If I were to ask my six-year-old son what job he wants to do when he grows up, I would be shocked if he said, “I want to be an oil rig technician.” He doesn’t know any oil rig technicians. I don’t think he has ever even seen an oil rig or comprehended what it was if he has.

However, I would not be surprised if he said, “I want to be a teacher.” I was a teacher, and his grandmothers were teachers. He has a teacher. He knows what teachers are and what they do. He knows people who look like him, from where he comes from, that are teachers. Becoming a teacher would feel very obtainable to him.

There are many fantastic careers in the world that many children don’t even know exist. For example, students who live in rural farming communities in Arizona may not know anyone who is a chemical engineer, computer programmer, or astronaut. People who look like them and come from where they come from are mostly farmers. And so they will most likely become a farmer too, which is great. But what if they would love to be a chemical engineer?

This is one reason that career and technical education is so important. It opens the world of work to students and inspires them to become engaged, contributing members of their community. It may even help a child who grows up in central Phoenix realize how much technology and engineering goes into modern farming.

As the County School Superintendent, I have shown as many students as possible as many career options as possible. Using video conferencing technology and classroom visits, I connect students throughout Maricopa County to professionals in hundreds of different industries. I have been working to bring professionals into classrooms from all kinds of industries to visit and share with students the experiences that guided them into their chosen professions. These professionals help to expand the vision of our students and see a world outside their own. From drone operators to organic farmers, thousands of Maricopa County students (and beyond) have been exposed to careers for which they never dreamed. You can see some examples here.

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