Career planning: Tips to help your student succeed after high school

There was a time when a college degree was considered the surest path to financial security, a home and The American Dream. But today, when you talk about a university education, you’re just as likely to hear about student debt, dropouts and low wages.

What happened?

Start with the glut of college graduates. There are more four-year degree holders in this country than ever before, and they frequently are underemployed or working in jobs outside of their chosen field. Meanwhile, many carry student-loan debt they can’t repay –assuming they graduate at all. Currently, approximately 40 percent of students starting four-year colleges and 60-70 percent of students starting two-year colleges do not graduate, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

“In the new economy, it is no longer sufficient for a student to simply get a four-year degree and assume a job will follow,” says Doug Young, economic analyst and author of “Preparing our Students for Career Success – What Parents Should Know.

Young’s research, detailed in the new report, demonstrates how parents can help students find the best fit for career success by following an ‘occupation-driven’ model.

“Today parents need to point students toward education based on the career outcomes they seek, rather than encouraging all kids to go to college regardless of outcome or interest,” says Young.

View “Preparing our Students for Career Success – What Parents Should Know” here:

Find the right fit.

Talk to your student. What are their passions and interests? How do they learn best? Explore a range of occupations that might best fit your particular student, their learning style and interests. Start early, taking into account your student’s soft skills and make time to explore various career options.

Calculate earnings vs. cost.

Compare projected earnings for chosen career paths, along with costs of education and graduation rates at possible schools to determine which career path and necessary training will generate a positive return over the long term.

Explore industry-aligned technical training. Nearly two-thirds of the available jobs in our country require more training than high school, but less than a four-year degree. Many of these so-called “blue collar” careers are in high demand, pay well and are less vulnerable to threats such as automation.

Project future job availability.

Explore careers most likely to need skilled workers that can’t be replaced by overseas workers or automated by computers.

Labor industry experts predict this category includes numerous jobs for people in the skilled trades and repair including plumbers, electricians, and automotive technicians, as well as customer-service representatives and clerks.

In the transportation industry alone, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2024 there will be 1.2 million jobs in the automotive, diesel, motorcycle and marine industries. The transportation service industry has become highly technical, requiring training beyond high school.

“There are simply not enough qualified technicians to fill the industry need,” says Jerry Rutter, vice president of Industry and Employment Solutions at Universal Technical Institute (UTI) (, the nation’s leading postsecondary educator of transportation service technicians.

Gain experience.

Help your student find ways to try out different career opportunities and gain work experience early. Explore career technical-education courses in high school, including internships and job shadowing opportunities, as well as organizations such as SkillsUSA.

Employer focused training.

Choose an education program that equips graduates with the skills they’ll need in their chosen career and partners with industry and employers to ensure success. Research what percentage of students drop out, as well as the employment figures for those who graduate. This will be a great indicator of the quality of the school and employer demand for its graduates.

Following a career-focused model doesn’t exclude the possibility of a four-year college being the right option for many career paths. Taking a career-focused approach and exploring all postsecondary education options simply opens doors to other possibilities, which may be a better fit for your student, putting them on the path to career success.


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