It’s bigger than green jobs; we’re teaching the future

Teachers involved: Debbie Nelson, Kimberlee Adams (Northeast Middle School)

The Minneapolis Public Schools STEM & Career Exploration Expo just wrapped up, bringing over 2,000 8th graders to the Minneapolis Convention Center to discover and dive into the different career opportunities available to them. As a middle school teacher and 7th and 8th grade counselor at Northeast Middle School, we believe this event is so important for a couple of reasons: First and foremost, middle school students are woefully unaware of all the different kinds of jobs that are out there in the world for them. In addition, green jobs are definitely the way of the future.

We had the pleasure of bringing in a presentation on Green STEM careers before the Expo, given by Jenna Totz of Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy. Climate Generation works to engage individuals and their communities in solutions to climate change. Their organization, as part of the “Green Alley” in the Expo, highlighted for students what STEM jobs (science, technology, engineering, math) will also help our environment in one form or another. They gave examples like solar and wind installers, environmental lawyers, green design and construction professionals, and more. We feel very strongly that our world needs to come together and focus on these global environmental issues, and young people are very aware as well. These students have been raised with recycling, composting, and other types of conservation efforts. It’s not much of a stretch to say that with a little education and nudging, middle school students would say environmental issues are a major concern. Green jobs are a major way students can consider how to solve the very scary issues that are in their future. Expanding their job options to green jobs specifically is a wonderful opportunity!

After working with 8th graders for about 13 years, teaching them a college and career readiness curriculum that spans their middle school years, the same specific jobs that students are interested in pursuing come up again and again: doctors, lawyers, professional athletes, and video game designers. There are a few variations on these themes such as nurse, judge, and veterinarian, among a few others, but what we have come to realize is that our students are not exposed to the massive variety of jobs that exist in the world! They know the aforementioned jobs pay quite a bit of money, but they really lack the full understanding of the amount of education and financial output needed to pursue these jobs. Students in middle school are unaware of all the potential jobs around them that still pay a great deal but require far less schooling. We’re referring mainly to technical and trade jobs such as telecommunications, electrician, plumber, and so much more. Our education system puts so much emphasis on students pursuing “college” that we fail to expose students at young ages to all the post-secondary options there are in the world. The Green STEM presentation from Climate Generation included many of these two-year training options as well as jobs with advanced education.

Before the Expo, we have a lesson we do with the students where they find out about “Career Clusters” they may like based on an interest inventory. They compare the Clusters from their personal inventory to the services, colleges, employers, and career fields represented at the Expo. We’re happy to say green jobs were well represented at the Expo, expanding the world of jobs to our students and specifically highlighting the green jobs that may really spark their interest and desire to help our local and global environment.

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