Do Students Have Passion for Today's In-Demand Jobs? A New Analysis Says No | Big Indy News
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Do Students Have Passion for Today’s In-Demand Jobs? A New Analysis Says No



Students have the talent to succeed in today’s in-demand jobs but often lack an interest in going into those fields, according to a new report that seeks to assess whether their skills are aligned with high-growth careers.

The report from YouScience, a for-profit company that provides aptitude-based assessments, comes as many industries in the United States grapple with labor shortages. Jobs in STEM fields are expected to grow twice as fast as those in non-STEM fields, but millions of positions in science, technology, engineering, and math careers are expected to go unfilled in the near future, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“This report [is] really coming out at the height of a skills gap,” said YouScience founder and CEO Edson Barton in an interview. “If we as a society don’t take a hold of that and really do something to fix that, then the problem … is just going to get worse and worse and worse.”

Others who study career development among students agree that there are often disconnects between workforce skills and students’ ambitions. But they also caution against overemphasizing the results of aptitude tests and career interest surveys as gauges of student potential.

YouScience found that student aptitude is higher than interest in what the company calls “key national career clusters,” or industries where significant job growth is forecast. The report found that students have:

  • Nearly 5 times the aptitude for energy careers than they do interest in those fields;
  • More than 3 times the aptitude for advanced manufacturing careers than they have interest;
  • Over 2 times the aptitude for computer technology careers than they have interest; and
  • Almost 2 times the aptitude for health science careers than they do interest.

The report is based on an analysis of anonymized data from YouScience’s aptitude assessment taken by 239,843 U.S. high school students in 2021. The assessment uses brain games to measure students’ skills in areas such as numerical reasoning, sequential thought process, and idea generation.

At the end of the test, students get a chart that shows them what their dominant and nondominant aptitudes are.

The problem isn’t that the U.S. doesn’t have talented people to fill these roles, but rather students are not aware that these careers exist, the report contends.

“If we can show them that [they have the talent], then they naturally, by themselves, start to select going into those fields at much higher rates,” Barton said. “They just didn’t know that they could or that they should go into those fields.”

These results show that the U.S. is doing “a really poor job” of helping students “find and explore what they’re truly good at, and then helping them get into the pathway that’s meaningful to them,” he said.

While aptitude tests and career interest surveys are helpful in giving students an idea of the career opportunities available, it’s important to remember that the results are just “one piece of a very complicated collection of puzzle pieces that young people need access to,” said Kyle Hartung, associate vice president at nonprofit Jobs for the Future.

These tests are “effective” when they’re used as one way to help young people “understand who they are in relation to the type of career and professional life they’d like to have,” Hartung said.

“It’s dangerous when we overemphasize” the results because students are still developing cognitively and emotionally through their teen years, he added.

Kimberly Green, executive director of Advance CTE, a nonprofit that represents state career-technical education directors, said the results show that there is still a lot of work to be done in making sure students are aware of the array of fields that are available to them.

“We need to continue to do the work of strengthening our career advising and CTE systems to give students that real-world experience with the world of work and broaden their horizons,” Green said. “By doing that, we can hopefully close some of those skill gaps and further diversify our talent pipeline.”

Start career exploration early

To help close the gap between aptitude and career interests, YouScience recommends that policymakers, educators, and parents help students find their “why” so that their education will become more applicable, close the career exposure gap, and use career-connected learning.

Once students have an idea of their aptitudes and interests, experts say there should be a way for them to explore those options and make sense of their experiences. Career exploration could look like a rotation through different occupations in a specific industry, or project-based learning with industry partners or postsecondary institutions.

For Barton, starting these experiences in middle school or early in high school is ideal, so that students can find the career options that are a good fit for them early on and have time to explore those careers and pathways to those careers.

Others said they see value in students being exposed to an array of options relatively early.

“Without understanding what opportunities exist for them, young people often revert to the things that they know or are familiar with,” Hartung said. “So many young people, if you ask them what kind of careers there are in healthcare, they’ll say doctor, nurse, or EMT without even thinking that hospitals have a massive IT infrastructure, a massive financial infrastructure. All of these components are true across industries, as well.”

Any career exploration programs should also give students flexibility, he added. There should also be “on-ramps and off-ramps,” Hartung said, so students know they’re not “trapped” in one pathway.

“It’s super important for them to start exploring really early, honestly, but not to put the pressure on them that they have to have their final answer,” said Cindy Schluckebier, integration specialist at the DeBruce Foundation, which offers a free career exploration tool that ranks students’ agilities.

