuing a post-secondary education, which is one reason why Oklahoma launched its Individual Career Academic Planning program.

"A career tech certificate or credentialed field, or into college, or even into the military," said Supt. Hofmeister.

Dr. Marla Robinson said ICAP has helped streamline Union's College and Career Center.

"[A]nd make sure that every student has that opportunity," said Dr. Robinson.

"It makes that work relevant and it gives them hands on experience," said Supt. Hofmeister. "[T]he disconnection and disengagement that comes when you don't have that tie to what your future plans is one thing that ICAP will help bring and connect with students and help them persist."

"Also, see how career and college planning fits into what they do in their core classes and in their electives," said Dr. Robinson. "There's different tools you can use, career surveys, interest surveys, all of those things that can help students' kind of find their path, finesse their pathway and figure out what their next steps might be."

Dr. Robinson said last year Union High School held its first career fair with students and the community along with 'Career Chats & Cookies'; every month a different field comes in to present.

"They have the opportunity to explore a career path opportunity such as manufacturing or information technology. They have the opportunity to learn a little bit about how their GPA can impact their choices down the road," said Dr. Robinson.

Union seniors are required to complete a resume and will conduct mock interviews after completion. There are 350,000 I-CAP student profiles statewide.

In its first year, students participated in more than 10,000 courses related to Advanced Placement, career technology education, concurrent enrollment, and internships; that is a 12 percent increase over prior years.

School districts partner with area businesses and connect students to scholarships.

"Part of career planning is figuring out not only what you like, but what you thought you might like but isn't what you thought it would be," said Dr. Robinson. "We want every student to know that it's okay to dream. It's okay to say, 'I think I want to do this,' and if you want to do that then we're gonna be here to try and help you figure out what steps to take to achieve that dream. We always say, 'it's okay to fail.' It's okay to decide that you tried something in job shadowing or in career connect and it wasn't the pathway you thought it was going to be so you're going to switch gears and do something else, because it's better that you learn that lesson now as opposed to down the road when maybe you've already started a degree or started a career and decide you want to change."

"I was one of those kids who went to college, and I actually dropped out. I could've used what ICAP brings today. I also am a mom of 4 kids who graduated from college, and I know that it takes a lot to navigate. Also, for many of our kids, they're the first in their family to go to college," said Supt. Hofmeister. "It's also understanding that there are many careers that don't require college and so some of our students think that is the only path. My dad was an electrician, so I think about how important it was that he knew how to get that trade."

Dr. Robinson said Union's College and Career Center is always looking for businesses willing to sponsor students and let them job shadow. She believes this program could eventually help employers address an ongoing labor shortage.

A survey conducted last year found that more than 90 percent of Oklahoma high school educators felt ICAP had a positive effect on a student's hope for their future.

"We're looking at data such as how many students are in our career connect programs, and are those 'career connect programs' that they've enrolled in connected to the information they've placed in their ICAP or did they choose to go in a different direction?" said Dr. Robinson.

Dr. Robinson said the longer the program is in place the easier it'll be to tell trends and see how much it impacts students' career paths in the long run.

You can click here for more information on ICAP.


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