Career Awareness and Decision Making

The Center for Professional Development in Career and Technical Education @ Temple University hosted a workshop for school administrators on the topic of Career Awareness and Decision Making. It was great!

First on the agenda was Nancy Dischinat, Executive Director of the Leigh Valley Workforce Investment Board. She brought with her an enthusatic and committed team. A few of the topics addressed:

1. The 3 D’s (Economic Development = Workforce Development + Career Development). I was first introduced to this idea by my friend Betty Holmboe of the Capital Region.

The formula reminds us that if our state is to attract industry and business partners (Economic Development) it must have a skilled workforce prepared to take the jobs demanded by industry. Workforce Development is regional. Do you know what the high priority professions are in your region? In the Delaware Valley, where I live, high priority professions include all health sciences, engineering and everything “Green.” As educators, we need to know what the high priority professions are in our region. We need to make aware, connect and prepare kids for opportunities to work where they can earn family sustaining wages! That’s Career Development.

2. New flash! Sixty-nine PA Superintendents have signed and committed to Career Pathways in their school districts!

3. On social networking: You need to be there b/c that’s where your students are! Students feel you are disrespecting them if you are not there (news to me).

4. In 2011 it’s not “You can be anything you want to be…”, it’s “You can be anything you want to be in (high priority field).”

5. Career Gates videos now on YouTube.

Query “Career Gates” on YouTube for the full series.

6. PA RCEP Virtual Career Fair

Next on the agenda was Tom Speicher and Glenn Spoerke from Penn College. They introduced an exceptional documentary series. It is not Penn College specific–the series is career specific.

The career-exploration documentary series degrees that is produced by Pennsylvania College of Technology in conjunction with WVIA Public Media. The award-winning series airs on public television. Complete episodes also can be accessed online through this website and YouTube .

Take a look at this one to see how great these documentaries really are:

Go to for teacher lesson planning guides to this documentary.

The afternoon presentations featured David Garnes, PDE/BCTE, Career & Technical Education Advisor. David updated our group on SOAR Programs in PA. And to wrap up, Jerilynn Millvan, PDE/BCTE, addressed nontraditional programs of study for adults and postsecondary CTE.

Great way to spend the day. Thanks to Temple’s Chet Wichowski for organizing the event.


Futures Fair: “Making It Here” Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Yesterday was our second annual Futures Fair; 2011 theme-“Innovation and Entrepreneurship” (last year we were “Green“).  This year regional school districts sent representatives to check out our event so I’m going to share what this is, how we do it and why we do it.

 “The Futures Fair is an opportunity for students to meet with and talk to adults in our community who are successful because they are creative and innovative thinkers,” said Sue Fox, career education and work curriculum coordinator at Hatboro-Horsham High School, who designed the project. “We want our students to discover exciting new ways to unlock their creative potential and we know that the Futures Fair will add to our school’s environment – one that encourages innovation and allows it to flourish.”

” I was down at the fair and it was a hit! I talked to vendors and I also spoke with students during 4th period. The vendors seemed excited to talk about their craft and the students did talk about viewing different careers as options. One perspective the students appreciated was that those professionals that were there were passionate about what they did for a living. Nice job in presentation and with the chosen people/professions. I think that they were interesting and had a lot to offer.”  -C.M., English Teacher

6ABC WPVI Philadelphia-Futures Fair coverage (video clip)

Bucks County Courier Times: Students get a peak at possible futures by CRISSA SHOEMAKER DEBREE

1. What this is: The Futures Fair is a hybrid event; not quite a career fair and not quite a college fair. The format is popular with students and has impact on both faculty and kids.

Exhibitors use our gym and the area outside of our gym for display. Exhibitors include (1) professionals in their field of work, (2) post-secondary programs of study (PoS), not admissions representatives, reflecting the academic area the professional exhibitors represent and (3) selected high school seniors presenting their graduation projects. Seniors selected have projects that reflect the theme of the fair. Exhibitors are mixed throughout the event and the ratio we strive for is 75-80% professional, 10% PoS and 10% seniors.

2. How we do it: We have and enjoy a collaborative partnership with our local Chamber of Commerce (CoC) and Educational Foundation (EF). The partnership is the secret to our success.

