While we can’t expect our first and second-graders to know exactly what they want out of their future career, career exploration for kids is great to start at any time. Learning about occupation options, new careers in VR and technology, and what aligns with their skills is a great way to empower learning and growth.
Students find themselves thrust into “the real world” between ages 18 and 22. Suddenly, they realize, they don’t really know what they want to be or who they want to be—and why didn’t anybody teach us how to do our taxes? It’s no surprise that nearly 70% of Americans feel less than satisfied with their career choices. They didn’t have the opportunity to use their education to explore all possibilities.
This is why career exploration for kids is important. As family members and educators, we can take the steps to show our kids an open world of opportunity, and how to find their place in it.
Introduction to Career Exploration for Kids
Career exploration for kids is exciting, because it hinges on two methods of career exploration:
- Exploring the careers that exist today
- Exploring the emerging careers that will exist in the future (ie. metaverse careers))
As educators, it’s imperative that we allow the space for our children to explore and develop the skills that might land them a career that hasn’t even been named yet!
There are four crucial steps to building career exploration for children:
The Awareness Stage in Career Exploration for Kids
Career awareness is the first, and likely most exciting part of career exploration for kids. At young ages, children have wild dreams that are completely untethered. As educators, we can help them keep these dreams intact while exploring how they are achievable.
In the awareness stage of young childhood, encourage students to ask and answer questions about their career aspirations.
For example, let’s say a young student aspires to become an astronaut.
Career Exploration Questions:
- Why do you want to become an astronaut?
- Who are some famous astronauts?
- What skills do you think you need to become an astronaut?
- What do you think would be the hardest part of being an astronaut?
- What other jobs can astronauts do?
- Do you know any other astronauts? What are they like?
From here, use resources like Kai XR’s virtual field trips to send your student to outer space or to experience a day in the life of an aerospace engineer that makes the spacecraft taking astronauts and satellites to space. With Kai XR, , they can navigate outer space and explore what it can feel like to be an actual astronaut—all while learning important skills. Through Kai XR’s virtual field trips, most students report an increase in their STEM/STEAM knowledge as they learn about engaging topics such as space exploration.
Research in Career Exploration for Kids
The next stage in career exploration for kids is research. This is an especially exciting stage for students ready to learn more about what it really means to work within their desired field.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the digital divide when speaking about developing career exploration programs for kids. The digital divide describes the inequality that can occur when digital and online resources are not readily available to all.
Digital Divide Issues Include:
- A lack of available educational opportunities for students
- Social isolation
- A loss of educational progress for learners
As many of tomorrow’s most lucrative careers will require digital literacy, educators and school can play a role in teaching students how to navigate online or virtual environments. Educators can use digital literacy lessons plans and XR digital tools to encourage their students to dive deeper into their careers of choice.
Examples of Virtual Reality Career Exploration:
- Going on a virtual field trip to explore different occupations with Kai XR
- Trying VR Career Experiences offered by Oculus
- Using AR to try CTE career pathways, such as welding
By encouraging our students to research what is needed to pursue their career path, we are teaching self-sufficiency and a goal-based disposition. This approach opens up a slew of 21st century skills like problem-solving,
The Evaluation Stage in Career Exploration for Kids
Evaluation is the step that involves the most introspective look at careers. Unlike the awareness phase, the evaluation phase is a deeper look at what it entails to pursue a certain career path.
- Apprenticeships or internships
- College majors or studies
- Volunteer work
- Skills or competencies
The evaluation phase might not come into play until students are closer to middle school or high school. This is a point in a student's career where they might be considering higher education and college majors.
According to ACTE Online’s Career Exploration in Middle School: Setting Students on the Path to Success, educators, schools, and families can help examine three important elements associated with their desired career path.
The three elements to become “career ready” are:
- Academic skills
- Employability skills
- Technical skills
Academic skills are the core pieces of academic knowledge students need to succeed. These core skills, especially in math and language arts, allow students to communicate, problem-solve, and reason in the workplace.
Employability skills are also described as the 21st century skills that are most critical to success in the workplace. These skills include creativity, problem-solving, communication, and collaboration. Without employability skills, a potential employee with even the strongest technical and academic skills could have a hard time staying at a job.
