“Some people may be critical about Career Pathways, [saying] ‘you can’t pigeonhole a child into a career, we can’t talk about careers in school,’” Barge said. “We better, quite honestly.”
Barge has explained a Career Pathway is an organizational model that will not change the state curriculum or standards, but will essentially require students to pick from about 17 different career choices they will focus on while continuing standard course work.
“We cannot afford to send our kids off to school any longer without a career in the world what they want to do and for them to try to find themselves and spend thousands and thousands of dollars ... to try and find out what they want to do,” Barge said. “We can do a better job helping them find that and it takes career education.”
HB 186 called for all entering ninth-grade students to have a Career Pathway beginning fall 2012.
“As we implement our Career Pathways initiatives, we also must implement a solid career education program that begins in elementary school,” Barge said.
He said this would include, for example, adding more structure to events like career days, in an effort to better inform students at a young age the Career Pathways available.
“Career awareness is all we’re talking about here,” Barge said. “We expand that in middle school into career exploration and start learning more about the careers ... so that by the end of the eighth grade they have studied for the first eight years of school all the various Career Pathways and Career Clusters that we offer in the school systems so when they make it to high school, they can make an educated choice about the Career Pathway they want to follow.”
He compared the elementary school to high school career initiative to taking core subject classes in college before taking classes more oriented to one’s major.
“I’m convinced that one of the reasons that many of our students go on to postsecondary and are not ready is we haven’t given them the proper coursework in high school to prepare them,” Barge said.
He provided the example of high school seniors taking a science class that is not perceived as challenging simply to meet the graduation requirements set by the state.
Barge asked hypothetically, “If you know you want to be a nurse or a doctor, would it not make sense for that [senior] science class to be Human Anatomy and Physiology or an Advanced Placement biology course?”
He added, “That’s what a Career Pathway does, it helps ensure students are in the proper courses for what they want to do.”