And career exploration isn’t just about finding the right fit for students.

“These experiences are as much about ruling things out as they are [about] figuring out what is the perfect alignment of where your interests and your aptitudes lie,” Green said, “and how you want to contribute to society.”

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Adnan Syed of ‘Serial,’ Newly Freed, Is Hired by Georgetown University



Adnan Syed, who was freed in September after he spent 23 years in prison fighting a murder conviction that was chronicled in the hit podcast “Serial,” has been hired by Georgetown University as an associate for an organization whose work mirrors the efforts that led to his release, the university has announced.

Mr. Syed, the subject of the 2014 podcast and pop-culture sensation that raised questions about whether he had received a fair trial after being convicted of strangling his high school classmate and onetime girlfriend Hae Min Lee in 1999, will work for Georgetown’s Prisons and Justice Initiative.

Mr. Syed, who was 17 at the time of Ms. Lee’s death in Baltimore, has steadfastly maintained his innocence.

The university said that Mr. Syed, now 41, will help support programs at the organization, such as a class in which students reinvestigate wrongful convictions and seek to “bring innocent people home” by creating short documentaries about their findings. The program, founded in 2016, “brings together leading scholars, practitioners, students and those affected by the criminal justice system to tackle the problem of mass incarceration,” according to its website.

Georgetown University, which is in Washington, said that in the year leading up to his release, Mr. Syed was enrolled in the university’s bachelor of liberal arts program at the Maryland prison where he was incarcerated.

“To go from prison to being a Georgetown student and then to actually be on campus on a pathway to work for Georgetown at the Prisons and Justice Initiative, it’s a full circle moment,” Mr. Syed said in a statement. “P.J.I. changed my life. It changed my family’s life. Hopefully I can have the same kind of impact on others.”

He added that he hoped to continue his education at Georgetown and go to law school.

The new job this month culminated what has been a remarkable year for Mr. Syed, whose case has again received widespread public attention after a flurry of recent legal activity.

In September, Mr. Syed was released from prison after a judge overturned his murder conviction. Prosecutors said at the time that an investigation had uncovered various problems related to his case, including the potential involvement of two suspects and key evidence that prosecutors might have failed to provide to Mr. Syed’s lawyers.

In October, prosecutors in Baltimore dropped the charges against Mr. Syed after DNA testing on items that had never been fully examined proved Mr. Syed’s innocence, officials said.

Ms. Lee’s family filed an appeal with the Maryland Court of Special Appeals after prosecutors dropped the charges.

On Nov. 4, the court said in an order that the appeal could be heard in court in February.

Marc Howard, the director of the Prisons and Justice Initiative, said in a statement that Mr. Syed’s “commitment to the program and to his education was clear from the moment he stepped into the classroom.”

He added that Mr. Syed “is one of the most resilient and inspiring people I’ve ever met, and he has so much to offer our team and the other students in P.J.I. programs.”

In a Georgetown University article about the hiring, Mr. Syed said that he was in disbelief when he first saw a flier for the program.

“It became this domino effect to see us be accepted,” he said. “It made it become something real in the eyes of others, that there are opportunities. There can be a sense of hope: a sense of hope that things can get better, a sense of hope that I can work hard and still achieve something, a sense of hope that I can still do something that my family will be proud of.”

His attachment to the school was evident on Sept. 19, when he walked out of prison for the first time since he was a teenager.

Amid a throng of reporters and his supporters, Mr. Syed walked down the courthouse steps in Baltimore, smiling. He gave a wave.

And in his hand, he carried a binder with a Georgetown sticker. His graded papers and tests were inside.

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At Berkeley Law, a Debate Over Zionism, Free Speech and Campus Ideals



“Supporting Palestinian liberation does not mean opposition to Jewish people or the Jewish religion,” the group said in a statement to the Berkeley law community. Members of the group did not respond to messages seeking an interview.

After learning about the bylaw, Mr. Chemerinsky met with the university’s Hillel rabbi and spoke with several Jewish students, but, aside from concerns within the law school, the reaction was relatively muted, he said.

That changed, he said, after Kenneth L. Marcus, the civil rights chief of the U.S. Education Department during the Trump administration, wrote about the bylaw in September in The Jewish Journal under the explosive headline “Berkeley Develops Jewish Free Zones.”

Mr. Marcus wrote that the bylaw was “frightening and unexpected, like a bang on the door in the night,” and said that free speech does not protect discriminatory conduct.