Finally, technical skills describe the job-specific knowledge one must possess to be successful in their chosen career. The technical skills needed will vary from job to job. Today, many jobs including understanding of new technologies like virtual reality, the metaverse, and AI.
For students interested in engineering careers or robotics, makerspaces—both physical makerspaces and digital makerspaces—are a great way to get “hands-on” experience with tinkering and engineering.
Kai XR Create is a digital makerspace designed for students looking for opportunities to create. Our kid-friendly platform includes a tutorial that teaches students the basics of creating in a virtual makerspace, which makes it easy for even the most novice beginner to jump in and get started with confidence.
The Learning Stage in Career Exploration for Kids
The learning stage never ends—and it differs depending on the stage of each student. For example, learning can include the mastery of skills needed to pursue metaverse careers in the future.
For educators, this translates to providing the resources needed for their students to understand and navigate the metaverse on their own.
The learning stage also includes another important element in education and in life. Students should always be learning about themselves. While one student might be entranced with trains and engineering for five years of their childhood, that interest could easily shift into an entirely different field.
Allowing students to explore their interests, skills, strengths, and weaknesses is one of the the best ways to explore their future careers.
How Educators Can Help Their Students With Career Exploration
Introducing a new and innovative ways to learn is a way to get students excited about new jobs.
Educators can use a variety of tech tools for the classroom to create and teach lesson plans that are accessible for all types of learners.
Tech Tools for the Classroom Include:
- Bluetooth devices/Interactive Displays
VR-focused lessons, like Kai XR’s virtual field trips, create a fully-immersive learning experience.
Learners exploring the Great Pyramids of Giza can see and feel themselves as archaeologists. A 360-degree VR experience in outer space might inspire the aspiring scientists and engineers to dive further into their field after a “hands-on” experience on a virtual field trip.
How Families Can Help Their Kids With Career Exploration
Parents and family members can also play a huge role in empowering young students to explore career options as they navigate their education.
A few ways to explore career options for kids at home include:
- Reading about different careers
- Identifying key strengths and weaknesses
- Connecting them with individuals working in that field
- Encouraging lifelong learning
Families can also help by encouraging their own kids to engage in activities outside of school and even in their own homes. Parents who recognize a child with an interest in STEM or STEAM can create in-home makerspaces to encourage their young learners to tinker and learn through play.
Students interested in gaming and video games can explore emerging metaverse careers by learning how to design their own games or expand their storytelling skills.
Most importantly, family members should keep a judgment-free, open-minded approach to the early (and changing) career aspirations from their young learners.
Instead of communicating potential roadblocks for more difficult career options, ask pointed questions to help them explore how to reach their career goals. This kind of questioning provides a growth mindset that allows your student to develop the confidence and drive to achieve their goals.
How to Continue Career Exploration for Kids
One key to exploring career options with middle schoolers is to separate pressure from exploration. To do so, you can eliminate pressure from career exploration by exploring what students already have in their toolbox.
Instead of asking your students what they want to be when they grow up, ask them questions about their favorite hobbies:
- What do you find so interesting about your hobby?
- Does your hobby allow you to relax or engage your brain?
- What kind of problems do you like to solve?
- What is special and unique about them?
Once students identify their hobbies, they can dive deeper into the skills they have mastered to engage in their hobby. From there, educators can find other applications for these skills that have more career-ready advantages.
Explore 21st Century Skills
These kinds of conversations allow students to explore careers they might not have considered before. By having a “skills-first” career discussion with your classroom, students can identify the 21st century skills they possess.
Ask students about experiences they have had, in the classroom or at home, where they used 21st century skills to solve problems.
Some examples of skills-first career exploration below:
- Problem: A finished group project fell on the floor and broke with only 20 minutes left
- Solution: One student led their group to take calm steps to reassemble the project, instead of placing blame or giving up.
- 21st Century Skills Exemplified: Problem-solving, leadership, creative thinking, communication
- Potential Careers: CEO, project manager, technical lead
- Problem: A classmate fell in the schoolyard and was hurt and inconsolable.
