The First Career Steps survey was initiated by The Skills Library in November 2011 to gather student and parent voices to support the work of exploring career readiness. The survey data will be valuable for informing the ongoing work of the School to Career Connecting Activities initiative and related career development and youth employment work. The survey results provide insights about student's career development experiences. The results also provide insights about what type of questions would be valuable if we were to design a larger survey or design a career readiness self-assessment or checklist for students.
The survey was conducted online, and included student and parent versions of the survey, with versions available in English and Spanish. The survey was promoted via email, websites, Facebook and in-person to a wide variety of groups of students, including urban, rural and suburban students across Massachusetts.
The largest source of survey responses was the North Shore Workforce Investment Board region, who promoted the survey extensively. Results are presented here for all students, and for students from North Shore, North Shore Career/Vocational Technical Education (CVTE) programs and non-CVTE programs, and students from other regions of the state. Parent results are included where applicable. Overall, the survey received 328 survey responses, including 16 parent survey responses and 312 student survey responses.
Thank you to all of the partners from across the state who assisted with this survey, particularly to the North Shore WIB and others who promoted and administered the survey in their classrooms, and to all those who posted and shared the survey on their Facebook pages and websites.
Results showed that students are well-engaged in career development, expressing confidence and feeling ready (as well as some worry and not-so-readiness) and expressing interest in a variety of career areas and options for post-high-school first steps. Most have participated in several career development activities, including talking with parents, friends, teachers and counselors, career interest inventories, work experience, including summer jobs, after-school jobs, internships or volunteer work and a variety of career-related events and activities.
Students described many positive things that their school or program does to support career development, and also provided suggestions for additional efforts. The parent survey provided similar input, with parents making suggestions about how schools can support students and parents in student career development.
The survey results provide testimony to the value of youth employment. One survey question asks "If you have had a job, internship or volunteer position, what do you think you have learned from this experience?" Respondents indicated that they have learned about career options and developed career skills, basic foundation skills and learned about applied academics from their work experiences. Another survey question asks "How would you rate your strength in the following career skills?" with a list of career skills to be rated on a 1 to 5 scale. Analysis of responses to this question shows that students who have had work experiences showed greater confidence in their career skills.
Responses suggest that students are exploring many options for the future, with the majority indicating that they have more than one career area that they might be interested in, and many considering different postsecondary and training options for first steps after high school.
These results provide food for thought for exploring youth development issues and for establishing a vision of career readiness that embraces the confidence and concerns that youth bring to this important part of their development.
The survey was designed to be a positive, reflective experience. The survey takes about five to ten minutes to complete online. The online records (with start time and end time) show that 86% of respondents completed the survey in ten minutes or less. The median time to complete the survey was 5.83 minutes. The tone of the survey is designed to be very positive, recognizing that career development is a long-term process, and that many high school students are just beginning to explore and set goals. The survey assured respondents that all individual responses would be kept confidential.
While the number of respondents is good, this should be considered "pilot" data and should not be considered to provide a random or representative sample of students in general. Responses came from (1.) students who were asked to take the survey in a class or workshop; (2) students who took the initiative to take the survey based on a survey link on Facebook or a website. In both cases, the students are either connected to a teacher or staffperson who took the initiative to share the survey link or were personally motivated to take the initiative to respond to a survey link. The responses came from a mix of urban, suburban and rural communities. Responses from North Shore region are especially likely to come from urban settings, but at least half of the responses from other regions were also from urban communities.
These are exciting "pilot" results and just a general indication of the types of patterns and findings we would be likely to find if we expanded this survey or a similar survey or questionnaire to other groups of students.
This question served primarily as a "warm-up" question for the survey and to get a general sense about how students feel about career development. Answers were mostly positive - confident (but also worried), excited, ready. Answers varied somewhat by grade, with 9th grade students more confident than 10th grade students, and with confidence, worry and a combination of both rising and falling from grade 9 to 12.
Results by respondent group show that students in Career/Vocational Technical Education (CVTE) programs were more likely than other students to identify "Confident" and "I have lots of options" among other responses. They were also more likely to feel that they had the right amount of information.
The parent survey included a similar question, asking parents how they think their child feels about career development. Parents were more likely than students to check "not-so-ready" -- a not-surprising reflection of the confidence of youth vs. the caution of parents.
