Students wandering school hallways still unsure what to be when they grow up now have clear directions for how to reach careers with plenty of opportunities and good pay.
A series of infographics on posters and flyers show them not only the jobs in high demand locally and median wages, but what courses to take in high school and which postsecondary schools have programs to take them further.
Blount Partnership Workforce Development Advisory Committees have brought employers and educators together to chart career pathways in recent years, but showing students and parents the opportunities is key.
The first set of infographics recently distributed to local public schools focus on five industry areas with high need in Blount County: manufacturing, health care, information technology, architecture and construction, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
They also focus primarily on jobs with annual wages above $35,000, an amount generally considered a living wage.
For example, a student interested in the construction industry can see that by earning a certificate or associate’s degree they can earn more than $40,000 a year as an electrician.
NS4ed specializes in pulling that data together, and Visual Voice helped produce the graphics. Funding for the project came from both the Blount Partnership and a state vocational education grant.
Danielle Tallent, NS4ed’s head of research and product design, said the new infographics show students “education with destinations,” how the classes they take today can lead to high value careers. “We like to be able to open that door and show them the destinations,” she said.
Employers and educators also hope the information helps parents understand their children don’t necessarily need to earn four-year degrees — and go into debt for it — in order to have great careers.
“We believe every student can do great things,” said Joseph Goins, founder of NS4ed, which works with schools throughout the country. The difficulty is students don’t know what they don’t know. These infographics try to make the connection between where they are today and where they can be.
“You’re never going to go wrong with anything in STEM,” he noted, a field with high wages and high projected job growth. In Blount County, for example, the infographic shows an estimated 100 annual openings for industrial engineers, who can earn nearly $80,000 with bachelor’s degrees.
Health care is another high-demand area. In this region the demand for licensed practical nurses is estimated at 350 a year, with a median wage of nearly $40,000 for a position with an associate’s degree.
The demand for registered nurses is more than 600, with a median wage of nearly $60,000.
With the number of high-value jobs requiring only a certification or associate’s degree, he said, “If I’m willing to commit 18 months of my life, it opens a whole world of possibility to me.”
Often the first job leads further. For example, Goins said, one program for emergency medical technicians in Arizona found 80% of its graduates continue to medical school. The first step often is igniting a spark of interest in a student.
When students begin a career path in high school, they also can discover whether it’s a good fit without taking on the debt that often accompanies four or more years of college.
Goins said 40% of college graduates can’t get a job in the field they studied.
With the infographics, students see projected career openings right here at home.
Goins said the career pathways also play a part in equity, showing students from families with lower socioeconomic status careers they may not encounter in their circles.
Blount County Schools is distributing the information not only throughout high schools but in middle and elementary schools too, where parents may see it during family engagement nights. “With the economy the way it is, it’s not only helping the students but families,” said Alisa Teffeteller, BCS supervisor of federal programs and career and technical education.