Ark. Students Get Early Start on Career Planning

Eighth grader Erika Faircloth watches veterinarian Julie Boone perform an operation in Wynne, Ark. Erika’s job-shadowing experience at the veterinary clinic grew out of a push by the state to provide better career advice to students headed into the workforce as well as to college.

—Andrea Morales for Education Week

Arkansas sends college and career coaches to secondary schools

Wynne, Ark.

Erika Faircloth is only 14, but the high hopes of Arkansas leaders are riding on her shoulders.

That’s because the 8th grader skipped class on a rainy spring day to get a glimpse of her future. Erika spent the day at a local veterinary office, watching intently as the vet and her technicians spayed a tabby cat and cleaned a golden doodle’s teeth.

Nearly all of Erika’s 8th grade classmates at Wynne Junior High School participated in this “job shadow” day, too. In this small eastern Arkansas town, they fanned out to drug stores, medical suites, banks, lumber yards, soybean farms, police headquarters.

Arkansas is betting big that this kind of early career exposure—embedded in a career-planning process that spans middle and high school—can launch more students into its workforce and its college classrooms with a clear idea of where they’re headed.

To make that happen, the state has dispatched full-time college and career coaches to the middle and high schools in 34 of its 75 counties. The coaches work with students to craft college and career plans and shepherd them through the nitty-gritty details that are necessary to bring those plans to life.

Eighth grader Jacoya Marrs (center) reacts to feeling low-level electrotherapy on her back during a “job shadow” day at a physical therapist’s office at CrossRidge Hospital in Wynne, Ark.

—Andrea Morales for Education Week

“We’re hoping that we can help students be more realistic about everything that’s required to get where they want to go,” said Christine Williams, the coach who organized Wynne’s job-shadow…

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