Question 1 Detailed Results
|North Shore |
|North Shore |
|North Shore |
|I know exactly what I want||18%||18%||17%||17%||21%||19%|
|I have lots of options||36%||27%||42%||35%||40%||19%|
|I don't have enough information||20%||21%||18%||19%||23%||13%|
|I have too much information||4%||4%||6%||5%||2%||6%|
|I have about the right amount of information||17%||14%||18%||17%||16%||19%|
|I haven't really started planning yet||20%||25%||22%||23%||15%||6%|
|Number of responses|
Question 2 asks students whether they know what career areas they might be interested in. It is important to note that the introduction to the survey sets a tone that it is not necessary to know exactly what you want, saying that "THIS SURVEY asks about your current career plans -- with the assurance that it is fine if your career plans are continuing to evolve." As a pilot survey, it was important not to communicate assumptions that students "ought to be" in a certain place in their career planning or to make respondents feel uncomfortable about where they are. Therefore the survey may have a tendency to make students feel comfortable with more than one career option.
Most students respond that they have 2 or 3 areas that they might be interested in. This question is valuable because it raises questions about a natural pace of development of career intersts during high school. Do students identify specific career interests while they are in high school? Are students in CVTE programs (or other career-focused programs) likely to have one specific career interest in mind or have multiple interests? How does this answer change as students continue through high school?
Between grades 9 and 12, not surprisingly, students become less likely to say that they have not started planning yet or that they do not know what career areas interest them. The share of students who have one strong career goal increases greatly in grade 12, appropriately, since students who are interested in career fields that require specialized education and training must apply to these programs during grade 12.
The majority of students say that they have 2 or 3 areas that they might be interested in. The percentage varies somewhat, but this is the most common answer consistently among all grades and respondent groups. CVTE students, who are generally most immersed in a career program, among those most likely to say that they have 2 or 3 interests.
Responses to Question 3, which asked students to list some of their possible career interests, showed that among those who said they were interested in 2 or 3 career areas, some were interested in closely related fields, while others were considering fairly disparate options. Many responses included an aspiration toward the arts, music, acting or professional sports, along with some alternative career options. Others included careers with similar themes, such as military/police/law or photography/travel/history. Among students who said they were interested in 2 or 3 career areas, some examples of responses from question 3, include:
Perhaps the most important messages to draw from this question are:
Question 2 Detailed Results
|North Shore |
|North Shore |
|North Shore |
|Yes, I have one strong career goal||30%||34%||22%||29%||32%|
|Yes, I can name 2 or 3 possible career areas that might interest me||57%||61%||57%||59%||52%|
|NOT YET, but I am starting to think about careers||8%||4%||11%||7%||9%|
|NO, I do not know yet what type of career I want||5%||2%||9%||5%||7%|
Open ended question allowing up to four responses. PLEASE NOTE THAT THE NUMBER OF ANSWERS IS MORE THAN THE NUMBER OF STUDENTS BECAUSE UP TO FOUR RESPONSES WERE PROVIDED.
The most common responses fell into the following categories: See table at the end of this report for more details.
Question 4 Detailed Responses **
|All Students||North Shore Non-CVTE Students||North Shore CVTE Students||North Shore Total||Other Regions||Parent Survey|
|Attend a two-year college||20%||25%||23%||24%||11%||13%|
|Attend a four-year college||69%||61%||66%||64%||81%||56%|
|Attend a career training program||9%||11%||9%||10%||5%||0%|
|Enter an apprenticeship program||3%||4%||3%||4%||2%||13%|
|Enter the military||7%||4%||13%||9%||2%||6%|
|Work in a part-time job while attending school or training||41%||45%||47%||46%||29%||13%|
|Work or volunteer for a year before attending school/training||4%||2%||3%||3%||7%||0%|
|Number of Responses||313||97||125||222||91||16|
** Please compare these responses to the ESE School and District Profiles for a more complete view of what students plan to do after high school. This data is available by school and district as well as statewide.
Question 5 looks at the career development activities that students have participated in, including activities that may take place in school and out of school. Some activities may be self-initiated; others may be school-wide activities. Results were encouraging; most students have participated in a variety of career development activities, including some type of workplace experience, whether volunteer work, summer jobs, after-school jobs or internships, and a variety of career exploration activities.
Grade 12 students are more likely to have participated in the various activities; since the question is asked in a way that elicits cumulative responses, it is natural that students in higher grades will have had more experiences.