Our EF helped recruit professionals representing regional businesses, maintained our website and processed registrations. They promoted the Futures Fair at all EF functions and dedicated a keynoter to kick off the theme for the year. They also designed the beautiful logo you see at the top of this post as well as other graphics and literature concerning the fair.

Our CoC matched their theme for the year to ours. They focused time each month talking to local business professionals about our project and recruited their support. They also provided tables, table cloths and other resources needed by the exhibitors as well as a contential breakfast during set up time and lunch for all including the entire high school faculty and staff.

The school district provided human resources for recruiting post-secondary programs of study, planning the logistics of the day (with administrators, teachers, cafeteria and transportation departments and our middle school). We also identified the perfect seniors to present at the fair as well as recruited student volunteers to “man” various posts i.e. direct traffic, serve food, etc. We extended invitations to all other school districts in the county (so they could bring their highly interested students) and our own middle school.

3. Why we do this: To connect our students to their future. When planning our themes, we first think about high priority professions in our region and our state. We want our kids to understand what opportunities there will be for them-that they can learn and earn a family sustaining wage here.

In our area the high priority professions identified by Pennsylvania are healthcare, engineering and green technologies. Armed with that knowledge our first fair was Green. For our second fair we chose Making It Here as our working title. We started thinking about what skills allowed people to “make it here.” And that’s when we realized that the 21st Century Skill we associate most with success is innovation. Our president tells us that entrepreneurialism is our nations opportunity for growth and prosperty. For these reasons our second theme became Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Why include middle school students? Because they are making important career decisions–do I like math? Should I take science seriously? If the answer is no to either question it could be a career limiting decision. Students who understand where a subject could take them will do better in high school.

In all, 2000 students and 250 faculty and staff visited the fair. All were able to talk to individuals who make a difference in our world and are passionate about what they do. PoS’s explained to students various ways to prepare for the professions presented. And students taught students that you don’t have to wait to be an innovator. You can start in high school!

*To see student documentary click here. Produced by the Montgomery County Education & Workforce Partnership.

*Next year’s theme? TBD-First suggestion: Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy…

PA Career, Education and Work Standards & ASCA Career Standards are aligned!

*Image source:

I received 2 emails from friend and mentor, Mike Thompson, this week. Mike is a fellow member of the PA Career Development Leaders Network. He has asked that I share this information. This information is important to all educators but if you are currently working to comply with PA Chapter 339 school counselling plan, you will find this information particularly useful.


Dear Colleagues, 

At a recent board meeting of the Capital Region Partnership for Career Development a motion was approved to allow non-profit school districts in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania the right to print the “I” Statements without a cost under the condition that recognition be given on all printed documents to the Partnership. A finalized draft of this statement will be forthcoming. In the meantime, permission to print the attached documents is allowed (links to I Statemnents and ASCA Crosswalk  below). The attached documents are without the watermark that says, “Do Not Copy”. Please keep the statement at the bottom and the attached logo. 

The intent of these “I” Statements is to give school districts a manageable way to integrate the Career Education and Work Standards into all grade bands (K-12) and across disciplines. Another possible benefit of using these outcome statements is to develop a K-12 gap analysis where educators can strategically develop career development interventions to address all 4 grade bands and 4 strands over time. Additionally, these can serve as a great resource for parent and even IEP transition conferences when used in the form of a Career Portfolio. 

A revised statement at the top of all four of the documents describes the intent of the “I” statement outcomes. 

Currently, I am contracted to assist counselors within school districts across Pennsylvania to comply with the Chapter 339 requirement of developing a K-12 Guidance plan. The Pa. School Counselors Association has developed a Companion Guide to the ASCA National Model and a corresponding toolkit/implementation guide. The three domains that counselors are to impact for all students are:

v      Academic Development

v      Personal/Social Development

v      Career Development 

The CEW Standards and the ASCA Career Standards are aligned to enhance the career development/maturity of all students K-12. (Attached is a first draft crosswalk of the ASCA Career Standards and the Pa. Career Standards, compliments of Donna Cartia and Judy Bookhamer). 

The “I” Statements can be used by school districts to assist counselors developing a K-12 plan for cross discipline integration. I am very excited about the opportunity that school districts and all of their stakeholders have in developing a plan for career development for all students. Forward this email to as many people that you feel may benefit from its contents.  

