#129 Empowering Teens for Success: Career Readiness with Lorna Bryant Transcript


Lisa Marker Robbins 01:05

In today’s episode, we’re diving into the latest trends and insights in college and career readiness. I’m excited to be joined by Dr. Lorna Bryant, head of career solutions for Pearson virtual schools. She brings a wealth of knowledge on how students can be empowered for future success with our evolving career landscape. And our conversation, or to share is how industries are connecting with young talent earlier than ever, and how students can earn industry certificates in high school to gain college credits and workforce readiness. We’ll explore the importance of aligning interest in values with career paths, and how students can navigate the overwhelming array of options available to them. If you’re a parent looking to help your team prepare for college and their future career, this episode is packed with valuable insights and practical advice that will support your team in making informed decisions and being a better candidate for both college and their future career. I’m Lisa Mark Robbins, and I want to welcome you to College and Career Clarity, flourish coaching production. Let’s dive right in to a great conversation.

Lisa Marker Robbins 02:20

Lorna Bryant, welcome to the show. Thanks for making time.

Lorna Bryant 02:24

Well, thank you so much for having me.

Lisa Marker Robbins 02:26

So tell us a little bit about the role that you have. I know you’re you’re with Connections Academy, and you have a very unique role there supporting the students and you guys are doing such cool things. And you have such amazing insights from the role that you hold that I know you’ve got things to share with all of our listeners around the globe.

Lorna Bryant 02:48

No. Well, thanks. Well, I have the great privilege of leading a team that drives college and career readiness, offerings and programming across the network of Connections Academy schools. And so, you know, I get to meet with with really smart and really interesting people to help connect dots for young people as they’re making these incredibly important decisions for their lives and for their future. So So that really is is. It’s it’s a wonderful and challenging job. And as things are evolving today, as we all know, it’s it’s, it’s more and more exciting by the minute. Absolutely.

Lisa Marker Robbins 03:22

I love I love what you’re doing. And I love how it it connects people nationwide would hit on something you just said like there’s an evolution of what’s happening in the career landscape. And as you’re serving the families and your connections, academies, like what are some of the things that you’re seeing change? And some of the things that, you know, whether it’s in your seat, you’re making those at the school level aware of or vice versa? Like, what are some of those trends?

Lorna Bryant 03:53

So I think if we if we actually look and I hesitate to say for the first time ever, but I think probably for the first time ever, we’re seeing Kate’s while hiring an industry, right, the workforce start to really interconnect and start to think about ways that they can work together. And when we when we talk with industry partners, they recognize that they have to reach into early talent earlier, right? They recognize that there is this real need to fill many of these these open roles, right, just in the skilled trades alone in the construction industry. There are 750,000 open jobs right now. And so we meet with these industry partners, and they’re like we really want to connect with young people. We’re not sure how. On the flip side of that we have this generation of learners who are really increasingly advocating for themselves in a way that we haven’t really seen before their lot savvier when they think about what they want their future to look like. They recognize that there are more options available to them. But because of all those options, there’s a little bit of this sort of analysis paralysis, right technology opens up all of these different opportunities. But when we talk to these young people They say, Look, we know there’s a lot out there for us. But we don’t, we don’t know how to connect to it, we’re unclear about our direction. And so it’s it’s finding ways to bring those pieces together those industry partners as hiring partners and our young people to talk about all the different paths to all the different opportunities that are open to them. And I think those conversations are what are most exciting, but it’s where we’re really seeing that shift in the space, which is that need and that awareness that they need to be connecting these different pieces earlier than they ever have before?

Lisa Marker Robbins 05:31

Well, I think you guys are probably doing a great job of getting the messaging out that you’re hearing from industries and higher ed, and those those that are leading, leading in the workforce. Because a lot of times I’m having conversations with the parents whose kids are in my college major and career coaching course. Or those, you know, just the kids that are in the local schools to where I am. And people don’t believe me when I say high school students can find internships, paid internships, yes. work. And it’s like, I don’t know, maybe that’s it, maybe it’s analysis paralysis, or just feels overwhelming, because there’s not a clear path forward. But I have many doubters that are like, Oh, come on, Lisa, there are not opportunities for that outside. So I love that I have somebody else coming on that says we’re hearing the same thing. Absolutely.

