Career Preparatory Experiences

About Career Preparatory Experiences

Career preparatory experiences help young people prepare for success in postsecondary education, a career, and/or independent living. Preparatory activities include career awareness, career exploration, and career assessment tied to classroom learning; employability skills training; and work experiences. Appropriate career preparatory experiences allow youth to explore a variety of career opportunities while identifying their career interests, abilities, and potential needs for accommodation and support. Career preparatory activities help young people make the informed decisions necessary for successful transition into careers.

Research shows that preparation for the transition from secondary school to postsecondary education, employment, and independent living must begin well before completion of high school. Career preparation is essential throughout the school experience and can be accomplished in part through career preparatory activities that include both classroom- and community-based experiences. Through these activities young people can explore the types of learning options and experiences needed to develop basic work skills for employment, take courses required for enrollment in postsecondary education and training programs, and acquire the skills necessary for independent living.

Career preparatory experiences acquaint youth with career opportunities by: (a) organizing the curriculum in more meaningful ways; (b) highlighting occupations, career paths, and experiences in the community that youth might otherwise be unaware of; (c) giving youth skills, academic knowledge, and personal competencies required in the workplace and for continued education; and (d) providing youth with personalized opportunities and related skills to meet their individual needs (e.g., budgeting, transportation) (American Youth Policy Forum & Center for Workforce Development, 2000). Schools are not the only organizations that offer career preparatory opportunities. Postsecondary education institutions, community-based organizations, employers, public employment and training agencies, families, and intermediaries also play a role in the career preparation of youth.

Career preparatory activities, such as guest lecturers or field trips to work sites, can start in the elementary grades and continue in a sequence of coordinated and comprehensive activities designed to acquaint young people with a variety of career options. Career preparatory activities in the high school years allow youth to explore specific careers more closely through mentoring, job shadowing, work-based learning, and/or classroom projects that apply academic concepts to careers. Participating in a structured sequence of courses in a career path or major allows deeper exploration of a career area.

Works Cited

American Youth Policy Forum & Center for Workforce Development. (2000, June). Looking forward: School-to-work principles and strategies for sustainability. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved January 19, 2006, from

National Standards & Quality Indicators

Below are the specific Career Preparatory Experiences standards and indicators. See also Introduction to the National Standards & Quality Indicators.

2.1 Youth participate in career awareness, exploration, and preparatory activities in school- and community-based settings.
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  • 2.1.1 Schools and community partners offer courses, programs, and activities that broaden and deepen youths’ knowledge of careers and allow for more informed postsecondary education and career choices.
  • 2.1.2 Career preparatory courses, programs, and activities incorporate contextual teaching and learning.
  • 2.1.3 Schools, employers, and community partners collaboratively plan and design career preparatory courses, programs, and activities that support quality standards, practices, and experiences.
  • 2.1.4 Youth and families understand the relationship between postsecondary education and career choices, and the role of financial and benefits planning.
  • 2.1.5 Youth understand how community resources, non-work experiences, and family members can assist them in their role as workers.

2.2 Academic and non-academic courses and programs include integrated career development activities.
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  • 2.2.1 Schools offer broad career curricula that allow youth to organize and select academic, career, and/or technical courses based on their career interests and goals.
  • 2.2.2 With the guidance of school and/or community professionals, youth use a career planning process (e.g., assessments, career portfolio, etc.) incorporating their career goals, interests, and abilities.
  • 2.2.3 Career preparatory courses, programs, and activities align with labor market trends and up-to-date job requirements.
  • 2.2.4 Career preparatory courses, programs, and activities provide the basic skills needed for success in a career field and the prerequisites for further training and professional growth.

2.3 Schools and community partners provide youth with opportunities to participate in meaningful school- and community-based work experiences.
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  • 2.3.1 Youth participate in high-quality work experiences that are offered to them prior to completing high school (e.g., apprenticeships, mentoring, paid and unpaid work, service learning, school-based enterprises, on-the-job training, internships, etc.).
  • 2.3.2 Work experiences are relevant and aligned with each youth’s career interests, postsecondary education plans, goals, skills, abilities, and strengths.
  • 2.3.3 Youth participate in various on-the-job training experiences, including community service (paid or unpaid) specifically linked to school credit or program content.
  • 2.3.4 Youth are able to access, accept, and use individually needed supports and accommodations for work experiences.

2.4 Schools and community partners provide career preparatory activities that lead to youths’ acquisition of employability and technical skills, knowledge, and behaviors.
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  • 2.4.1 Youth have multiple opportunities to develop traditional job preparation skills through job-readiness curricula and training.
  • 2.4.2 Youth complete career assessments to identify school and postschool preferences, interests, skills, and abilities.
  • 2.4.3 Youth exhibit understanding of career expectations, workplace culture, and the changing nature of work and educational requirements.
  • 2.4.4 Youth demonstrate that they understand how personal skills and characteristics (e.g., positive attitude, self-discipline, honesty, time management, etc.) affect their employability.
  • 2.4.5 Youth demonstrate appropriate job-seeking behaviors.

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