Austin Aspires: Creating environments to find the answers

Published 8:43 am Wednesday, February 20, 2019

By Jayne Gibson

Executive Director, Austin Aspires

“Who you are tomorrow begins with what you do today.”  — Tim Fargo

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Although harder for some to admit than others, no one has all of the answers; not even teenagers.

This is especially true when a teenager is asked, “what do you want to do when you grow up?”

Jayne Gibson, Executive Director, Austin Aspires

It is not uncommon to meet successful middle-aged adults that don’t have the answer to that question, yet we somehow expect 17- and 18-year-olds to make life-impacting decisions with confidence.

We can’t give high school students all of the answers, but we can create environments in which they can explore and learn more about who they are as individuals and what they may want in the future. A job shadow experience does just that. Job shadowing allows students to see first hand what tasks are required of a certain position. It allows students to interact with professionals in selected careers. Job shadowing provides an authentic learning experience that cannot be easily replicated in the classroom.

Each year Austin Aspires partners with local businesses to provide a job shadow opportunity for about 100 students from Pacelli High School and Austin High School. Hosts are encouraged to share information about their career as it relates to educational requirements, expected changes to the field, and challenges and rewards of chosen profession.

What are the students learning during this experience? Students who participated most recently in the job shadow experience reported key learnings including, “a four-year degree is not required to do this”, “there are more types of jobs in this field than I thought”, and “communication is important”. This is essential for all students to understand as they navigate their way through high school and into the post-high school world that awaits them.

One communication claims that the top careers for 2020 and beyond include things like solar energy technicians, block chain developer, home health aides, application software developers, and commercial drone pilots. Jobs that do not formally exist yet but are expected to become common place include titles such as organizational disrupter and urban security coordinator.

Our students can’t be limited by what we know, as their future is not limited to what our world is today. It is important for our children to understand that they have options, that there is no one definition for success. Likewise, there is no one path to success.

A huge thank you to the number of Austin businesses that hosted students this winter in meaningful learning experiences. You truly do make a difference in the lives of our children, and the future of our community!

If you have any questions, please call Jayne Gibson at Austin Aspires at 507-437-0920.