School Views: Preparing Eagle County students for what comes next

Shannon Grant
School Views
Shannon Grant
Courtesy photo

Eagle County School District has strategically expanded its Postsecondary Learning and Career Readiness department in recent years in order to provide career exploration opportunities for its students, both during their high school years and beyond. This comprehensive district initiative encompasses a diverse range of programs, including select internship opportunities (both paid and unpaid), apprenticeships, and job shadows, with the goal of providing students with opportunities to explore a variety of careers and equip them with the knowledge and skills to pursue their college and career aspirations.

Within this framework, Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley High Schools are staffed by dedicated career placement professionals whose primary responsibility is to guide students in discerning their interests, establishing goals, and arranging job shadowing experiences. These experiences serve as a bridge connecting students with actual professionals and employers in our local community, giving them the opportunity to seek answers to their questions and immerse themselves in potential careers of interest.

Ms. Ellen, based at Eagle Valley High School, and Ms. Fuentes, stationed at Battle Mountain High School, are instrumental in forging these connections for students, both within the school environment and in our broader community. In addition, the district harnesses the power of Xello, a comprehensive college and career readiness platform, to empower students in the exploration of their skill sets, interests, learning styles, and personality traits. Through Xello, students identify career paths of interest and learn the necessary steps for their attainment. This process provides students with concrete information that they can discuss with their counselors and families, fostering informed decision-making.

Beyond job shadowing, juniors and seniors may enroll in CareerX (or career exploration). This semester-long internship program matches students with employers so they gain real-world experience and understand what a job in a particular career field entails. Internship experiences earn high school credit and some internships are paid. Students in CareerX average 4-6 hours per week at their internship per semester.

The district also collaborates with Vail Valley Partnership to match students with apprenticeships. Beginning the spring semester of their junior year, students apply and interview for apprenticeships through CareerWise. Apprentices work full-time the summer before their senior year and commit to working an average of 6-9 hours per week throughout their 12th-grade year. After graduation, CareerWise students are guaranteed full-time employment for the next year. In addition to being given a chance to work with and learn from industry professionals in our community, apprenticeships are paid, in some instances, more than $20 an hour.

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These programs have grown exponentially since their inception. CareerX started eight years ago with four students in the program. This year, there are 49 students connected with internships.

Internships are offered in a variety of fields and businesses, including plumbing, baking, equine care, orthopedic medicine, public relations, and more. CareerWise is in its sixth cohort and has grown from five to 22 apprentices placed this year. Our student apprentices can be found working at Vail Health, Gallegos Corp., The Ritz-Carlton, right here with us at Eagle County School District, and many other supportive business partners around the valley.

Eagle County School District also supports students who are already employed. Juniors and seniors who have jobs can submit their hours and receive elective credit. There are currently 168 students who work a minimum of 90 hours over the course of the semester while attending high school.

This year, Eagle County School District is excited to offer a Career Development class. Made possible by the Eagle County Collaborative for Career Pathways, this class allows students to earn industry certificates in their field of interest. There are 27 students working toward industry certificates in Project Management, Entrepreneurship and Small Business, Adobe, and FirstAid/CPR.

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Eagle County School District strives to create global-ready graduates. Our Postsecondary Learning and Career Readiness department is a prime example of how we take steps to do just that. Helping our students explore various careers prepares them for whatever path they choose after high school. We consider ourselves fortunate to have so many amazing community partnerships that help us facilitate this important work.

Shannon Grant is the director of Postsecondary Learning and Career Readiness for Eagle County School District.

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