A Career Coordinator’s Perspective on CAEL’s Career Pathways Platform
by Carlo Bertolini on Feb 07, 2024
Shana Bloom is the career coordinator at Scituate High School. From that vantage point, she's been a veteran of countless forays into education and employment pathways. Just like the students at the center of them, no two are alike. So as Bloom piloted Exponential Pathways at the high school, the platform's ability to personalize information for students repeatedly stood out.
"The Information Age is great," said Bloom, who is also a licensed mental health
counselor. "But there are days I think everybody feels like they're drowning in content."
That can pose a paralyzing plethora of postsecondary choices for students who are still developing a sense of their own competencies and interests. "There's just so much out there, they're not really sure how it relates to them individually," said Bloom. "Anything that we can do to personalize it really helps them to feel a little more grounded in their decision making."
XP's ability to individualize the career navigation process starts, perhaps unsurprisingly, with individuals. By helping students inventory their skills and interests and compare them to pathways that do (or don't) incorporate them, XP clarifies difficult decisions and builds confidence in making them, said Bloom.
With countless crossroads along such pathways, counselors must connect complex information from many different resources to ensure students are making informed choices. XP makes that process a lot smoother, breaking down long-ranging decisions into "bite-sized" servings, said Bloom, "XP synthesizes information and different jargon so students are able to say, 'This is what I want, this is what was charted out in XP.' And that can be really helpful to a guidance counselor looking at college or career opportunities."
Both were in abundance at the pilot’s culminating field trip to the 114-acre, Pomfret, Connecticut New England Laborers' Training Academy campus. With activities attuned to the assessments the students had earlier completed on the platform, the all-day event provided a hands-on continuation of the personalized pathways students had begun building in XP.
Integrating LIUNA New England’s extensive training curricula into the Scituate pilot's pathway navigation content was an example of how XP can benefit diverse workforce partners, said Bloom. "The pilot and the experience at the Training Academy worked well; the students were able to see the careers that they had learned about during their inquiry."
Doing so, added Bloom, revealed XP’s potential to help support broader strategies for addressing labor shortages. "The union is interested in reaching a broad range of students by getting the word out about the advantages of working in trades careers, while gaining solid, real-world experience with support from the union’s various programs."
With 20% of eligible students participating in the pilot, she hailed both XP and the field trip as strong successes -- not least for spurring what she describes as her favorite part of being a career coordinator: the epiphanies that happen when students receive a fuller awareness of how their inner potential can translate to future success.
"There were students who said, 'I didn't even know these things existed. I didn't know an apprenticeship was an opportunity. I didn't know after high school, I could go into a field that I was interested in. I didn't know I could do it simultaneously, while wanting to go to college and earning money for my family,' said Bloom. "There were definitely moments when students were really interested in the trades and about how to take next steps in their careers. That's why I love what I do. I get to be in the front row for moments like these."
There look to be more momentous moments ahead for the pilot participants. Bloom engages regularly with LIUNA New England, which has now added 40 highly engaged students to its pool of prospective members. She will be sure to maintain her front-row seat as they follow their initial steps on pathways that can lead to success in the skilled trades, college, or both.