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System at Fairmont Area Schools offers career insights

FAIRMONT — Students at Fairmont High School have access to a site that helps prepare them for college or a career following high school.

Through the Minnesota Career Information Systems, students can: learn about more than 520 occupations; research colleges, universities and career schools; find scholarships and financial aid; improve job search skills; and create a resume. They also can take practice ACT or SAT tests.

Fairmont has two programs: MCIS junior for grades 6-8 and MCIS for high school students.

In sixth grade, students begin by creating a profile and filling out a questionnaire on their interests. They answer whether they like or dislike a variety of things including: help build a stone path at a park, answer the phone and take messages, helps kids practice their reading, use a road map or take care of an injured animal.

The questionnaire then provides students with their top “career clusters,” with categories such as hospitality and tourism, manufacturing, business management and administration, health sciences and STEM careers.

From there, students can look at a list of occupations within a cluster. They are also given what skills they will need, what courses they should take in high school, what activities they should be involved in, what they should study in college and how much occupations pay both regionally and nationally.

“We start in sixth grade because we want the students to know when they get to the big house, grades 7-12, there’s different expectations,” said Superintendent Joe Brown. “We have really high expectations of our kids and once they get to the high school, we want them to take the experience seriously. We want them to start thinking early on [about what they want to do].”

The system has been around for a number of years but Andy Traetow, current junior high principal and vocational principal, said the district has gradually been using it more and more.

Traetow said all teachers have experience with the system and are encouraged to create their own account so they are able to explore the same steps the students are going through.

The program also helps schools keep up with state law. Minnesota requires all students starting no later than ninth grade to have a personal learning plan (PLP) around several key elements. The plan is to ensure that students successful transition to post-secondary education and employment.

This year, Fairmont students worked on their PLP about nine times toward the end of the school year during HUDDLE time. The adviser of each student’s HUDDLE group helped them update their portfolio and track course progression and accruement of credits.

“One of the big goals is that they’ll be able to self-identify where they’re at in terms of their progress toward graduation and earning the skills that they need in advancement toward a career field or post-secondary education after their time at Fairmont High School,” Traetow said.

At Fairmont’s graduation ceremony last weekend, the program listed not only the names of the 129 students graduating, but also what they intend to do now. Some indicated what college and field they plan to study while others noted they plan to go right into the workforce or armed forces. This was the first year the school put that information in the program.

“It’s very neat to see and hear the different places that our kids are going and the things that they’re aspiring to do,” Traetow said.

When asked what helps the students know what they would like to do by graduation time, Traetow said, “I think our teachers have done a really good job in their courses by expanding student awareness of what is available in different career fields. I do think MCIS is a component. Our local businesses and establishments have also done a phenomenal job of partnering and reaching out to us to get on the same page of what our kids really need.”

If students are able to identify what they would like to study early on, they can get a jump start on their college courses because Fairmont High School offers all of its students the opportunity to take 21 different college classes that translate into 60 college credits.

“We want students to know that when they graduate high school, they’re 18, but they’re probably going to work for 50 years until retirement age. With that said, we want students to take classes that will help them develop what they want to do,” Brown said.

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