Posted November 13, 2017 by Mark Perna
Before you can reach students, you have to reach their parents.
If you’re trying to connect with young people on any level in the education and workforce development sectors, you may have experienced the challenge of gaining parental buy-in. Maybe it’s the value of career-focused education that they just don’t realize. Maybe you represent an industry of which they have little experience or knowledge. Whatever your context, you need them to see the significance of your offerings. You need to open their eyes.
Parents can be blinkered by the stigmas that have been floating around career-focused education for decades. You know the ones—like college is not an option if a student takes a career-focused program, that choosing such a pathway leads to low-paying work, that college is the only way to win, that the student’s future opportunities are limited by taking a career program, and more.
If we don’t reach parents, it will be infinitely harder to reach students. Technology has made it easier than ever for parents to remain connected as huge influencers in their children’s lives. The younger generations tend to be very connected with their parents and involve them in many life decisions, often into adulthood. While every family has a unique dynamic and parent-child relationships, we shouldn’t underestimate the influence of the parent.
So how do we open eyes to the value of career-focused education? As a keynote speaker, I often have the opportunity to address the parents of current and prospective students. Whenever I am speaking to such an audience, I always ask two questions:
Due to the current dominant narrative in this country, almost everyone believes college is the best choice for their child. So I work with that view rather than against it to open people’s minds to the full range of options—of which college is certainly one.
We must communicate that college is absolutely an option for students who take career programs. Perhaps even more important, taking a career program in high school actually gives collegebound students a competitive advantage. There are many reasons for this:
You can probably add to this list. By taking a high school career program, these students, in essence, can become the right students, in the right college programs, for the right reasons. They will build a powerful competitive advantage to achieve more than those who simply start from square one at some point in the college experience.
We need to open parents’ eyes to the amazing opportunities that high school career and technical programs create for college, career, and beyond. Our message has to be a stigma and paradigm changer that gets parents to think in a way that creates many pathways to success. The competitive advantage of career-focused education truly has the power to open people’s eyes—so let’s help them take the blinkers off, see the big picture, and influence their children make the best decision for their education and life direction.