Counseling should focus on college AND career opportunities

This blog is written by State Representative Brett Roberts. Roberts is serving his second term representing Michigan’s 65th House District. He is a sixth-generation farmer, and is a lifelong resident of Charlotte in Eaton County.

The state Department of Education sets a requirement that all school counselors have 150 hours of professional development over the course of five years to remain certified to work with K-12 students. That’s a strong standard, but it’s not specific enough.

With the expansion of career opportunities in Michigan, education needs to be more diversified and step away from the “one size fits all” concept it has become over the past 30 years. That’s why I authored legislation to update the professional development guidelines, stipulating 25 of the 150 hours be dedicated to career and technical education (like skilled trades) and 25 hours for college preparation.

In early November, Gov. Rick Snyder agreed with the legislation and signed it into law.

The path from introduction of the bill to the governor’s signature illustrated the importance of counselors being exposed to more career platforms. Parents and students look to these education professionals for insight and direction for what to do after high school, such as suggesting colleges or the educational guidelines for a specific career. But what if the student shows an interest and ability in a career that doesn’t require college?

Too often, counselors may not know where to go from there. In fact, during testimony before a House committee, the Michigan Association for College Admission Counseling noted that many high school counselors felt unprepared to advise students in career and college selection. Many students and parents surveyed felt that they are receiving inadequate help and planning from their high school guidance professionals. 

Counselors face challenges because the changing local job market, along with the evolving college selection and financial aid process, makes it difficult for them to stay current and informed. We cannot accept that reality. Instead, we should seek to update the standards to help counselors diversify their education to become more knowledgeable about the opportunities for students.

Kids who are preparing for the professional world need to know that there are plenty of different options available to them. There are thousands of career opportunities in Michigan’s skilled trade industries. These careers pay well and allow recent graduates to kickstart their professional lives right out of high school. This law will give students better knowledge to take advantage of opportunities like these.

Colleges are no different, and now 15 state-funded institutions provide their own programs to match interest with demand.

From the beginning, Michigan College Access Network supported this legislation because giving students more options for life after high school will give them a better chance to succeed. When counselors know more about different postgraduate opportunities, then students and families will know more as well. Success in life is more about multiple choices available to us in Michigan, not one size fits all.

 

Author: Michigan State Representative Brett Roberts
Posted: Dec. 13, 2017

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