One of the interesting groups of survey respondents was the group of 41 students who initially responded to the survey through Facebook postings. (The link to the survey was posted on a variety of Facebook pages, reaching a mixture of urban and rural students.) These students appear to be very self-motivated, and show higher-than-average participation in some of these activities, including talking to friends, talking to parents, looking at books, websites and videos, and doing volunteer work.
It is useful to look at this data along with the responses to question 7, the open ended question about career development activities. Most students describe valuable things that their school does to support career development; many also suggest that they would like additional activities, particularly more opportunities to connect with workplaces and see and learn about career opportunities, and opportunities for individual meetings to talk about career planning.
Question 5 Detailed Responses
|All Students||North Shore Non-CVTE Students||North Shore CVTE Students||North Shore Total||Other Regions|
|Talking with friends about careers||78%||66%||85%||77%||82%|
|Talking with teachers and counselors about careers||64%||53%||73%||64%||65%|
|Talking with parents about careers||83%||76%||88%||83%||85%|
|Career interest checklists/assessments||32%||16%||32%||25%||48%|
|Hearing guest speakers about careers at my school||33%||31%||30%||30%||40%|
|Career days or Career fairs||23%||19%||24%||22%||26%|
|Field trips to companies and workplaces||27%||16%||36%||27%||24%|
|Job shadow days||10%||6%||12%||9%||12%|
|Looking at websites, videos or books about careers||48%||38%||52%||46%||53%|
|Summer program(s) related to career interests||10%||9%||8%||9%||13%|
|Clubs or activities related to career interests||15%||11%||10%||11%||24%|
|Classroom projects related to career interests||32%||19%||42%||32%||31%|
|Number of Responses||313||97||125||222||91|
Question 6 asks respondents to rate their strength in various career skills, using a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 as "very strong" and 1 as "not yet strong." Respondents gave themselves the strongest ratings for basic foundation skills (often called “soft skills”), such as being on time for work and meetings, having good attendance, and dressing for a professional workplace. They gave themselves relatively lower ratings for career skills such as working with data and numbers, communicating in writing, working with tools and equipment and managing timelines and projects. In the middle of the list were skills such as working with people, leadership and creative thinking.
Youth development theory suggests that teens and young adults function on multiple levels at once. The teenage years are a time of dramatic growth in cognitive skills and abstract thinking. Teens and young adults have a desire to be engaged with important issues in their work and communities and to be engaged in learning and using high-level skills. At the same time, they need instruction and reinforcement on basic skills, though would not want to focus ONLY on those skills. The survey findings, along with other data available to us, suggest that youth employment programs should seek a balance of opportunities to exercise higher-order skills as well as providing instruction on basic foundation skills for the workplace.
Overall average skill ratings for individual respondents were correlated with the following:
Some points about specific skill areas:
Question 6 Results for All Students
|What Skill||5=Very Strong||4||3 = In-between||2||1=Not Yet Strong||Average Rating||Number of Responses|
|Communicating verbally||97 |
|Communicating in writing||72 |
|Working with people||141 |
|Creative thinking||110 |
|Logical thinking||108 |
|Managing timelines and projects||59 |
|Working with data and numbers||58 |
|Working with tools and equipment||93 |
|Dressing appropriately for a workplace||202 |
|Being on time for work and meetings||217 |
|Having good attendance||197 |
|Understanding workplace safety rules||228 |
|Being motivated and taking initiative||164 |
Open ended question, with sample answers below. Approximately half of the students described positive things that the school does to support career development, with no additional suggestions. About three out of ten of the students described something positive and also said the school should do more, or should get all students to do these activities. About one in ten said that their school does not do enough to support career development. A very small number of students said they had no opinion or that they were still in an earlier grade (generally 9th grade) and had not started career exploration yet. The parent version of the survey asked similar questions, and parent responses are shown in the end of the report.
Sample student responses:
Question 8 asks asks “If you have had a job, internship, or volunteer position, what do you think you learned from your experience? Check as many as apply.” The responses suggest that students see a variety of benefits to their work experiences, including developing career skills, foundation skills, exploring career options and having opportunities to apply academic skills. Between one-third to three-fifths of respondents who have work experience checked each option. It is likely that the answer to “what did you learn” depends on the type of experience as well as the way the student perceives his or her own learning from that experience.