The article went viral.

Mr. Chemerinsky said he learned about Mr. Marcus’s article, which he described as “inflammatory and distorted,” while he was in Los Angeles for a conference. Mr. Chemerinsky said he typed out a response to the article, which was appended to it, and then didn’t think much of it. That afternoon, he was deluged by emails. At an alumni event that night, the law school’s perceived hostility to Jews was “all anyone wanted to talk about.”

In an interview, Mr. Marcus, a Berkeley law school alumnus, said that he was contacted by law students there who were concerned about the bylaw. He said he spent weeks trying to support them and wrote his article after Berkeley did not “rectify the problem.”

Not allowing Zionist speakers, he said, was a proxy for prohibiting Jews. The provisions, he said, are “aimed at the Jewish community and those who support the Jewish community,” even while acknowledging that the policy could allow Jewish speakers and bar those who are not Jewish.

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‘Better Defined By Their Strengths’: 5 Ways to Support Students With Learning Differences



“People with learning differences are human,” wrote Deanna White, a neurodiversity advocate and parent learning coach in response to a question we posed on LinkedIn. “Unique individuals and wonderful humans that are better defined by their strengths. So stop focusing on the weakness.”

We invited our social media followers across Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to weigh in on the most effective way schools can better support students with learning differences.

Responses ranged from shifting educators’ mindset—like highlighting student strengths—to more far-reaching changes that would require schoolwide or district support.

Focus on students’ strengths

There are many ways of encouraging students to play to their strengths, as educators Winston Sakurai and Phyllis Fagell demonstrated in an August 2022 article by Education Week Assistant Editor Denisa Superville.

They detailed how they shared their own learning struggles as a way to connect with their students. Their personal successes show students, who may be struggling academically or socially, that anything is possible.

Here’s what other educators had to say.

1. Help them understand their learning strengths and challenges and growing them as strong self-advocates.

2. Devoting time and money to developing teachers’ abilities to differentiate.

– Amy S.

By having high expectations and giving them exposure to high-quality materials and experiences, even ones that seem “above them.” They will shock us with their insights every time.

– Angela P. 😒😒🥴

Meet students where they are

In a 2015 primer on the topic, EdWeek Assistant Editor Sarah D. Sparks wrote about how “differentiated instruction”—the process of identifying students’ individual learning strengths, needs, and interests and adapting lessons to match them—became a popular approach to helping diverse students learn together. Respondents largely agreed.

Time to work with every student. If you can meet with a child for a bit of time to help with exactly what she or he needs, it might ignite both learning and understanding.

Alison K.

So many ways…start with environment, a.k.a. The Third Teacher.

  • Reduce obstacles

  • Increase supports

  • Meet kids where they are

(h/t @drncgarrett)

Matt R.

Small class sizes, strong positive teacher/student relationships, differentiated instruction, and reflection.

Yvonne E.

Smaller class sizes

In a 2017 Opinion essay, former teacher Marc Vicenti wrote about “the daily wear and tear on educators when trying to juggle a full teaching load and meaningful relationships with lively young people who all have different needs and experiences.”

“We can either choose to be less effective in our practice or exhaust ourselves—neither of which is beneficial to students or our own well-being,” he wrote.

Smaller class sizes are one way of mitigating the risk of burnout while working to meet each student’s needs.

Small classes, small schools, local control. I am the principal in a pretty small school in a small community and I know every child, and every family and we can build programs to meet our students’ needs. A country run or state run school system can’t do that.

Ryan G.

Increase funding to actually lower the student-to-teacher ratio. This allows teachers to give more time to the individual.

Cathleen W.

Fewer standardized tests

Standardized tests have long been criticized for narrowing instruction and for holding all students to the same standard when “students enter school at varying levels and learn and grow at different rates.”

The backlash against standardized testing renewed interest in alternative ways to evaluate students’ learning progress, like “performance assessments—the idea of measuring what students can do, not merely what they know”.

STOP standardized testing.

Dawn W.

Fewer standardized or timed tests, teaching to mastery, not according to a schedule.


Give students a voice

Sometimes it’s best to go to the source to discern how to best tackle an issue. Giving these students a voice can not only empower them in their learning, but also help educators understand how to have the biggest impact.

Ask them how they learn and what helps. Give them a voice!

Grisel W.

Yes! Listening to what students need and giving them a voice is something we need to do for all students, but especially those who need more help in the classroom.

Victoria D.

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