The State of California, through its 10-Year CTE Continuum mandate, requires that students in grades 5 through 14 be provided with career guidance and exploration resources. For the Riverside Unified School District (RUSD) this was not extensive enough.
“Why would we start in grade 5 and act like K-4 aren’t important?” asks RUSD CTE Coordinator Ron Weston when speaking to VirtualJobShadow.com. “Getting kids to figure out what they’re good at and like doing, then connecting those careers and classes and letting that change over time is part of the process. Starting later misses a rich discussion early on.”
RUSD needed younger grades to begin exploring career opportunities beyond just career days held once or twice a year. Without continued engagement, the children’s new hopes and dreams for their future were quickly forgotten, lost in the moment to moment barrage of information competing for their attention.
But the need to expand career guidance went beyond granting resource access to grades K-4. There was an entire swath of students within the already represented grades of 5-14 that were underserved according to Weston.
“College-bound students need career exploration too. So do the students who are still figuring their path out.” Weston says. “ If we were only to give career exploration to our CTE students, then we’re missing out on a whole group of students.”
Yet for RUSD’s CTE Continuum expansion to be successful, they wanted to go even further. They felt compelled to address the ubiquitous student questions like “Why am I learning math?” and “Why is learning to write well important?”
What RUSD needed was to give their students something just as crucial as access to resources. They were committed to teaching them context. “For students to understand the curriculum they’re getting from core classes, there needs to be a connection made that shows the relevance of the information,” RUSD CTE Liaison Nick Mugridge says.
With their three main concerns identified -expansion to younger grades; a focus on providing resources to all students, not only the CTE students; and context within the curriculum- RUSD went looking for help.
What they found in VirtualJobShadow.com was a partner that not only could provide that help with their three main needs, but also make certain the district fulfills the mandate of career guidance to the two higher education grades of 13 and 14.
In addition, to serve K-5 students, VJS Junior was a natural fit to exceed their district goals. With VJS Junior, students can learn independently or be directed by teachers through a wide variety of Career Cluster lessons, all of which are differentiated for appropriate age groups: K-1, 2-3, and 4-5. VJS Junior also provides accessibility for students with special needs or that learn at a different pace. Filled with interactive, multimedia lessons, videos, and activities, VJS Junior is designed to reinforce learning while teaching children there are many career paths they can take.
VirtualJobShadow.com is so expansive that it is no problem for RUSD to offer career guidance to every middle school and high school student regardless of whether they plan to enter directly into the offered CTE programs, are college-bound, or haven’t yet decided which direction they want to go. VirtualJobShadow.com provides the critical tools students need to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful in today’s technology-driven economy.
RUSD has taken a cross-curricular approach and integrated VirtualJobShadow.com’s career lessons into history, science, and other academic subjects. This provides students the context to understand how the lessons they learn are related to the multitude of careers waiting for them after they have finished their schooling. Going one step further, VirtualJobShadow.com offers an all-in-one career-planning platform that will help students align their majors with their desired careers. Thus, making sure RUSD completely fulfills the state mandate and their promise of support to their students.
With VirtualJobShadow.com’s expertise behind them, RUSD was able to build their 15-Year CTE Continuum around the “Three E’s”: Explore, Engage, and Experience.
“Students in kindergarten can explore,” says Weston. “Then [starting] in third grade, it’s a little more focused. When they’re in high school, even if they’re already in a CTE program, they should be doing some type of career exploration because interests change over time.”
To promote career awareness, Weston says high school CTE educators now go into middle schools to showcase career opportunities tied to CTE pathways. They use
VirtualJobShadow.com as a resource to establish real-life context during beginning of semester introductions. In addition, RUSD’s Career Support Specialist Jenna King has fully integrated VJS Junior into the district’s thirty elementary schools. These united efforts provide a district-wide approach that prepares every student for future success.
“We need students to be career ready. Period,” says Mugridge.
"We made the conscious decision to ensure VirtualJobShadow.com was available to all students in the district," Weston says. "We've really tried to make sure our teachers understand that VirtualJobShadow.com can connect students to their careers."
With 42,000 students spread across 50 schools, RUSD’s choice to utilize VirtualJobShadow.com’s vast array of career resources ensures that every single student will be able to Explore, Engage, and Experience their full potentials.
Utilizing VirtualJobShadow.com’s continued support, Riverside Unified School District’s goal of keeping students engaged not just during their schooling, but far into their future careers, is realistic and fully achievable.