Question 8 Detailed Responses
|North Shore |
|North Shore |
|North Shore |
|Other Regions||Parent Survey|
|Career options (what type of careers I might like)||61%||54%||65%||60%||62%||50%|
|Career-specific skills (such as childcare, cooking or computers)||54%||46%||54%||51%||62%||57%|
|Applied academic skills (such as how to use writing, reading, or math in a workplace)||34%||31%||37%||34%||32%||57%|
|Basic foundation skills (such as working with others or professionalism)||61%||53%||60%||57%||71%||71%|
|Higher-level professional skills (such as project management, creative thinking, or leadership)||37%||34%||39%||37%||38%||50%|
|None of the above||7%|
|Number of Responses (Includes those who have had a job,internship or volunteer position)||267||85||105||190||77||14|
|In college or training program||3%|
|Not currently in school||2%|
Open ended question allowing up to four responses per respondent. These responses are grouped by general career areas.
NOTE THAT THE NUMBER OF ANSWERS IS MORE THAN THE NUMBER OF STUDENTS BECAUSE UP TO FOUR RESPONSES WERE PROVIDED.
|[Healthcare/Medical (100)] Anesthesiologist | Brain Injury Rehabilitation | Cardiologist | CNA nurse | Dental assistant | Doctor | Emergency room nurse | EMT | Health Care | Hematologist | Massage Therapy | Material Therapist | Medical | Medical Assisting (CNA?) | Medical Doctor | Medical Field | Medical Oncology | Neuro psychology | Neurologist | NICU nurse | Nurse | Nurse at St. Jude | Nurse Oncologist | Nurse Practitioner | Nursing | Nutritionist | Nutritionist (Personal Training?) | Occupational therapy | Oncologist | Oncologist doctor | Paramedic | Pediatric nurse | Pediatrician | Personal Care Provider | Pharmacist | Pharmacy | Physical Therapist | Physical Therapist Assistant | Physical Therapy | Physician | Physicians Assistant | Pulmonologist | Radiologist | Registered Nursing | RN | Something involving radiology | Surgeon | Surgical nurse | Surgical Tech | Therapist | Ultra sound tech | Ultra sound technician | Ultrasound technician | Working with kids or babies in health field | X ray tech ||
|[Science, Engineering and Math (46)] Animal Science | Architect | Astronaut | Biologist | Biology teacher | Biomedical engineering | Biotech | Biotechnology | CEC Engineer | Chemistry | Clinical lab scientist | Computer engineer | Computer engineering | Computer Hardware Engineering | Electrical engineer | Electrical Engineering | Electronic engineer | Engineer | Engineering | Marine Biology | Marine science | Mathematician | Mathematics | Medical Research | Research | Robotic Engineer | Science | Science- Biology | Scientist | Software engineer | Something in the sciences. | Technology ||
|[Education and Early Childhood (45)] Art Therapist | Child development | Childcare | Cosmetology teacher | Early childhood education | Education | Elementary Education | Elementary School Teaching | English Teacher | Guidance counclier | Guidance Counselor | Helping little kids | Kindergarten Teacher | Music Therapist | Special Education | Speech Language Pathologist | Speech Therapist | Speech therapy | Teacher | Teaching | Work with kids | Working with children | Working with kids. ||
|[Construction Trades (39)] Brick Layer | Brick Laying-Mason | Business owner (construction) | Carpenter | Carpentry | Carpentry construction | Construction | Construction electrician | Electrian | Electrical | Electrical Contracting | Electrician | Inter-Networking | Join the mason union | Linesman | Mason | Masonry | Plumber | Plumbing | Project manager or general contractor | Tile Setting | Title v inspections | Working for my dad ||
|[Criminal Justice and Forensics (36)] Computer Forensics | Crime Scene Investigator | Criminal Justice | Criminal Justice/Law Enforcement | CSI | Detective | ELECTRONIC FORENSIC | FBI | FBI agent | FBI/police officer | Forensic Accountant | Forensic Accounting | Forensic science | Investigator | Law enforcement | Police | Police Force | Police officer ||
|[Cosmetology (36)] Barber | Colorist | Cosmetologist | Cosmetology | Esthetician | Esthetics | Hair | Hair colorist | Hair designer | Hair dresser | Hair dressing | Hair salon owner | Hair stylist | Hair Stylist/Cutter | I want to open up my own salon | Makeup | Nails | Opening my own salon | Own a salon | Paul Mitchell education school | Runway hairstyles | Salon owner | Work on commission at a salon ||