Lorna Bryant 06:31

And I think it’s absolutely the case, I think where they they may say why we’re not seeing as much of that it’s because we know these industries want that need that, but they’re not sure how to do that, right. They’re not entirely sure how to engage with that population. And so it’s important that parents but that educators that schools are starting to make some of those connections themselves, reach out to those industries, find a point of contact, right, that you can actually go to directly and say we have these incredibly talented young people. And we think that we could connect them and it would be mutually beneficial. There are some amazing organizations doing even some virtual internship work, where they’re able to connect students who maybe you’re in a rural area, and a lot of families think, well, you know, we just don’t have access to those things. And what technology has done is it’s helped to facilitate right across across geography where you can say, Look, I am I have some really interested businesses, maybe they’re in another state or another part of the state, but they’re really looking for some talented young people to help them solve some real world problems. And there are, there are really good organizations right now that are working to connect those two, right, young people wanting to learn and have those experiences and businesses who need them and actually need them to solve some pretty real world problems. They’re not they’re no longer, you know, an internship, come make me a cup of coffee file some papers, right, we have some really pressing issues and problems. And these young, talented, creative people are the ones that we think can solve them. And once those students have made those connections, that opens doors that you know, most of us in our career know that we have moved up because of somebody we met and a connection early on. And it’s never too soon, even for these young people to be making those connections. Well,

Lisa Marker Robbins 08:13

as you’re, as you’re talking about the opportunities that are there, and maybe pressing on local schools and organizations to help make that connection. I also think I always try to inspire families on even the DIY part of this, right because obviously, you guys are being very intentional in this area at connections and I had a recent podcast guest Drew’s metal, he’s a he always says his his official title is college and career counselor for Loveland city schools here outside of Cincinnati. But he he rewards it and says I’m a career and college like he puts the career piece first, right. And so they in their district have intention around this, but many families are missing out on this. And so they have to self advocate. And I you know what I’ve seen, I’m going to be curious what you’ve seen, part of that, like self advocating or asking, Is this piece of like, I don’t know how to or I don’t have good email etiquette. I don’t have a LinkedIn profile, because two of the things that I teach inside my course are, how to write an email that will get a response and how to set up a student LinkedIn profile for students, because that’s like you said, most of us have risen the ranks because of who we’ve met along the way. And so those are two skills that I think are super important, but like, what else are you seeing are some of those skills that will help then translate into making those connections? Oh,

Lorna Bryant 09:50

absolutely. And I think I look No, I’m not dismissing technical skills, academic skills. Those things continue to be important. However, when you speak with Rick routers, hiring managers, businesses, they’re like we can teach the technical skills, right? What we need are people who have and I know the name keeps shifting right soft skills have become durable skills, they now are transferable skills, power skills. And there’s a reason for that naming. Because they do try and send and transfer across jobs and fields and so on. And so one of the things that, you know, when you talk about the things that you can learn by watching or observing, when we have parents who get concerned that their kids are focusing too much, maybe on their hobbies, or their sports, or you know, their part time job, we really like to lean into the fact that these are amazing opportunities for the students both to practice these skills that are going to be incredibly important and that recruiters are looking for, to learn from the people that they’re working with, right, if it’s a part time job, it’s a volunteer piece that they’re participating in, if they’re being coached by somebody, look to those people that you’re working with, for things that may not even be in a job or field that you ultimately end up in, but what you’re learning from them, and what you’re observing, and what you’re getting to practice and hone is incredibly valuable. And then it’s something that you can truly promote and put on a resume and application. You know, if you’re if you want to put it on a you know, on an online profile, these are the kinds of things that you can really lean into, because more and more businesses are looking for those skills. You’re

Lisa Marker Robbins 11:20

I agree I hear all the time, like we can teach those other skills. But yeah, the the human side of this is super important, which you can start with, I was thinking back to an episode, I was actually, I think my first or second my second episode. And it was with the author of How to raise an adult. And she made the point that we’re not raising children, we’re raising adults. And so giving them those skills. So some of the things that you’re talking about, I see some families, especially if their kids are college bound, being hyper focused on really high meaningful like, saving the continent of Africa, as their extracurriculars. And sometimes parents will be like they’ll they’ll poopoo that they want to continue in their rec basketball league. And I always say it’s a balance of pursuing things that help you further your college major and career aspirations as well as kids just need downtime. But like, why not, you know, have your kid send the email to the coach, if you’re have a question about the, you know, the schedule, or things like that, right?

Lorna Bryant 12:30

Exactly. I think what is the improv pH? No, yes and right, yes, great appearance all the time. It’s not it’s not either or, right, there’s sort of this, this concern as well about either going to college, or they’re going to, there are ways to balance you use the word balance, which is perfect, right? And it’s it is it’s that it’s an either or that yes, and peace. Yes, you can participate in things that you love and are passionate about. And that doesn’t detract from the fact that you can also be preparing to become this adult, right, the future self that you want to be in that will be happy and fulfilled while you’re doing these things. And, you know, Lisa, you also touched on they need downtime, we know that mental health is a huge issue right now, for young people. It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be talking about and planning and helping them with their future. But if it can be woven into different parts of their life without that pressure that’s on it, if we can start having these conversations when they’re younger, that that’s just exploratory, you know, expectations, we’re not, you know, guiding you down a particular path, I think we see that that is having, you know, an impact on how young people are making decisions for themselves. And I think the ability to, to weave really important things into things that are also pleasurable to you. And you know, satisfying to you on a different level is incredibly important. And it’s not a waste of time, Mom and Dad, it’s actually a really healthy approach to getting kids ready for their future. I