Please contact me if you have questions. 


PA CEW and ASCA Crosswalk & “I” Statements

PA Career, Educaiton and Work Standards


Dear Colleagues,

Attached is a PDF of the 16 career clusters and the 5 career pathways model that is used by Middletown Area School District(and many others across the nation). The statement below is the rationale for using a cluster/pathway approach in education. Notice that this addresses academic and career maturity simultaneously. All stakeholder groups are addressed in this approach. Thinking with the “end in mind” for all students is critical. College and Career Readiness for all students and potential workers is our goal! Comprehensive Career Development leads to greater workforce development and ultimately the economic development of local communities and the nation(The“3 D’s”). 

Career Clusters/Pathways Deliver Multiple Benefits 

High Schools can be organized around career clusters/pathways to prepare students to meet the demands of postsecondary education and the expectations of employers. 

Educators can use a curriculum framework that can be adapted to meet local needs.  Assessments will be developed for each cluster, which educators can use to gauge how well they are meeting the academic and career needs of all students, regardless of their interests or employment goals. 

School Counselors can use career clusters/pathways to help students explore options for the future. Current information on the academic,technical, and college requirements students need for a wide range of careers can be found in the current Career Clusters/Pathways Knowledge and Skills and Career Clusters/Pathways Plans of Study. 

Employers and Industry Groups can partner with schools to contribute to the development of high academic standards that help students prepare for work and help workers keep their skill up-to-date. Employers gain workers prepared to learn new skills, adjust to technological change, and advance in their careers. 

Parentscan learn what academic and technical courses their children need for college and a variety of career fields.  Clusters/Pathways and the high standards that go with them reassure parents that their children will be fully prepared for college and the workplace. 

Students can use career clusters/pathways to investigate a wide range of career choices. The career cluster/pathway approach makes it easier for students to understand the relevance of their required courses and helps them select their elective courses more wisely. —–Check it out! 


Popular Career Cluster Format in PA high schools

States Career Clusters

Michael D. Thompson

PA Standards Aligned System, Common Core Curriculum and Keystone Exams

I have just returned from a grueling 3.5 day inservice developed and delivered by PDE. The purpose was to teach/orient teachers, curriculum people, administrators and post-secondary institutions about/to “SAS” (Standards Aligned System).

What is the PA Standards Aligned System? It is “a comprehensive approach to support student achievement across the Commonwealth.” This will be a great resource for educators. Early focus for better instruction and learning: writing routinely, text complexity and discussion. If you haven’t looked this over yet, now is the time.

According to PDE, this is the official Common Core website–do not be confused by others! We (Pennsylvania educators) will have a three year transition to the common core. Our first focus will be on English and math.

We will concentrate on learning trajectories, rigor (Web’s DOK) and college and career readiness. (Note: In the 21st Century college and career readiness refer to the same knowledge and skill set-for more on this topic read Ken Gray’s Getting Real: Helping Teenagers Find Their Future) Rigor in English and math will also be followed and measured through literacy, science and social studies. PA students will be “doing, not just studying.”

You will be interested to know that Common Core standards do not have anchors. The result will be more standards than current PA core standards. PDE will be developing crosswalks from our traditional PA core standards to the new common core (AKA “CC”).

For a deeper look at CC

College & Career Readiness (CC)

Keystone Exams Overview

Thanksgiving was last week-is it too late to offer thanks?

Yesterday I was lucky to spend the day with my Career Development (CDLN) friends from across the state of PA. I love meeting with this group because they are smart, creative and share everything (best practices, theory, strategy, etc). We enjoy healthy debate and students across the commonwealth benefit from this exchange.

I found myself sharing my new e-portfolio model with my CDLN colleagues. (PA requires all school districts have students begin a portfolio by 8th grade-PA Career Education and Work (CEW) Academic Standard 13.2.8D) My model was developed as an example for students. I used my own career to populate the pages of the portfolio. As I was explaining my e-portfolio, I realized that most of the professional examples used as evidence of who I am as a professional educator, was a result of being a member of this group.

My last post offered a video about sharing. To really harness the power of sharing, you must be willing to listen and contribute to your team, give and take. Sharing makes everyone (students and teachers) better, stronger, and learners. Have I ever thanked the CDLN for sharing so openly with me? Not until now—Thank you!