|[Arts (36)] Acting | Actor | Actress | Art | Art school | Artist or Designer | artista | Arts, audio/video technology communication | Broadway Dancer | Broadway Stage Production/Management | Dancer | Dramatic arts | Entertainment Management | Film | Graphic Designer / Apparel Design | Painter | Performing Artist | Photographer | Photography | Something in the arts. | Stage director | Theatre Technology | Video Production ||
|[Social Work and Psychology (33)] Child Psychology | Clinical or Sports Psychologist | Counseling | Counselor | Helping people | Human Services | Marriage Counselor | Psychiatrist | Psychologist | Psychology | Social Work | Social worker | Therapist ||
|[Business and Marketing (28)] Advertising | Banking | Business | Business owner | Businessman | Client relations | Dominos manager | Event Planner | Finance | Financial Analyst | Management | Marketing | Movie Theatre owner | Public Relations | Real Estate Agent | Secretary | Stocks | Teller ||
|[Computer Networking/Technical/Repair (27)] Computer aid and repair | Computer and office machines repairs | Computer field | Computer maintenance | Computer Networking | Computer operators | Computer Programmer | Computer Repair | Computer technician | Computer working | Help desk | Help desk technician | IT help desk tech | IT Technician | Network Computer | Network/System Administrator | Networking | Networking engineer | Networking specialist | System Analyst | Tech support | Technician ||
|[Law (24)] Law | Lawyer | Paralegal | Prosecuting lawyer ||
|[Media and Communications (23)] 3D Graphics | Communications | Design | Film | Graphic communication | Graphic design | Graphic Designer | Graphics | Graphics communication | Media producer or director | Motion Graphics | Movie Editing | Multimedia Journalism | News Broadcaster | Special Effect editor ||
|[Music (21)] Be in a band and make music | Guitarist | Music | Music Producer | Music Recording Engineer | Music/Singing/Theater | Musical Producer | Musician | Musician / Producer | Pianist | Producing music | Singer | Singing | Song writing | Sound Recording ||
|[Culinary (19)] Baking | Chef | Cook | Cooking | Culinary | Culinary arts | Pastry Chef ||
|[Writer/Author (19)] Author | Book Editor | Columnist | Creative writing | Journalism | Journalism, or general writing. | Journalist | Professional Editor | Story Writing | Travel writer | Writer ||
|[Game Design/Cartooning (17)] Comic book artist | Comics & writing | Computer animation | Game Design & Development | Game designer or cartoonist | Game programmer/ designer | Game Programming | Games designers | Gaming and design | Video Editor | Video game coder | Video Game Design | Video game programming ||
|[Military (14)] Air force pilot | Army | Army nurse | Full time soldier | Military | U.S. ARMY | U.S. Coast Guard ||
|[Higher Education, Social Sciences and Liberal Arts (13)] Archaeology | Economist | English | English major | English professor | English teacher | Historical | History | History Professor | History Professor in a College or University | Literature | Professor | Social Sciences/History. ||
|[Sports and Fitness (12)] Athlete | Athletic trainer | Basketball Trainer | Cheer coach | Gym Teacher | Hockey | Personal trainer | Physical personal trainer | Professional Athlete | Sports manager ||
|[Environment/Animal Care (10)] Environmental police | Environmental Science | National park service | Vet technician | Veterinarian | Veterinary | Veterinary field | Wildlife Education ||
|[Computer Programming and Web Design (10)] Programmer | Programmer/software engineer | Programming | Web design | Web Design/Programming | Web designer ||
|[Repair/Mechanical (7)] Air craft maintenance technician | Auto | Camera and photographic equipment repairs | Car repair | Mechanic | Motorcycle Mechanic ||
|[Retail/Fashion (6)] Fashion | Fashion Industry | Fashion Merchandising | Graphic fashion designer | Shoe Store ||
|[Architecture and Design (6)] Architecture | Designer | Interior Decorator | Interior design | Interior Designer ||
|[Accounting (6)] Accountant | Accounting | Accounting/bookkeeping | Certified Public Accountant | CPA ||
|[Politics and Government (5)] Politician | Politics | Politician ||
|[Religion (2)] Pastor | Youth Pastor ||
|[Manufacturing Trades (2)] Machinist ||
|[Languages (1)] Translator English and Spanish | |American Sign Language Translator | Sign Language Interpretation ||
|[Other (17)] Bank Security | Business owner | Fire Fighter | Firefighter | Game director | Golf course maintenance | Human Resources | Massage therapist/esthetician | Massage Therapy | Modeling | Mother/Homemaker | Party planning/business | Some other thing having to do with being outside and/or making a real difference | Traveling ||