Panel members Sarah Fotty and Cheryl Dezall examine a portfolio presented by student Gina Fuengeling at David Thompson High School in Clearwater County. Community members are big contributors to the program. (Contributed photo).

Central Alberta school has been preparing students for the ‘real world’ since Grade 8

David Thompson High School is ahead of the curve in career prep

A new government report is calling for more career education in schools — but at least one central Alberta school is ahead of the curve.

Twenty-five graduating student at the David Thompson High School in Clearwater County conducted panel interviews and presented portfolios on Thursday, showing all they have learned since Grade 10.

This wasn’t a voluntary exercise. Principal Miles Trieber said, “If they want to walk the stage at graduation, they have to present a portfolio.”

He admitted some students ask, “‘Why do I have to do this? It’s not part of the core curriculum’…

“I tell them: ‘It’s the most important class you will take.’”

Trieber said it helps students hone public speaking, presentation and interviewing skills, learn to access resources, and apply for post-secondary studies and scholarships.

For many David Thompson students, career education started back in Grade 8.

The goal is to get middle school students thinking about what vocations interest them, and what skills they have and would need to expand on in future, said Norma Thompson, a retired teacher who’s now a career counsellor at the school.

In Grade 9, students give a This is Me slide presentation, listing their own learning styles, abilities and interests.

Thompson said, “It’s a struggle for a lot of kids to learn to talk about themselves… but when they’re done (the presentation), they are so happy…”

Grade 10 students learn about job preparation, leadership and volunteerism. They attend career expos. By Grade 11, there are career planning and life management courses.

Grade 12 students learn how to put together a portfolio, write a financial plan and scholarship essay, ask for references, set goals, and apply for post-secondary education — either at university or trades school.

Thompson said not everyone jumps into post-secondary studies. Some teens will use their skills to try to line up jobs. But the lessons learned about applying for post-secondary will be just as valuable if they decide to go back at age 25 or at 40, she added.

Trieber said career planning has been a focus at his school, in the Wild Rose School Division, for at least the past 11 years. “I am a big supporter of it…

“Planning for the future gives kids hope,” said the principal, who feels this is especially important at a time when many students are stressing about technological changes in the job market.

Thompson noted the same interview and presentation skills apply whatever jobs the students applying for.

“We have (former students) coming back all the time for guidance…”

More career education was one of the recommendations from a government advisory panel tasked with modernizing school curriculum, and Thompson feels this should be made part of the provincial curriculum.

Among some other review highlights are the need for schools to address financial literacy, wellness and goal-setting, the implementation of assessment tools to evaluate literacy and numeracy in grades 1 to 5, and ensuring Indigenous learning continues to be reflected.

Albertans can weigh in on the report’s findings through an online survey by Feb. 24. The panel’s full report can be found online at>vision-for-student-learning-engagement.

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