On May 7th, 2015, an eager crowd of educators, administrators, and industry partners gathered at Kaiser Permanente Garfield Innovation Center for the East Bay Career Pathways Trust Convening (EBCPT). The gathering highlighted non-common career pathways in the health field and held a number of thought-provoking presentations.
Discussions were happening at every corner of the event. A robot was simulating a birth in labor and delivery, facilitated by a veteran nurse who had her audience appreciate all the elements of labor prep including the specialists that prepare the surgical tools. Sherry Fry, Business Support Manager, facilitated a futuristic prenatal doctor’s visit digitally delivered right into a millennial’s living room. And in the very realistic feeling operating room, participants could see 21st century healthcare fields and more areas of study than most students realize exist, including careers in engineering, advanced manufacturing, and bioscience. In another room Public Health and Safety professionals including Gaston Lau, from EMS corps, William McCoy of RYSE Center, and Susan Kim of Family Justice Center discussed techniques for getting youth into those fields.
Director Sonal Patel of the San Leandro Unified School District and Coordinator Sonja Neely-Johnson of West Contra Costa Unified School were enthusiastically listening to the planning, engineering, and advanced manufacturing it takes to design a NICU room. Patel was particularly inspired by the obvious improvements in the field. “There’s a feeling of perfection that we expect around doctors and nurses,” she said. “It’s nice to be in a facility where you can see that they’re just continually experimenting and getting better at what they do.” She felt it “demystifies the whole process,” to know that “they have to practice, and that they have to throw ideas out and renew [them].”
Neely-Johnson was moved by the variety of different opportunities presented. “We tend to think ‘hospital,’ and we just think ‘doctors,’” she pointed out. Patel chimed in, “We just think doctors and we promote that to our kids. We don’t talk about ‘do you want to be the medical architect or the electrical engineer working on the diurnal night lights.’” The EBCPT convening clearly emphasized medical careers are too-often oversimplified.
Many attendees felt that communication with students really stood out as the most important implication of the event. “Having [an] understanding of… the opportunities and the pathways that kids can go into… many of our students don’t have that,” said Neely-Johnson. As the EBCPT event made clear, “To run a hospital takes many many careers, and there’s different pathways and entry points.”
Patel felt that teachers will be a particularly important asset for communicating this knowledge to students. She pointed out that it is important for teachers to see that “learning doesn’t stop when you cross the tassel or get the diploma. That once you get the job you have to continue to go to a learning space.” She added that she would like for more teachers to participate in this kind of event so that they too might be inspired to expand their students’ horizons.
“The focus for teachers many times is the core content,” agreed Neely-Jonson. “So [it’s important for them] to see how that core content or the knowledge can be applied to professions.” And many of these professions, as she pointed out, are brand new: “The people that were just sharing with us, they said that there wasn’t a degree for what they’re doing now. They’ve sort-of fallen into it.”
As far as the enthusiastic attendees of the EBCPT are concerned, all that is missing now is a specific plan of action. They became united by the common cause. “If an electrical engineer can talk to a medical architect [and they] can talk to the demographics person, then maybe our English teacher can talk to our Math teacher,” said Patel. “That can probably happen.”
EBCPT is part of a larger statewide initiative, the California Career Pathways Trust (CCCPT), that seeks to create direct and effective pathways from K-12 to college and industry by strengthening pathways and improving student outcomes, and increasing student retention and long term success.