Boston — Guidance counselors. TWenty-five years ago their major job was helping first-generation high schoolers get into "the right" college or university.
The majority of secondary schools students, back in the '40s and '50s didn't have college-educated parents or older brothers and sisters. They didn't know much about the differences among the available choices. And so they needed counselors who could guide them from high school to college.
Fifteen years ago the major job of a guidance counselor was to show high school students how to get scholarship aid, loans, and grants -- in other words, how to pay for college.
And also, with so many trying for a limited number of college spaces, to show high schoolers what other options were available to them.
Today, colleges are eager for good students and employ their own financial aid specialists whose job it is to find a way of financing an education for a student the admissions office wants to admit. And most colleges are looking for students to fill dorms and classrooms.
Also today, almost every high schooler interested in going to college knows someone who is in college or was in college, and is able to get all sorts of important information about how to make "the right choice."
So, what should guidance counselors be doing if they aren't introducing students to higher education?
The majority of today's high schoolers who want jobs don't know how to get them, or know what they should be taking in high school so they can get the job of their choice.
Just as college-prep guidance counselors had to do a lot of legwork to know as many college campuses as possible, today's guidance counselors need to give the same thoughtful attention to knowing the job market. It just may be that the high school from which their job-seeking students leave or graduate doesn't have a high-level practical math course or doesn't include bookkeeping skills with auto mechanics for those who want to manage a gas station.
If this is the case, guidance counselors need to be the liaison between the employment sector and the curriculum coordinators, making sure that both 16 -year-old school leavers and graduates of the 12-year course, have the skills and know-how necessary to get the entry-level job most suited to them.
And somewhere conspicuous in the front hall of the high school along with the list of colleges and universities recent graduates are attending should be the list of firms at which other students are employed.
Next week: Co-op ed