My Kenan fellows team and I had an illuminating conversation about this very thing today. We all seemed to have come to this realization through our respective internships. Part of my intended experience at Novozymes was to work in the lab, work with research associates and work with engineers. However, it became much more diversified than that. And often, the recurring theme was that in the production process, people from all different backgrounds work collaboratively and have everything from a high school diploma or GED to postgraduate degree. At Novozymes, production technicians and engineers work together to produce the best and most effective product. There is an expectation that all levels of expertise are valued and respected. This does not operate in a hierarchy but in collaborative teams.
It is an important reminder that we should be encouraging students and helping them understand that career opportunities are diverse and have different levels of educational expectations. My own project has developed to expose students to that understanding. “Be the employee” was originally “Be the scientist”, but through discussions with my mentor, I came to see how they valued the roles that were played within the company, all playing an important part in the bigger picture.
As a teacher, this is invaluable. Why do we push and insist upon college readiness? Career readiness absolutely can translate to college readiness, and when done well, students can be prepared for both. But talent is not devalued by going through a trade school, by going to a technical school, by going to a community college. The fact is that many of these that have traveled this path are making more, sometimes far more, than those that have attended college for four years and more.
Over the last few years, my coaching with teachers has transitioned more to career skills through learning STEM. But more and more I understand that this means also to encourage students to consider technical fields and to help prepare them for that future.