It’s never too early for students to start thinking about their futures. Imagining life as an adult helps kids visualize their path forward. Introducing local industries to your elementary and middle school students is a proven strategy to help young learners explore their career options.
Local businesses provide a real world introduction to big dreams. Exploring future jobs also helps students put their career and technical education (CTE) in context. Bring your CTE offerings to life with these three ways to introduce the local industry to students.
Field Trips and Tours
Field trips are a classic way to boost student engagement. Students love the special opportunity to explore a new environment and visiting local businesses helps young learners see 21st century knowledge, skills, and behaviors in action. Plus, teachers can refer back to the field trip during future CTE lessons.
What type of industry makes for a good field trip? Your region’s largest employer is often a good starting point. Educators can also look for companies that connect to recent projects or units. Parent and community suggestions are also valuable.
Explore field trip ideas by grade level.
- K-2: Young children can be overwhelmed or bored by long tours. Hold their attention with short trips. Candy factories, ice creameries, behind-the-scenes visits to kid-friendly restaurants, and other delicious destinations will be a big hit at this age.
- 3-5: These students are growing up, but they’re still young at heart. Look for hands-on field trips where they can climb into vehicles, visit multiple facility floors, and get a glimpse of the technology that makes it all come together. Distribution centers, warehouses, amusement parks, fire stations, and similar destinations are a good start.
- 6-8: Consider trips that showcase technology in action. Communication centers, municipal facilities, logistics companies, airports, hospitals, and other industries use 21st century technology every day.
Invite community members to come to your school during career and technical education days. Most local businesses are happy to send someone to talk to your students on career days.
These events can be elaborate or informal, depending on your resources. You might create a conference-style career festival that features many visitors at once. Individual visits can also help students connect with the regional industry.
When students meet a local professional, it expands their concept of having a career. Students imagine themselves in new roles they might not have considered before the visit.
Here are some age-appropriate frameworks for career visits by grade level.
- K-2: Keep interactions friendly and low-key with one visitor at a time. Ask local businesses to visit individual classrooms, read a book relating to their industry, show fun pictures from work, and talk about what they do.
- 3-5: Older students will enjoy bigger presentations. Gather multiple classes or the entire grade to meet professionals in an assembly. Encourage businesses to send a video presentation for students to watch, then be ready for a Q&A session.
- 6-8: Give tweens and teens a real-world experience with a career fair. Invite businesses to set up a booth and give students the freedom to explore what interests them.
Long-term projects can create lasting ties between students and local businesses. The most rewarding shared projects promote educational goals while also introducing students to regional industries.
Once you’ve built a relationship with a local business, consider how you could work together in the long run. Collaborations require an investment from your school and your industry partner, but they deliver a positive impact on CTE goals.
There are many different types of collaborations and sponsorships to consider. Start by identifying what’s important to your students, school, and staff. Then look around your community to see which companies might share these values.
Explore the following collaboration ideas by grade level.
- K-2: Consider sponsorships for age-appropriate classroom technology for young children.
- 3-5: Look for companies to provide fun coding, science, and computer science enrichment opportunities.
- 6-8: Mentorship programs build personal connections between professionals and students, helping young learners see the direct impact of science and computer science skills in the real world.
Explore Local Industries With Your Students
Regional industries shape your schools. These businesses employ many of your student’s parents, drive the local economy, and often give back to the community. Many of your young learners will work for one of these companies as an adult.
You can prepare your students for the real world by introducing them to the local economy. Creating friendly, positive associations with area businesses expands student opportunities, encourages learning, and puts CTE lessons in context.
Explore your local industries alongside your students to discover what makes them great.
Check out our full collection of resources to learn more about how to collaborate and bring STEAM and STEM educational opportunities front and center for students.
Shaunda Douglas is a former educator with over 15 years of experience in all levels of education. In her free time, she reads, plays with her dogs, watches baseball, and loves a good nap.