Understanding the world of work

It is never too early to begin observing the adult world. The adult world involves a number of interrelated life roles. As an adult, each of us acts as an individual, a learner, a producer, a consumer, a family member, and a citizen. Understanding the world of work is important for preparing for all of these life roles. It is critical to formulating a career plan.

Understanding the world of work follows closely with the stages of career development. First, your children need to be aware of it. Later, they explore it through investigation and experience, relating it to their own interests, values, skills, and plans. Once they become participants in the world of work, they continue to keep informed in order to actively manage their careers. As a parent, understanding the world of work supports your children, but it also helps you in your own career development.

Experiencing the world of work

Experiencing the world of work may begin as early as middle school, but it will certainly continue well into your children's first jobs. There are many ways for your children to "try on" careers fields and occupations from middle school through college. During college, service learning, part-time work, summer work, and internships all offer the chance to see how a field fits. During middle and high school years, you can:

What are career-related learning experiences?

Career-related learning experiences link school with work. They are activities that take place in the community, in workplaces, or in the school building to connect classroom learning with the "real" world. These experiences help students answer the question, "Why do I have to learn that?" They also provide opportunities to demonstrate communication, problem solving, teamwork, and other skills in real situations. They also help develop awareness of career opportunities.

Career-related learning experiences take a wide variety of forms. Some schools build them into class work. Others include them with a community service requirement. Still others may make them part of a senior project.

All forms of career-related learning experiences have common characteristics - they are structured around your student's education plan and grounded in real-world problems. The experiences provide the opportunity to use the skills and knowledge learned in the classroom to tackle complex questions and carry out independent investigations. Students receive ongoing coaching and expert advice from a supervisor or mentor.

There are four broad categories of career-Related learning experiences. These are described below:

Work-Based Learning
In work-based learning, students apply their knowledge and skills at a job. They gain an understanding of workplace expectations and develop some work-related skills. This type of learning usually takes the form of a work experience (sometimes for pay) or an internship. A written training agreement covers what a student intends to learn and demonstrate in the experience. It also covers what an employer intends to provide. Some examples of work-based experiences include:

Service Learning
In service-learning experiences, students take part in organized community projects. They use classroom and career-related knowledge and skills to design and work in the community service projects. Service-learning projects meet actual community needs by working in partnership with community organizations. Students in service learning may apply any of the work-based learning options, such as mentorship or internship.

Field-Based Investigations
In field-based investigations, students participate in fieldwork. They work with business and community experts in a field of study. Students receive guidance to develop solutions to real-world problems. They may work with others as part of a group project or independently. Students in field-based investigations may apply any of the work-based learning options, such as mentorship or internship.

School-Based Learning
In school-based learning, students manage business enterprises, projects, or other activities at school. This may involve publishing the school newspaper or yearbook or student leadership activities. Other examples of school-based learning include:

Technology-Based Learning
Students use video conferencing, the Internet, and e-mail to complete project work. They receive guidance from community mentors, employers, and partners in community organizations. Technology-based learning may be part of a student's work-based, field-based, or school-based experiences.