Career education continues to be a focus for FutureMakers’ Access and Entry team, even during a pandemic. During the 19-20 school year, The School District of Lee County, The Foundation for Lee County Public Schools, and the A&E team joined forces to provide career panels, called Career Ed Talks, featuring various business partners sharing awareness about career fields available in Southwest Florida. These talks hope to highlight local career industries and give students the opportunity to explore and see what Lee County has to offer in terms of future career fields. These panels were planned to be in-person at four different Lee County high schools, where over 40,000 students are enrolled in some sort of career and technical education program. Local business partners overwhelmingly volunteered at the opportunity to connect with students and showcase their careers. However, due to COVID-19, only two of the panels were able to happen as planned, in-person. The team had to switch focus quickly and brainstorm some alternatives for the remainder of the school year, while also finding ways to pivot in our own careers.
During a time of stress and uncertainty, the team knew these opportunities for career awareness and connection were important for students, possibly now more than ever before. While the idea of switching the entire plan to a virtual platform was daunting, the thought of easily accessing professionals through a computer screen was exciting, so our team put together a virtual career panel to replace the events that were planned to be live. The career panels have continued through the 20-21 school year and are now being recorded as part of a series, called Career Ed Talks. Every two weeks, a new career cluster is highlighted, via online platform Zoom, and shared through classrooms to students across Lee County (and anywhere else, in fact) live and recorded. By the end of this school year, students and teachers will have access to sixteen recorded panels, each focused on a different career cluster, through The School District of Lee County’s Adult and Career Education Department’s YouTube channel, linked HERE. The panels have been quite the success and have eliminated barriers we have seen in the past, such as transportation or scheduling issues. The recordings uploaded onto the ACE YouTube channel have been viewed over 500 times, and teachers have been using the live panels and recordings as resources in their classrooms, with face-to-face and Home Connect students. These panels have given students the ability to connect with business professionals, to ask questions, and to explore their future options by seeing what they could be.