Each February, students across the country participate in National Groundhog Job Shadow Day. The national campaign gives young people a new perspective on their studies through hands-on learning and a one-day mentoring experience.
On Friday, hundreds of eighth-grade students from throughout the Public Schools of Robeson County will be paired with a mentor who they will “shadow” throughout the day. The students have an opportunity to experience various careers and to see how the skills they learn in the classroom can be applied to the real world. It also partners the school district with area businesses. The career experiences include medical area, technical fields, farming, industry, education, store operations and even restaurant management.
The guidance counselors and career development specialists pair students with their desired career. The shadowing process begins with a survey that eighth graders take before registering for ninth-grade classes or creating their four-year graduation plan. This survey gives them insight into what jobs would fit them best.
Students apply for these shadowing opportunities through their middle school counselor. The selected names are forwarded to the PSRC Career and Technical Education Office. The office sends out a validation card allowing the student to shadow a representative. The school system has 13 middle schools with seven career development specialists coordinating the job shadowing appointments. Some years there are up to 500 students in the program.
The shadowing experience helps students decide if these career areas are a good fit for them. Some students immediately realize these are jobs they would not like. That experience is invaluable as students pick college majors and internships throughout their later years.
On the job, the students shadow an employer for one day and interview them for their shadow project. The students must share their experience with fellow students and counselors. Each child puts together a resume, thank-you letter and a power point presentation about their experience. Eighth graders across the district will compete for the best presentation.
The school guidance counselors pick one winner per school who will receive a $25 gift card. The individual school winners then compete on the district level for a chance to win an additional $50 gift card. The shadowing experience can carry over into high school as the students have a chance to apply for a $700 scholarship through a 135-hour internship with an employer.
Job shadowing day is just one component of the Career and Technical Education program. The program targets opportunities for the discovery of future careers by students from eighth through 12th grades. These program areas include Health Science, Trade and Industrial. Most people are more familiar with long standing CTE organizations, such as Future Farmers of America, Future Business Leaders of America or Future Homemakers of America, which is now Family, Career and Community Leaders of America.
Ground Hog Job Shadowing Day fits these needs of students as they move forward to find their life long careers.
Johnny Hunt is the superintendent of the Public Schools of Robeson County.