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What’s the Plan? A Roadmap for New High School Grads

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College is not for everyone, but that doesn’t mean those who skip it don’t get a bright future. There are plenty of resources to help.

High school graduates don’t have to go to college and don’t have to know what they want to do, but “everybody has to have a plan,” says Juliet Murawski, director of the Delaware Higher Education Office of the Department of Education. “Students have to self-advocate. Sometimes you have to be the squeaky wheel.”

First, new graduates should figure out who they are, what they like and what they don’t. In short, they should ask some questions.

“Talk to people doing something you find interesting,” says Paul Herdman, president and CEO of Redel. “See how they got on their career path.”

“Explore the world of work, ”recommends Jonathan Wickert, director of postsecondary programs with the Delaware Department of Education. Even before graduation, a part-time or summer job can give people information about what they do and don’t like to do. He recommends looking atInternDelaware.com for opportunities to “test” different careers.

Jobs For Delaware Graduates (JDG) is another organization that provides work experience for Delaware students and graduates(JobsDEGrads.org). JDG gives students a closer look at several traditional and non-traditional fields and offers individualized services to out-of-school youth, ages 16-21 years old, from Kent and Sussex counties.JDG participants connect with professionals in the field, enjoy on-site demonstrations from industry leaders, and learn more about the transition to adulthood and the workforce.

Take Tours, Ask Questions

Another hands-on opportunity is the on-the-job training through the many apprenticeship programs offered in Delaware.

“Do our tour, check the curriculum, ask questions,” says Michael Hague, industrial training director for Sussex Tech Adult Education. Sussex Tech and its sister schools, Kent County’s POLYTECH Adult Education and New Castle County Vocational Technical School District’s Adult Education Division, offer introduction classes to let people try different skills — everything from auto mechanic to welding and hair cutting to healthcare. Even before graduation, high school seniors can visit Hague’s program to rotate through the different shops.

Staff at the adult vocational schools can help students find jobs where they will be paid to apprentice while learning a trade.

“We can get you into a job in one semester,” says Jeremy McEntire, assistant director for adult education for POLYTECH Adult Education near Dover.

Try These Helpful Online Resources

Not sure about a hands-on trade? Want some other options? The Delaware Department of Labor has resources to help. The first is the Delaware Career Compass (Labor.Delaware.gov/divisions/oolmi/publications/delaware-career-compass), an online publication that asks questions to help students figure out who they are and then what they might want to do. The Department of Labor also offers help through its website DelawareWorks.com, where job seekers can explore career/skill matching information and even take assessments to help figure out interests.

The Delaware Student Success website(DelawareStudentSuccess.org) sponsored by the Delaware Department of Education is another option. It lets you explore material on different careers and figure out next steps. The site also provides information about joining the military and what the different branches offer. A webinar video (DelawareStudentSuccess.org/join-military-1) showcases interviews with recruiters from different branches as a starting place.

But don’t be surprised if a career path leads to more school, says Herdman. “National data shows that 60% of jobs require some education beyond high school.” That could be certification, skill or apprenticeship training.

Delaware Technical Community College offers certification and associate degrees in 14 different healthcare programs, tech training for trade skills, information technology, and business and education courses leading to professions in customer service, banking, law and child care.

The online catalogue found at DTCC.edu/continuing-education is a good place to start, says Paul Morris, associate vice president for workforce development and community education.

Those programs are covered by funds from the expanded Delaware SEED (Student Excellence Equals Degree) scholarship, which can cover costs for an associate’s degree, diploma, credit certificate, bachelor’s degree or workforce training program, says Morris.

“Get out there,” says Herdman. “The good thing is there are a lot of options out there for young people.

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