Virtual career exploration a hit with students

Helps students understand and prepare for job fields

Sophomore Sam Wilde has been doing career exploration activities on both his smartphone and his laptop

Sam Wilde is pretty sure he wants to go into the residential construction business, like his dad. He’s already helped on some jobs, including cleaning up job sites and lending a hand with assembling custom-made cabinetry.

Each segment provides an overview of an array of jobs associated with a given industry

“I like that I can work with my hands, and I like having to figure out what works in a particular space,” said the Northview High School sophomore. “I like that I can see the progress and see something come together.”

Even though his career path seems set, Sam knows it doesn’t hurt to explore other ways to earn a living.

Sam and all other students at the school are finishing up a multi-week virtual career exploration they can participate in on a computer or smartphone.

“It works really good,” he said of the program. “It’s very well laid out … what education you would need, and they broke it up into industry and the careers you could have in that particular area. It definitely was a good taste of what the industries were like.”

Northview is a pioneering district in the free online career exploration program aimed at middle and high school students. The program, currently designed to be used for up to eight weeks, was created by Mavin Global, a Midwest-based education and workforce company. It was founded in 2010 by former executives in management consulting, education, and product and workforce development.

Northview High School counselor Sarah Gammans explains how online career exploration works

Handy for Smartphones 

High school Principal Mark Thomas said it’s an expansion, in the works for about two years, of the district’s MiGPS program, a partnership between the district, area employers and employment agencies. He said the Mavin program has coordinated with West Michigan workforce development coalition Talent 2025, and currently represents the work of some 160 companies and CEOs, and the MiSTEM Network

Administrators and teachers are trained on the program through facilitation by Muskegon ISD. The Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals has trained up to 300 administrators and teachers in the state to start using the platform, Thomas said, including other Kent ISD schools.

How it works: Students watch a video from a company or organization, often local or regional, that highlights specific career fields. That includes agriculture, energy, health care and manufacturing, to name a few. 

“Every day, students are exposed to the different fields and the jobs associated with them, who they hire in West Michigan and what the opportunities are,” Thomas said.

After each video, students are asked multiple-choice questions that help gauge their understanding of and potential interest in the field. They also write a brief reflection on what they have seen, and during distance learning were encouraged to present their thoughts to another person in their household. 

‘This helps us tee up other subjects, to connect our curriculum to career awareness. You can then answer the age-old question students have: ‘When will I ever need this again?’ And these are the conversations that are gold for counselors.’

— Northview High School counselor Sarah Gammans

All activities are designed to be done on smartphones, which counselor Sarah Gammans said is the tool students most readily have access to.

“The feedback we are getting from kids is just tremendous,” Thomas said. “What we’re doing is providing a state model for how career exploration can be delivered to kids in an efficient and effective way. 

“Until now, everything has been an event,” he added. “Those are hard, because you can only take x amount of kids, and the money you spend to hold the event and to get students to and from, you can’t replicate that.”

Thomas said student responses are funneled into a database that can help steer the school to provide more meaningful, targeted career experiences for each student. 

And that goes for helping students, parents and potential employers understand more, as well.

“We can also take (employers’) economic forecasts and show students and their parents what the situation is in our region,” Thomas said.

An example of what students see as they explore careers online

Understand, Validate, Align

Rick Mushing, STEM consultant in the Kent ISD Career Readiness department, provided feedback and contributed some content during the late-stage process of developing the platform. He calls Mavin “a very good, consistent platform that delivers career readiness information in a very engaging way.”

Mushing said the aim is to develop qualified candidates and then match them to employers. 

“If students start pursuing that in high school, the pool of potential qualified employees gets larger,” he said. “What I like about that is the student engagement piece, liking and disliking the content, that helps the student identify their own career pathway. 

“It’s just a great method to have them see, understand and validate their own interests. It also helps them align their abilities with what the job requires.”

Gammans has been looking at the data as it comes in, and called the tool “what (counselors) have always needed and always wanted to connect students to life’s next step.”

“We’re having them explore these careers, and think about ‘What is your knowledge of this (field), and your skills and abilities right now that are related to it?’ 

“This helps us tee up other subjects, to connect our curriculum to career awareness. You can then answer the age-old question students have: ‘When will I ever need this again?’

“And these are the conversations that are gold for counselors. It’s more than students have ever done in my time as a school counselor, in terms of looking at careers in an organized, intentional way.” 

Students answer questions about videos they have watched to gauge their understanding of what they have seen

The Bottom Line

The platform is showing benefits beyond career readiness. Thomas said Northview teachers are already finding ways to use the platform to teach their own course material.

“Our goal is always to find better ways to engage our kids,” he said. “The Mavin platform also allows us to know when kids are engaging in their work, and to find trends, like the time of day they are working on this. 

“The more we can learn about how and when our kids operate and how best to serve them, the better we are all going to be.”

Career Exploration Videos:

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio or email Morgan.

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