With a wide variety of careers to choose from and growing educational demands, students are faced with answering that all-too-familiar question — “What do you want to be when you grow up?” — quite a bit sooner.

That’s where Anne Heaton, career information specialist at Red River Technology Center, steps in to help.

“I help students identify their interests and develop a career plan,” she said. “Career plans serve as a roadmap to each student’s future. I want them to know how to prepare and plan so they can reach their goals and be successful.”

Heaton, who has served as career information specialist for nearly 14 years, uses a Career Interest Inventory to help students choose a career area that corresponds to their interests.

“The inventory is a part of the academic achievement tests that students take during their eighth and tenth grade years,” she said. “It is important to revisit career planning with sophomores because their interests may have changed. This is an important time for students because they should be focusing more on a specific career area versus the general career exploration they did as eighth-graders.”

Heaton uses several other career information tools to help students.

“I try to teach students how to use career resources to look up information about jobs in their career area of interest,” she said. “I encourage students to focus on a career area versus a specific job so their options can remain open.”

One tool Heaton uses specifically is the Oklahoma Career Information System, or OKCIS, Web site.

“The information is customized for Oklahoma students and provides information on jobs, colleges and universities across America and financial aid and scholarship information,” she said. “It also features assessment tools like interest inventories, aptitude tests and job values.”

Heaton encourages students to start forming a career information folder to collect important information for the future.

“Students can begin collecting information like club activities, student awards and work experience during high school,” she said. “This information is then readily available when they begin filling out college applications and building their resumes.”

Heaton said OKCIS provides students with an electronic option.

“OKCIS is great in this aspect because it allows students to build and maintain an electronic portfolio,” she said. “The electronic portfolio is easier for students to maintain and update and utilizes the technology that most are already familiar with.”

Heaton also holds the annual Eighth Grade Career Expo to give younger students a head start in thinking about their careers.

“It is an all-day event that allows students to explore a variety of occupations through interaction with people who are actually working in those occupations,” she said. “Students learn about the training, salary, job duties, job market, required skills and knowledge needed for a variety of occupations.”

Heaton, who holds a bachelor’s degree in vocational home economics education, said her position as career information specialist allows her to teach students on a new level.

“I saw the CIS position as an opportunity to do something new while still working with students,” she said. “To know that I am helping students build an effective career plan that will save them time, money and stress is great. It’s the best job I’ve ever had.”

For more information on career planning for high school students in the Red River Technology Center district, call Anne Heaton at 580-255-2903, Ext. 234.

For information about Red River Technology Center programs and enrollment, call 580-255-2903, Ext. 230, or visit the Web site at www.redriver.tec.ok.us.

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