We know that preparing for the workforce after graduating high school is an exciting journey. However, this leap can feel like a challenging obstacle without meaningful career planning.
ICAP, or an Individual Career Academic Plan, supports students in exploring career, academic, and postsecondary options by providing them with step-by-step actions they need to take in order to be appropriately prepared for life after high school. ICAP is an inclusive program designed for grades 6-12 that encourages students to work with their school counselors to create a plan that ensures the student:
Research indicates that the ICAP process possesses many significant advantages both for students and school staff, including their ability to “increase student motivation, engagement, school connection, and awareness of individual strengths and weaknesses.” It is also the purpose of an ICAP to increase students’ understanding of postsecondary options and activate their awareness of long-term planning. These ideals are beneficial to students as they begin to set goals for themselves after high school and have an extraordinarily positive impact on their ability to successfully navigate transitions in career path for years to come.
Many career planning and development experts agree that parental involvement is crucial for students. Adding this extra layer of guidance and support within the family unit helps to further empower the child to pursue their occupational aspirations with confidence. As a common starting point, school counselors and teachers are encouraged to offer parents and their children information from several credible sources (e.g., books, websites, and other verified resources).
Implementing an ICAP is a collaboratively developed, student-driven process where students cultivate their own informed decisions for postsecondary success based on their interests, skills, and future goals. As counselors meet with the student and hopefully also meet with the parents or guardians to develop the child’s ICAP, it is important to keep the entire experience positive. If the student feels disconnected or ignored during this process, then the effects will almost certainly reflect that. For ICAPs to be truly impactful, they need to be most meaningful to the student.
An excellent way to spark a student’s natural curiosity about careers is to ask them a series of easy questions that get them to think more deeply about their personal interests, such as:
While ICAPs are not currently required at the federal level for all school districts, many states have passed legislation to set ICAP standards for their 9-12th grade students. In 2019, a house bill was passed in Oklahoma to require ICAPs from every high school student to assist with setting and achieving postsecondary goals early in their school careers. Some districts in the state start the ICAP program as early as 6th grade. By 9th grade, every Oklahoma student must complete an Individual Career Academic Plan to help ensure they have a clear and comprehensive plan in place after high school.
A recent article published by Advance CTE highlighted the state of Oklahoma and the phenomenal work being done to establish and meet these state requirements around ICAPs. The state has achieved particular success in promoting career and technical education (CTE) pathways, including important opportunities for students such as work-based learning, early college experiences, and more.
These efforts have been further enhanced by OK Career Guide, a college and career planning system powered by Kuder® and provided by the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education (ODCTE). OK Career Guide is an all-in-one career guidance solution that supports individual career guidance, tracks and evaluates student development, generates ICAP progress reports, and meets all accountability requirements set forth by the state of Oklahoma. The many tools and resources available within this career readiness system have helped put language to what makes these students unique and guide them towards career discovery that has enabled them to identify their purpose.
Sadly, only 4 percent of State CTE Directors in the United States feel that their state closely aligns career advising and development across the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Oklahoma is among the few states challenging this belief, but more work needs to be done to ensure that students in other regions of the country are presented with the same meaningful guidance toward a successful career.
We need more states on board with this innovative method to involve students in the career planning process at every grade level. By successfully aligning state standards with the right career guidance solution, districts can open the doors to endless opportunities for their students.