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By Leilani M. Brown

We are most certainly living in unprecedented times. As parents, educators, and leaders we are trying to manage our health and well-being during COVID-19 as well as promote and ensure equity for all people and reflect on what more we can do to ensure equity for all people, navigating an uncertain future is a different kind of challenge.

Our teens are challenged differently in this crisis, with classes and summer camps canceled, graduations going virtual and their futures more uncertain than ever before. And, the loss of independence and social interaction should not be under-estimated.   It is almost impossible to imagine life returning to normal, but that is exactly the reason we need help our kids continue to dream and pursue their passions for the future.

At K12, we are striving to do that in a number of ways. We’re hosting tuition-free, virtual summer camps to help kids explore new careers in a fun, engaging way. And from July 13-17, we are taking that one step further by hosting a virtual Job Shadow Week in partnership with Tallo and Nepris.

We’re focused on using this time for career exploration because even before this pandemic, it was clear that the traditional K-12 school system alone wasn’t providing students with the career preparation they need. In fact, in a recent survey, more than half of college students said they changed their major at least once, which should come as no surprise considering only 49% were confident in their career path when they first enrolled.

Educating our kids about the abundance of career opportunities that are out there is the first step to ensuring their success. After all, how can anyone be expected to choose a job that they’ll love and will suit their interests, if they don’t know it exists or what it will entail?

Still, we recognize that classroom learning can only go so far. Students need on-the-job insights and experience with professionals working in the industry to really know if that job is something they want to do. And just because they can’t get that in-person right now, doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t get that chance at all. 

So, as part of Job Shadow Week, students from across the country will get to explore companies from diverse industries – with presenters from Google, Salesforce, Nokia, NASA, and more – all without stepping outside their front door. They’ll get to network with the professionals in live meetings, use our Career Explorer tool to learn more if one industry really piques their interest. And what’s more, they’ll experience Nepris, a place where they can continue to interact with seasoned professionals.

Speaking of seasoned professionals, there are benefits to their participation as well. Since this is a virtual event, employers can interact with students from all over the place, resulting in a substantially wider pool of connections. Building a large and diverse talent pipeline is important, especially considering almost three-quarters of employers have a hard time finding skilled candidates, and 45% are already concerned about finding employees with the necessary talents. Bridging the gap between students and potential employers through events like Job Shadow Week is a chance to educate the next generation of job-seekers about the fundamental skills and requirements for their chosen career, and ultimately to improve employers’ chances of creating a competent and desirable workforce for the future.

When it comes to our children, all we want is to ensure that every possible opportunity is available to them, but these days that’s easier said than done – the pandemic is disrupting life in ways that are discouraging to say the least. However, there is a way to support and encourage them to develop their passions this summer. Provide them with the resources they need to plan for the future by signing them up for this year’s Job Shadow Week.

To learn more about Job Shadow Week, visit https://jobshadowweek.com/

About The Author

Leilani M. Brown

Leilani M. Brown, Senior Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at K12 Inc., has decades of marketing, brand, and communications experience. Ms. Brown leads K12's expanding development of public and private-sector partnerships. In addition, she manages several cross-functional strategic initiatives on behalf of the chairman such as the company's strategic investment in Tallo—a career platform that connects high school students, college students and young adults to career and higher education opportunities. Prior to joining K12, Ms. Brown served as Chief Marketing Officer of Starr Companies, a global insurance and investment organization. She has also held leadership roles at other major companies including the Economist Group, MetLife, and American International Group. Ms. Brown is the author of From Campus to Cubicle: 25 Tips for Your First Professional Year, a career guide for young professionals and recent graduates. She serves on the board of Middlebury College, her alma mater; and the Executive Leadership Council, the premier membership organization for global black executives. Ms. Brown is also a graduate of New York University.