- Solution: Another student helped soothe the student’s pain, while delegating others to let a teacher or chaperone know there was a problem.
- 21st Century Skills Exemplified: Empathy, leadership, communication
- Potential Careers: Physician, social worker, customer success leader
- Problem: A group of students were assigned a project to build a large skyscraper using their materials of choice, but students didn’t have enough physical supplies.
- Solution: One student suggests building their skyscraper using a digital makerspace.
- 21st Century Skills Exemplified: Problem-solving, critical thinking
- Potential Careers: Engineer
Explore CTE Skills
Another way to encourage students to learn the skills of today and tomorrow is to teach them how to develop strong CTE skills.
Career and Technical Education (CTE) skills are competencies required for success in a particular field or occupation. According to Applied Education Systems, 95% of students enrolled in CTE courses graduate high school. Another report states that 78% of CTE graduates enroll in post-secondary education full-time.
CTE skills include:
- Critical thinking
Schools and families have a lot of pressure to ensure their kids are ready for the future of work. To meet this challenge, Kai XR helps provide learning opportunities using tech, virtual reality to help students develop the CTE skills they need.
Explore Makerspace Ideas
Makerspaces are increasingly popular in classrooms, libraries, and on the internet.
An immersive way to explore skills and relevant careers is by trying different makerspace ideas. Makerspaces can be designed to allow students to tinker, problem-solve, and learn through playing and exploring.
Makerspaces can explore careers in:
Explore Social Emotional Learning Through VR
Social emotional learning (SEL) describes the process that helps students learn social skills. Younger learners gain the most from incorporating social emotional learning in their elementary school lessons.
Because their brains are still in the rapidly developing stage, elementary school students can pick up social emotional learning practices faster than others.
Younger children are more open to new ways of learning, so this is the perfect time to introduce social emotional learning activities.
Advantages of Social Emotional Learning:
- SEL helps students to build and maintain social relationships
- SEL raises self- and social awareness
- SEL helps students develop confident decision-making skills
- SEL helps students to develop self-management
- SEL helps students to learn how to control and harness their emotions
At Kai XR, our mission is to bring social emotional learning to classrooms in a safe and effective manner. We believe that the exploration and opportunities virtual reality provides can help bridge the gap between traditional teaching methods and social emotional learning techniques.
Exploring Virtual Field Trips
Imagine being able to show an enthusiastic third-grade student what the Mesozoic Era actually looked like!
Through the use of virtual field trips, we help bring the world to the classroom by exploring places future, past, and present. With our powerful virtual reality technology, elementary and middle school students can incorporate career exploration into their curriculum without putting a strain on their budgets. At the center of our immersive XR experiences are our virtual field trips.
Through our technology, students can visit the following locations (and time periods) to explore their interests, skills, and potential career paths:
- Washington D.C.
- The Mesozoic Era
- NASA Training Center
- The Great Barrier Reef
- And More
We recognize the benefits of virtual field trips. We pair 360° immersive experiences with critical thinking prompts to help them develop an interest in existing and emerging career paths.
What to Do When Your Young Learner Doesn’t Have a Career Goal
If you encounter a student that doesn’t seem to want to “be” anything when they grow up, don’t worry. In these cases, the student hasn’t found “their thing” yet.
With these students, it’s best to explore alternative ways of learning and help them explore strengths that might foray into a future career. Simply take the advice we have already explored above and repeat it. Every learner has their spark—it;s our job as educators to locate and ignite it!
How to Enrich Career Exploration for Kids:
- Sparking career awareness
- Exploring hobbies
- Expanding learning opportunities
- Trying makerspaces
- Imagining different careers
- Always explore limitless options and future opportunities
If you're looking for new and exciting ways to get your students interested in learning, we can help. Students, educators, and schools will enjoy experiencing all Kai XR’s virtual field trips to unique and fascinating locations.
Helping your students start their career exploration earlier allows them to open their minds to jobs of the future.
To learn more about how our technology can support your child or classroom, explore our packages or schedule a demo. We can't wait to help you bring the fun of field trips to your children's educational endeavors.