Schools were very focused on getting students to graduate college, preparing them for college and state testing, Garrett said. Career readiness and awareness was not on most peoples radars in schools. Superintendents like Todd English, of Booneville Schools, are realizing that career readiness starts with exposure. English said many of his students simply arent aware of what their choices are. Youve got to find out what kind of careers exist before you can find out what kind of skill set you need to get those occupations, English said. The average kid in Booneville will not know about aerospace engineering unless we expose them to that. For several years, school leaders found that high school graduates who hadnt chosen a career path ended up either dropping out of college or eventually needing to go back to college for another degree, said Lee County Superintendent Jimmy Weeks. With more exposure and planning on the front end, Weeks said, these students will be more successful in the long run and avoid adding to their student debt. The earlier we can get them to think about career options, the earlier they can make informed decisions about academic choices in high school and college, Weeks said. With the help of Toyota and CREATE, teachers in Lee, Pontotoc and Union counties will be able to extend career readiness to their elementary school classrooms in the upcoming school year through activities, field trips and career-themed units. While that may seem early for students to be thinking about potential careers, Stone said even young students are interested.
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