Opening the Doors to STEM Employment Opportunities for Rural Youth: Guided Career Exploration

Opening the Doors to STEM Employment Opportunities for Rural Youth: Guided Career Exploration

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6341-9.ch005
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Guiding rural students on the path towards a STEM career requires a tripartite approach that addresses career decidedness, career thoughts, and vocational maturity. The authors provide an overview of a guided career exploration model employed by Project Engage. Through guided career exploration, rural students are introduced to the multitude of career possibilities in STEM as well as the knowledge and skills needed for those careers. Additionally, this chapter reviews the outreach component of Project Engage. Outreach to students from local high schools serves both as a recruitment tool and as a means to motivate rural students to pursue STEM as a college major. Finally, the authors present data from surveys regarding the effectiveness of the outreach activities on engaging high school students in STEM.
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Career Exploration: A Tripartite Approach

As a capacity building project, Project Engage was intended to strengthen the STEM workforce pipeline by retaining students in their STEM programs and helping them make informed decisions to pursue STEM careers after graduation. Due to the isolation and lack of STEM industry in rural areas, students rarely interact with STEM professionals. This deficit results in a lack of vision regarding what a STEM career means. Career decision making can be stressful, especially for young people in emerging adulthood. According to Arnett (2007), emerging adulthood is a time of decision making and confusion for young people in their late teens and early twenties. In their emerging adulthood and facing the gaps of lacking STEM experience and role models, career decision making is stressful for STEM majors. Turner and Lapan (2002) found that career exploration/planning along with career self-efficacy are associated with student career interests. Along those lines, Project Engage provided a Guided Career Exploration program, illustrated in Figure 1, to STEM majors in order for them to become confident and skillful in career problem solving and career decision making.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Career Decidedness: The degree to which individuals feel certain about their career choice.

Career Self-Efficacy: Beliefs regarding their abilities to perform career behaviors in relation to career choice.

Invention Convention: Supports student creativity and problem-solving. Students design, build and test inventions providing a real-world STEM experience.

Vocational Maturity: The ability level of an individual to make informed career decisions.

STEM Challenge: A competitive event which involves students using skills in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Sisters of the Academy: An educational network of Black women in higher education.

Career Thoughts: Feelings, assumptions, attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, expectations, and plans or strategies related to career decision making.

High School Outreach: Activities provided by Project Engage for high school students and teachers.

Guided Career Exploration: Activities which inform undergraduate STEM majors of their career choices in STEM.

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