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Preparing students for a bright future

A multi-ethnic group of business professionals are looking over pictures in the boardroom.

IB World investigates how the IB Career-related Programme (CP) is helping students reach their full potential, while providing a solution to future job market needs

Combining academic subjects with personal interests and skills could be the secret recipe to success that helps students thrive in their careers.

Take Greenfield Community School in Dubai for example. One of its first IB Career-related Programme (CP) students, Alina, went on to graduate from Emirates Aviation University, in Dubai, with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in 2013 having failed her GCSEs. Alina, who now intends to study a Masters degree in the same field, was one of the 31 students to complete the CP – 27 students went onto further education and 4 entered employment.

Similarly, the CP has helped engage students at South Lakes High School, US, who may have been struggling academically in other areas. Susan Brownsword, Business and IT Teacher and CP Coordinator, says: “The increased engagement in school through their exposure to a career and technical education (CTE) classes can give students direction and purpose that increases their likelihood of finishing school. It can also allow them to see, for the first time, the value in post-secondary education as a means to gain further expertise in their career-related field of study.”

The CP offers students an internationally recognized education, while gaining the experience and skills necessary to specialize in a career path of their choice.

Mike Worth, CP Coordinator at Greenfield Community School, sees great value in the CP: “It prepares students for whatever their future career is. Students need a career pathway, goal and transferable skills like self-management, organization, numeracy, languages and IT,” he says.

These skills will become even more important as job markets evolve. According to the Institute for the Future’s Future Work Skills 2020, disruptive technological shifts are changing the way we work and increasing the need for skills such as social intelligence, sense-making, the ability to determine deeper meanings, data-based reasoning and a design-focused mindset.

Valuable practical experience

Greenfield Community School students have had opportunities to use their skills in real-life situations, which has helped prepare them for future employment. One activity resulted in the “biggest success the CP has ever had” at the school, according to Worth.

During a BTEC business course, students were asked to collectively come up with an idea for a new business or service. They decided to create a cookbook that highlighted the school’s diversity – and included a recipe for every one of the 86 nationalities represented in the school.

“After the book was put together, the students went to meet a printing company to negotiate a printing deal and then came up with a marketing plan to make sure parents, guardians and the wider community would be interested in buying the recipe book.”

The books proved popular. Students set up stalls in the local community and sold the books during weekends. They donated proceeds to two charities – Feeline Friends, a cat sanctuary; and Adopt a Camp, a charity based in Dubai that helps workers pay for their travel home if they find themselves in difficulty and out of work.

“The entire project lasted for over four months, and the students loved it – they really responded to having clear deadlines, for example,” adds Worth.

In another example, Worth gave his design technology class students a brief to create a meal that could be sold in the school’s canteen. “The canteen manager and chef spoke to students to outline things like cost, logistics, packaging, nutrition, dietary requirements and food trends,” he explains.

Students made a variety of dishes for the canteen manager and chef to sample, and the best meal was served in the canteen for a week. This demonstrates how the overarching aims of the CP are also explored through DP subject curriculum.

As part of the CP at Greenfield, students complete three work placements. “After learning skills such as applying for a job, preparing a CV, understanding working environments, and customer relations, for example, they go into corporate environments during their placements and get the opportunity to practice the skills,” says Worth.

“Students also put together a portfolio of work and when they start going to job interviews they have evidence that they can do the job they’re being interviewed for. This also means students can talk truthfully and passionately about their work.”

Alina completed work experience with a local interior design company during the CP. They were so impressed with her work that they offered her an internship and support during her degree studies. She now works there part-time while studying for her Masters degree.

Light bulb moments

Once students have figured out what they want to do for a career, helping them reach their goal is the next challenge.

South Lakes High School hosts a variety of activities to help CP students figure out what their next career move might be, such as career fairs and  personality tests, which produce a list of potential job options. These can also help students decide which roles are best suited to their skills and interests.

“Regardless of whether a student ultimately pursues their chosen career field, what they learn should be applicable to all areas: work ethic, problem-solving skills in a real-world setting, the importance of teamwork and client service to the success of a workplace,” Brownsword says.

South Lakes High School CP graduate Scott Waters joined the programme because he was considering going onto culinary schools. But, while he loved the experience of this course, he discovered he didn’t want to pursue it as a career. He says he’s glad he discovered this early on.

Scott says he learnt many invaluable lifelong skills. “I developed a strong work ethic and the ability to manage my tasks without feeling overwhelmed. I enhanced skills like creativity, patience and leadership.”

“Of course every student does group projects throughout their school career, but until I took culinary arts I had not understood the importance of being able to work with others, particularly when personalities may not align.  To get things done in a commercial kitchen – and in the real world – everyone must rely on their co-workers to accomplish critical tasks,” he adds.

While education should have a balance between career-related and academic learning, too much of the latter can isolate many students and prevent them from pursuing goals, believes Brownsword.

But it’s important to prioritize best practices that would apply to any future career, she says: “I think it is every teacher’s responsibility to teach not only the content in their course but to challenge students to develop critical thinking skills.”

“I’ve seen a number of students who feel they are finally taking a course that has practical value; there’s that ‘light bulb moment’ when they figure out what they want to study in college or pursue as a career,” she adds.

Scott is currently completing his first year at college. He says: “Thanks to my experiences exploring career studies during the CP, I understand the value of an open mind and have the confidence to know I will succeed in whatever I choose to do.”