It’s a new day in higher education. No longer is a four-year degree the only ticket to a lifelong, successful career. While universities remain a desirable path for many students, they are not the only option that will lead to career advancement.
A rising demand for high-tech, high-skill positions has changed the face of post-secondary education and created a skills gap crisis across many industries. Employers are struggling to fill many skills-based positions such as radiologic technicians, certified medical assistants, and computer-network support specialists. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that within the next decade, tech-based jobs will increase from 3.9 million to about 4.4 million. Much of this projected growth is the result of a greater focus on “the Internet of things,” from cloud to mobile computing and other net-based demands, with computer and information technology occupations growing 12 percent during 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations.
College Planning: A Shifting Paradigm
According to the U.S. Department of Education, college tuition over the past three decades has increased by more than 250 percent, outpacing inflation for nearly all consumer items, including the cost of healthcare in the United States. For those unable to afford the cost of a four-year college education, about $100 billion a year is borrowed through private and public loan programs, stretching many family budgets to the breaking point.
While obtaining a four-year college degree is still highly desirable, some career planning experts are touting alternative education pathways that do not neccesarily require huge outlays for tuition. Many well-paying career choices are acheivable at all educational levels, including trade schools, community colleges and technical colleges. These career paths should not be overlooked, say educators, in an increasingly high-tech world. For example, immersive code school “boot camps” are popping up all over the country to help meet employment demand for computer programmers. (https://theironyard.com/). Median salaries for many IT careers, such as computer network are above the $100,000 mark. (Link: http://www.usnews.com “Best Technology Jobs”).
It is in this backdrop of shifting economic realities that many students face enormous challenges to plan for their next steps after high school. With so much at stake, never has career planning been more important. Educators are embracing career exploration as part of the curriculum to help students understand the diverse career options that are available to them.
School districts across the country are adopting VirtualJobShadow.com to help bring career exploration into the classroom with a 21st century approach. (See Miami –Dade County Public Schools).
VirtualJobShadow.com Real Jobs; Real People; Real World
The VirtualJobShadow.com platform helps students discover hundreds of careers by providing real world insight into a broad variety of options that span the 16 career clusters. Students job shadow virtually by exploring insightful day-in-the life videos of diverse men and women at their actual workplaces. VirtualJobShadow.com allows students to experience employment realities while making academics relevant to career choice.
Our platform empowers students to know which educational path is needed for each career and helps them create a plan for their future. Many of the exciting career pathways students can explore do not require a four-year college degree, which makes VirtualJobShadow.com especially beneficial for CTE educators who must meet needs in college and career planning.
Our New Scholarship: Supporting Career and Technical Education
VirtualJobShadow.com emphasizes its commitment to support a wider array of career options through our annual Career Exploration Scholarship, awarding $1,000 to students who demonstrate determination to follow their desired career plan. Scholarship funds can be used to attend a trade school, two-year, or four-year institution.
“As a company, we’ve always supported Career and Technical Education,” explains Kim Celentano, CEO of VirtualJobShadow.com. “This scholarship is intended to align with our commitment to develop educational products that impact the direction of students’ lives in a positive way. We also believe that in an era of emphasis on student testing, there is a lack of attention to career exploration in general, meaning too many students labor their way through school with little direction or thought about what they want to do next.”
More Choices; More Rewards
Just as online learning provides options for students to enhance their academic studies, VirtualJobShadow.com opens new doors to explore career choices and discover rewarding occupations through interactive career planning. We support the belief that all students should find the career path that is right for them, and that escalating tuition shouldn’t inhibit them from reaching their higest potential.
Similar to grants, scholarships do not have to be repaid and are among the most desirable forms of financial aid. Private, merit-based scholarships can also enhance a resume, carry more prestige than a grant, and allows a student to pursue other educational options.
How the VirtualJobShadow.com Career Exploration Scholarship Works
An internal panel of judges will review and select winning recipients who submit a required essay about career planning and exploration. Scholarship funds are paid directly to the designated institution. Deadline for submission is May 1, 2017 with the award announcement scheduled for June 15. Scholarship details, including how to apply and eligibility, can be found at www.virtualjobshadow.com/resources/scholarship/.
“Our hope is that the Career Exploration Scholarship will help support those students who have developed a plan in terms of their chosen career, and ease the financial burden for them and their families,” says CEO Celentano.
VirtualJobShadow.com provides career exploration for K-12, post- secondary institutions and workforce development programs nationwide. It is used throughout the country for career readiness and planning in school districts, colleges, career centers and workforce agencies, offering an interactive, practical approach with multiple resources for work-based learning and career planning.
U.S. News & World Report, 02/01/16, “Rising Costs Bring New Focus on How Colleges Set Their Prices”
CNBC.com, 6/16/15. “Why College Costs are so High and Rising”
U.S. Department of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 02/17/15
U.S. News & World Report, 2017, “Best Technology Jobs”; www.educationconnection.com, (undated)
“How Will A Scholarship Help Achieve Your Education and Career Goals?” by S. Mahuran.