Career intern

Carl Gorski, who is in the engineering pathway at McBride High School, talks about his summer internship with Toyota at the Career Pledge kickoff.

From kindergarten through college graduation; it is a question that has been asked of Baby Boomers to Gen Z:

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Now, thanks to the ground-breaking work of the Long Beach Unified School District, students may be able to answer that question sooner rather than later.

The Advancing Linked Learning Innovation Network (aLLin), hosted through the Long Beach Unified School District, introduced the Career Pledge last week at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson.

The goal of Career Pledge is to better prepare a greater number of students to transition from education to employment. It is also intended for local employers to have expanded access to qualified local workforce pools with the technical and professional skills needed to achieve their organization’s goals more successfully.

Career Pledge is a regional collaborative encompassing five K-12/high school districts (ABC, Centinela Valley, Long Beach, Lynwood and Norwalk-La Mirada), five postsecondary institutions (Cerritos College, California State Long Beach, Compton College, El Camino College and Long Beach City College) and three workforce boards (Pacific Gateway, South Bay and Southeast Los Angeles County).

“We serve approximately 300,000 students annually and the majority are from under-represented and economically disadvantaged backgrounds,” said Amy Smith, the executive director of aLLin, in her opening comments. “The Career Pledge aims to reach beyond the goal of high school or college completion and stems from what we ask children very early on, ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ This initiative extends beyond serving students. It focuses more intentionally around ensuring our regional employers get qualified local talent need to achieve their organizational goals.”

LBUSD Superintendent Chris Steinhauser added that the Career Pledge will work hand-in-hand with the district’s College Promise initiative that allows high school students from Long Beach Unified to attend Long Beach City College with two years of free tuition or guaranteed admission to Cal State Long Beach to those who qualify.

“We are preparing students for college and careers, it’s not one or the other,” Steinhauser said. “You’re not preparing for either one; you’re preparing for both.”

Steinhauser pointed out that not only are big businesses like the Port of Long Beach reaching out with opportunities, it is also the mom and pop business owners who want to help.

“How many people truly know in high school what they want to do because they may change their majors,” he said. “The beauty here is that to be a good worker there are certain common soft skills — getting along with others, following orders, being innovative, dressing appropriately — that all young people can experience.

“What I appreciate is everyone is breaking these walls down to not saying ‘we can’t,’ but to say, ‘how can we.’”

Carl Gorski is a prime example of what the Career Pledge can do for students. The engineering pathway student from McBride High School had an internship with Toyota during the summer. He said he was challenged daily by his coworkers to think like an engineer and produce the results of an engineer.

“It’s these types of interactions that make internships such an important resource for young people to utilize,” he told the audience. “It’s isn’t the applications like my counselor said or even beef up my resume as my teachers hinted at.

“Internships, or any activity where a student interacts with a business, like career fairs or mock interviews, are just about the best tools adolescents can use when faced with questions like ‘what major are you applying for, or what do you want to do when you grow up.’”

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