Providing Students Real-World Experiences

When students enter the workforce after college, many of them are not as prepared as they think they are. In fact, a study from the Association of American Colleges and Universities found that, while roughly 70 percent of college students assume they have the critical thinking skills they need to be successful in their careers, employers’ responses showed that less than one-third of these graduates are actually equipped for the real world.

In an article they wrote for Forbes, Dean of the New York Institute of Technology Office of Career Services John Hyde and his assistant, Amy Bravo, stressed that colleges should be more responsible for helping to ensure that students are aptly developed enough in terms of career readiness to secure long-term employment in an increasingly competitive market. However, some high schools are taking the initiative to help students properly prepare for the real-world opportunities ahead of them.

Fairmont Preparatory Academy marketing teacher Sara Brown, who worked in the corporate setting for eight years, makes extra efforts to bring in guest speakers and create assignments that resemble actual workforce scenarios in hopes that her students will remember the activities and information presented by the speakers because of the increased levels of interest these situations create.

“They’re going to retain the information from the memories that they get—working with their partners and teammates and learning from other people,” Ms. Brown said. “I know from personal experience what they’re going to need, and I try my best to take the textbook and make it as fun and engaging and as real as I can.”

The strategy seems to be working and helping Fairmont Prep marketing students further ready themselves for college and their future careers. Sophomore Alessandro Furlong said that he has gained insight into how the corporate world works, which not only increases the likelihood that he will not be surprised by the expectations and standards in any future jobs he obtains but also has allowed him to have in-depth conversations with his father and his own business.

“I’m able to have discussions with him and understand more about his business, and I see him as who I want to be in the future,” Furlong said.

Ms. Brown also encourages her students to apply for internships, especially between their sophomore and junior years of high school, when they often have more availability. Taking part in these WHAT furthers students’ real-world experiences and helps them get better pictures of what to expect once they do enter the workforce.

“Having internships opens their eyes and helps them to connect the dots to what they learned in the classroom,” Ms. Brown said. “Maybe some of that business terminology comes up in meetings that they’re in or some of the things they learn in the class or from the projects they’ve done are reflected in what they’re doing in those internships.”

Hyde and Bravo also emphasize the need for college-level curricula to “better simulate real-world working conditions,” another concern that is already being addressed at the high school level in Fairmont Prep’s marketing class.

“It provides another example to how what we’re learning can be seen in the real world and how we’re going to see it again in our future,” sophomore Bikram Sawhney said. “it gives us an opportunity to try out something now, when we may have less risk, as to seeing it in our future, when it may be more impactful.”

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