Lee Ann Struthers is one of two career preparation specialists in Charlevoix-Emmet Intermediate School District, or Cher-Em, in Michigan. She and her counterpart, Ann Parks, provide career awareness and exploration to high school students in eleven districts in Cherlevoix and Emmet counties. To do this, she and Ms. Parks needed a comprehensive and reliable assessment tool.
Aviator is that tool. Comprehensive, reliable and flexible, Aviator is a validated career assessment and planning software program that can be administered in less than 60 minutes. Aviator uses the same system that the Department of Labor uses to analyze jobs, i.e. work-related factors that refer to actual requirements of jobs. During testing, by demonstrating various abilities, the test-taker also demonstrates the potential to succeed in jobs with similar requirements.
Skills are measured in the academic areas of reading, editing, math, vocabulary, and spelling. Other cognitive skills tested include eye-hand coordination, problem solving, color discrimination, size discrimination, and short-term visual memory. Two pictorial interest surveys assess career interests. Job searches can then be done based on areas of interest, academic skills, aptitudes, or a combination of these.
At Cher-Em, Aviator is installed on laptop computers that the career preparation specialists take with them to the districts where they assess mainly special education students in the 10th grade and up. Aviator is used partly to meet transition requirements and partly for career guidance. The results are shared with classroom teachers, school-to-work coordinators, parents, and others who attend the studentís IEP (Individualized education plan) meeting. Results are also shared with the Michigan Department of Career Development to help students focus on a post-secondary career goals or possible job placement. Teachers utilize the assessments as a part of their careers class.
In going over the search results, the evaluator gets an idea of the students past work experiences as well as their career goals. Students areas of interest surface as well as their college or trade school plans.
What I really like about this program is that it allows Ann and me to spend time with each student individually, said Ms. Struthers.
Special education students are not always informed about their options for post-secondary education. I discuss options such as certificate programs, trade schools, and vocational programs available to them while they are still in high school, continued Ms. Struthers. Getting to know the students in this way allows us to look for job shadowing opportunities or work experience programs that might suit their needs.
Aviator also informs students about the numerous career options in each interest area. For example, a student may be interested in a career in teaching. Using the explore screen, students have a chance to compare their scores with the requirements of a desired occupation. They may realize as they look at the graph on the explore screen that a teaching degree could be out of reach. This is where the Aviator program points out the many other occupations in the field of education that they may want to pursue.
Students who have used Aviator have a broader view of career possibilities. The search results page may get them thinking about jobs they had not previously considered.
I assessed a student in his junior year who had a prosthetic arm, recalled Ms. Struthers. He had been thinking about a career in sales when the occupation prosthetist came up on his list. He was excited about it so we got on-line to find out more. He may or may not pursue a career working with prosthetics, but the idea is to get students thinking about possibilities. Aviator shows each child that there are many opportunities to explore.