Counselors face many challenges in the futureFifth in a series Besides dealing with a shortage of counselors and the needs of a young workforce in the state, there are many other challenges counselors, teachers, administrators, students and parents face for the future.
By: Stefanie Briggs, The Dickinson Press
Fifth in a series
DICKINSON - Besides dealing with a shortage of counselors and the needs of a young workforce in the state, there are many other challenges counselors, teachers, administrators, students and parents face for the future.
School counselors in the region are looking to address these challenges and help students find their way through the maze of the real world.
“It’s really about preparation,” counselor Ric Ukestad said. “Students have to be prepared to adapt as things change. They have to be prepared to make changes.”
The financial challenge of affording the college or post-secondary institution is a real struggle for many students, he said. Ukestad is a counselor for Dickinson Trinity High School and the Belfield Public School District.
“The average debt for students coming out of college is something like $12,000 to $15,000,” Ukestad said. “More has to be done at the federal and state levels to assist students in their educational pursuits, but students also have to be accountable.”
Dickinson High School counselor Sue Larsen often sees how students get caught up with other things other than thinking about future career employment.
“Sometimes I think students get caught up with getting a job to make money to get them certain things, rather than taking the time to look at other options they could miss out on,” Larsen said. “Getting kids to look at life two to three years down the road is hard. They’re more concerned with what’s happening now and the hardest part is looking at the consequence of not doing something now that could better them for down the road.”
Finding enough time to spend with each student is a major challenge for counselors.
“I try to do as many things as we can as groups,” Ukestad said. “I try to include faculty to do things in class, whether it’s career explorations, test planning or going to the computer lab to check out online resources”
Halliday Public School counselor and Superintendent Dave Lee said each child has different needs.
“We need more direction in the way of helping kids navigate what’s available to them too,” Lee said. “On Guidance Central Outlook (Web site) you can store test scores, resumes, a portfolio and results from interest tests, which is a lot, and we need to make sure someone goes over that with them.”
If counselors have so many students in the school or schools they serve, it is hard to spend time with them on that, he added.
“We need to have a guide for counselors and school staff to get more involved in the process,” Lee said. “Statewide assessments are pushed on counselors too. There’s so much work with the procedure for tests and it’s time consuming. Many counselors are doing testing until the end of November and have little time for anything else.”
At DHS, Larsen said each grade goes through different steps.
“I work with sophomores through their life skills classes to make sure I have talked to all of them through required classes they are taking,” Larsen said. “With juniors, we do a (course) credit check to make sure they’ll graduate on time, but also look at their next step on what their plans are after school.”
Through the state- and school-funded Bridges Web site, there are interest inventory tests, ACT or PSAT tests geared to help students study and career development resources.
“We also have them take the Meyers-Briggs personality test, which tell a little bit about what your personality is and what you’d do well with or have difficulty with,” Larsen said. “We have assessments every year so kids get to know themselves really well. If they know themselves really well they can make good choices.”
The annual career expo took place Thursday, March 6, and is developed by counselors in the region for high school juniors and sophomores using the 16 career clusters now developed for career counseling.
“We used the career clusters to determine careers students are interested in,” Larsen said. “Students did the survey with the career clusters and from that we put together a listing of the careers most popular with students.”
The survey helped the counselors determine which speakers to bring in for the expo, which had more than 60 speakers at different sites throughout Dickinson State University’s campus.
“A lot of students don’t know what they want to do before going to college,” Larsen said. “At the career expo we had a panel of college students who came back to talk about the transition from high school to college.”
Ukestad sees a growing demand for career counseling in the future.
“There’s a need for more monetary support from the state and federal level with that,” Ukestad said of expanding career counseling.
Larsen said the newly funded Roughrider Area Career and Technology Center which virtually connects 10 schools in the region to provide more courses for students is a step in the right direction.
“I do know with the CTE center it’ll add health careers, which is an important component,” Larsen said. “I hope to see down the road a look at a career class for freshmen so students are exposed to the career clusters sooner. A career class would expose them to the 16 clusters and look at the different options.”
Lee just hopes computers don’t take away the human connection for students and counselors.
“In the past 30 years, it’s become more computerized, which is good as long as a human being is still there,” Lee said. “I think career counseling will take more coordination of the entire school staff together. Everyone is involved in it by design or default anyway.”
(Next: Students discuss career education)