19,000 Sonoma County students gain access to online career exploration, planning, and education tool

Thanks to a combination of grant funding, donations from local businesses and individuals, and support from the Sonoma County Office of Education’s Career Development/ Workforce Preparation department, over 19,000 middle and high school students in 39 schools and community-based organizations are receiving lifetime accounts to the interactive Web-based Kuder Navigator Career Planning System. This system utilizes today’s technology to create a powerful connection between education and the changing needs of the 21st century workforce.
Kuder Inc., based in Iowa, is the nation’s leading provider of Internet-based educational and career planning tools and resources. Their password-protected system will give Sonoma County students access to a wide range of resources and allow them to:

•Assess their career interests, skills, and work values;
•Find what to expect during a typical workday and preview the salary ranges for various occupations;
•Explore training, education, and skill requirements for specific careers;
•Access detailed information on over 7,000 technical schools, colleges, and universities and more than 10,000 scholarships and financial aid programs;
•Conduct side-by-side comparisons of careers and colleges;
•Track progress toward education and career goals using a multi-year planning feature;
•Complete and submit federal student aid forms (FAFSA) electronically;
•Create an electronic portfolio with a built-in résumé tool that also helps students create cover letters, complete job applications, and provide work samples for prospective employers.

The Kuder Career Planning System was piloted in 15 Sonoma County schools last year and the feedback from participating students, teachers, and parents was overwhelmingly positive. As one middle school student said, “I now have an idea of what I want to do with my future. I don’t have a blank when it comes to thinking of my career options.”
Given the positive feedback, an additional 24 schools and organizations requested accounts for their students. The resulting order for over 19,000 Sonoma County accounts drove the cost down to less than $1 per student. An adopt-a-school campaign was launched to help fund the expansion and a number of businesses and individuals have contributed. Additional fundraising is under way to secure the remaining dollars needed for this school year.
The Sonoma County Alliance has actively supported the expansion of this program and their membership is responsible for the donations received to date.
“One of the urgent needs of our workforce is a better match between education, training, and work skills required in today’s world,” says Alliance executive director Lisa Schaffner. “This tool is a key way to bridge that gap.”
For more information about this project, contact career development specialist Dan Blake at the Sonoma County Office of Education, (707) 524-2780 or dblake@scoe.org.

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