This article was originally posted on workforce.org. 

This past school year the San Diego Workforce Partnership (SDWP) formed a unique partnership with the Vista Unified School District (VUSD) to provide meaningful experiences for high school students to help prepare them for the world of work in a new CONNECT2Careers program called C2C on Campus.

Opportunities like career guest speakers, job shadows and internships provide students a firsthand look at the world of work with the intention to help students discover their talents and passions and begin to plan for their futures as employees in their communities.

One of many opportunities provided this past year to Vista Unified students included a job shadow day at Palomar College’s Fire Academy in San Marcos. There, ninth grade students learned what it takes to become a firefighter.

During this experience, students discovered various careers in the firefighting industry. Students were given an opportunity to watch current recruits in action by observing them training with ladders and hoses and got to see a fire truck up close. They even got the chance to put on some of the training gear used by the firefighters. An emphasis on volunteerism and giving back to one’s community was stressed as an important consideration when determining who will be accepted as a recruit to the academy.

Teacher Catherine Connelly remarked on the importance of providing such an experience to their students: “This is important for our kids especially at the ninth grade level to get exposure to a variety of careers.”

Sam Neuhauser of the Fire Academy agreed. “As someone who went to a vocational and career tech-oriented high school, I believe there is great value for students to learn about a variety of career fields, be connected with industry professionals and be exposed to various work environments.”

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For student Frankie, having this opportunity was of great personal significance to him because he has wanted to be a firefighter since he was 4 years old. Frankie’s excitement in being at the Fire Academy was evident. “I got to talk to one of the recruits and he helped me with finding out how to get more involved with the academy,” he says.

“There’s been a spark in them where I can see them actually enjoying this and actually seeing themselves maybe as a future firefighter and EMT one day,” shares Connelly.

Experiences like these not only afford students an opportunity to learn about a particular career, but also provide an opportunity for local community organizations to connect with schools and help build continuity between schools and the community. According to Neuhauser, “Being a part of the public service community and also involved in various education entities, I find that working with high school students is both rewarding and a great way to learn how our education system can better prepare students at an earlier age to become productive members of society.”

This is just one example of an opportunity offered by partners like the Fire Academy to the students of VUSD this past year. SDWP looks forward to continuing our collaboration into the new school year to provide many more valuable experiences similar to this one to ensure students grow to be successful adults ready for the world of work.