Free online resource helps students discover how interests match with career options

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NebraskaCareerConnections.org puts students on pathway to success in career and college

Here’s a question for parents of middle school and high school students: Do you know what your son or daughter wants to do for a living? If your child’s school is using NebaskaCareerConnections.org, you may be able to confidently answer “yes” to that question.

NebaskaCareerConnections.org is a free, online resource for students to explore a wide variety of career options that match their talents, interests and skills. This powerful tool also outlines educational pathways—in both high school and college—that can lead to a successful career in one’s chosen field. The site also offers online assessments that help students better define their interests, skills and work values—all in an effort to help them choose the right classes in high school that can lead to a more focused college experience and eventually, a satisfying career. More focus in college can translate into real dollar savings on tuition because the right courses are taken at the right time—leading to on-time graduation.

Albert Varas with Building Bright Futures leads a group of Omaha Bryan students through NebraskaCareerConnections.org, the free online resource that helps students discover the wide range of career options available and the educational pathways toward them. Varas uses this website to help ensure that students are better prepared for postsecondary education. "I think it's very easy to navigate and find out characteristics about the jobs, the incomes and, most importantly, the educational pathway toward that career," he said. "It aligns and defines all of those elements in a very easy to use manner."

Albert Varas with Building Bright Futures leads a group of Omaha Bryan students through NebraskaCareerConnections.org, the free online resource that helps students discover the wide range of career options available and the educational pathways toward them.

Many Nebraska schools are using NebaskaCareerConnections.org to help students learn about careers—as early as late elementary or middle school. Is it reasonable to expect middle school students—12- to 14-year-olds—to start thinking about what they want to be when they grow up? “Absolutely!” says Becky Barner, Career Specialist with Mid-Plains Community College in North Platte. “We’re not asking them to make a concrete decision that we’re going to hold them to for the rest of their lives, but if they can narrow down their interests, it helps them make better, more informed choices regarding which classes they take in high school.”

Barner works with schools across an 18-county area in west central Nebraska, using NebaskaCareerConnections.org to help students conduct self-assessments of their interests and match those to potential career pathways.

Parental involvement makes the career exploration process even more meaningful and valuable. “We encourage students to take the results home and talk them over with their parents,” Barner said.

Parents can also explore the assessments and the website with their children, which can lead to some interesting and enlightening conversations at home. “I’ve had parents get really excited about that,” said Stephanie Carlson, business teacher at Cambridge Public Schools. “They will say ‘I had no idea my child was interested in that kind of career’—so they enjoy learning more about their child and that can really open up that line of communication.”

Carlson uses NebaskaCareerConnections.org in her 7th and 8th grade career education classes. “As a small school, we don’t have the resources to buy programs for this purpose—so having this free online tool is very valuable,” she said. “I love the assessments. They ask really good questions and are well rounded for all students.”

Determining possible career interests prior to entering high school can help improve the relevance and value of the high school experience for students. “A student with an interest in a specific career area can start taking related classes in high school right away to see if that is really what he or she wants to do,” Carlson added. “If they start in the senior year, it’s too late to explore other options if that career choice doesn’t work out for them.

Becky Barnes of Mid-Plains Community College uses the Career Clusters™ model while leading a career exploration class in Paxton. Career Clusters, in conjunction with NebraskaCareerConnections.org, help Nebraska students focus on career areas that best match their skills, interests and strengths. The goal is to help students make good choices in high school and college courses that can lead to success in their chosen career.

Becky Barnes of Mid-Plains Community College uses the Career Clusters™ model while leading a career exploration class in Paxton.

In high school, NebaskaCareerConnections.org is used to further define class selection, fine tune their career decision process and prepare for success in career and college following graduation. Having a more defined path can also save money on college tuition by helping students discover their passion at the high school level, rather than well into an expensive college education.

The Nebraska Department of Labor is a financial partner that supports NebaskaCareerConnections.org. Commissioner Catherine Lang says, “It has great resources that open doors for students—letting them see the breadth of opportunity that is out there. That’s why we have been a supporter of the site.”

NebaskaCareerConnections.org is valuable to Nebraska businesses as well as students and parents. Businesses can add a profile of their organization on the site at no charge—sharing information on the types of careers available, so that students can learn more about the career opportunities available in the state. Businesses can also post job openings and review online resumés posted by high school, college students and graduates. NebraskaCareerConnections.org is a resource that is available to people throughout their lifetime as they consider a career change, a return to college or are seeking a new position.

Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) is also a major financial sponsor of NebaskaCareerConnections.org. NPPD supports NebaskaCareerConnections.org because they believe in its value for students, but also because it can have a direct effect on the future of NPPD.

“We have a presence across a wide area of the state including larger cities and rural communities—and like many businesses, we are seeing an aging of our workforce,” said Steve Hollinrake, Workforce Development Team Leader for NPPD. “We need to help young people understand the range of career opportunities available at NPPD—many of which are right in their hometowns. NebaskaCareerConnections.org helps us create a continuous, sustainable pipeline of potential employees for NPPD over the long term—and ensures that we have a talented, skilled workforce for years to come in the communities we serve.”

Becky Barner agrees. When a company such as NPPD posts information on NebaskaCareerConnections.org, it puts real opportunity in front of students. “Students can see that NPPD has a job opening right here, twenty minutes from their home—and they can learn exactly what they’d be doing in that job,” she said. “That just makes it real for them.”