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Test-driving careers

Terri Hungerford

According to Terri Hungerford, Iowa Valley Intermediary Coordinator, the most important part of her job is being there for the students, guiding them and helping them understand what is involved in different careers.

Courtesy of the Iowa Department of Education

A car, much like a career, can look great based on pictures and reviews, but once inside you might feel entirely different about it. For that reason, most people wouldn’t purchase a new car without first taking it for test drive. Yet, high school students often choose a career path, one of the biggest financial and professional decisions of their lives, with little to no real-world, test-driving experience.

But that is changing for high school students across the state.

The Iowa Intermediary Network, a statewide network comprised of 15 community college regions that work with every Iowa school district, is helping high school students test drive careers so they can make informed decisions about future college majors and job training.

“It’s very hard to pick a major or intended career based solely on web searches and secondhand information,” said Jeremy Varner, administrator for the division of community colleges and workforce preparation at the Iowa Department of Education. “Starting down a career path and discovering it is a bad fit after a few years of paying college tuition can be an expensive learning experience.”

Supported by a $1.45 million state grant appropriation to develop and expand work-based learning opportunities across the state, the Iowa Intermediary Network builds relationships within the education system and regional businesses to provide opportunities for students to experience different careers.

“We are the schools’ work-related resource so that teachers don’t have to do it all themselves,” said Terri Hungerford, coordinator for the Iowa Valley intermediary program. “Teachers and counselors are pulled in so many directions. Building relationships, establishing trust, and preparing students for workplace expectations takes a considerable amount of time, and we can take that off of their plates.”

Each of the individual intermediary networks provides core services to school districts in their respective regions, which may include finding guest speakers, holding career and industry fairs, scheduling job shadowing experiences, coordinating student internships and teacher externships, offering teacher licensure renewal opportunities, and taking students and teachers on industry tours. Where appropriate, the attainment of portable credentials of value to employers, such as certificates in welding, certified nursing assistant (CNA) and computer numeric control (CNC), are facilitated.

More of this article can be found on the Iowa Department of Education website:

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