Lisa Marker Robbins 13:52

agree. So as you’re saying this, I’m kind of picturing like, three buckets, right. So we talked about those soft skills are adorable skills, whatever the name is, because it’ll be something different by the time by the time this podcast episode goes live, we’re going to be calling it something else

Lorna Bryant 14:10

to know it started in cold bed anymore.

Lisa Marker Robbins 14:14

Like they’re so outdated. Yes. So we got the durable skills bucket, you know, we’ve got like these extracurricular interest. What about like, how are you guys looking at the more of the, I don’t know, career, more of those, like technical skills, or that the hard skills? So if we’ve got the soft skills, the hard skills, what are you guys doing and what are you seeing?

Lorna Bryant 14:42

Yep, so we’re trying again, you know, when we think about what students worry about, right, we did the we did a survey with about 12,000 students across Connections Academy and a few things bubbled up, right one was compensation and cost, right we know that continues to be a major concern. And then the other was, you know, direction that I want, I want to do confidence, I don’t think I have anything really much to offer, right and connection, where do I start? Who do I talk to etc? And so the thing is, how do we get them all of those things while saving them some time saving them some money, right before it’s the most expensive time of their life to make those decisions, which is their first year of college? And how do we help them figure out early on what they want to do, but as importantly, what they maybe don’t want to do and get them into some of those real experiences. The other piece when I said about the either or, and I’ll give you a concrete example in a sec is, you know, again, not that either or they may say they don’t want to go to college. But they may change their mind, right? So let’s make sure we don’t shut that door too soon. Or they may say, I’m only going to college is the only thing I’m interested in. Okay, well, that’s fine, let’s maybe balance it with some other things that will also help with employability, you know, if you decide that you want to go into an entry level position first or need to do that for some reason. So one of the things that we’re seeing is this, this focus on skills, which we know everybody’s hearing about this, right, and they’re all these camps of all the four year degrees, no longer than history, everybody needs to be skilled. And so working with organizations, we work with Coursera, as one as an example, they have all of these industries certificates that we can bring to our students, they can take those industry, those courses while they’re in high school, more and more high schools are thinking this way, you can take these courses, you can earn industry certificate, you can earn a high school credit. And at the same time, there are universities, more and more higher ed institutions saying we’re willing to accept those credentials for college credit. So you’ve, you’ve hit the trifecta, right, you can get some high school credit, you can get an industry cert. And by the way, this will apply to you if you decide to apply to college later on, or immediately after high school, now you’ve got something you can take into the workforce, so you can take with you to a college. And I think that ability to sort of tie these things together for young people earlier on. It’s time saving, but it also opens their eyes to the fact that hump there really are a lot of different paths for me that I maybe didn’t, didn’t consider. And I think one of the one interesting thing that we did we heard about was that even if a student decides to take a liberal arts degree, let’s say they take, you know, philosophy, I was an English literature major, we know those jobs are everywhere. But if you tie that to an industry credential, your chances of employment increase your chances of re having making a higher salary increase. So again, back to parents and students, none of this is wasted. They can be exploratory, but it can also have some really, really tangible benefits for them before they even finish high school. Well,

Lisa Marker Robbins 17:33

you mentioned and I know, and I always have to remember this as a podcast host and an expert on something. You and I are so up close to this. Yeah, I want to back up for a second because you mentioned Coursera, which I’m a huge fan of. And sometimes my listeners are like course, why Coursera. And there are others. But that’s, I would say the most popular is an massive online open enrollment course where you can take classes for free everybody. And so in their top buy, I mean, Johns Hopkins Northwest, or there’s all kinds of colleges that are on there. It’s you know, in module four of my college major and career coaching course, we talked about how to curate experiences that are going to help you make these decisions about what fits right. And so I have a whole module on how to use courses. And it can start with like, what’s offered in your high school was offered dual enrollment where you could get some college credit, but I also teach lean into Coursera. You know, it makes me think of a previous student that I was working with who it was during the startup COVID. And she saw her extracurriculars disappearing, because she couldn’t go be with people. And so we went into Coursera, she took a data science class with Johns Hopkins and found that that was really what she loved. And then that was the path that she pursued. And you know, Purdue University has that. So I love that. So you guys, connections. Do you guys give high school credit for Coursera courses? Or how does that work? No, it

Lorna Bryant 19:15

depends on the state. And it depends on right. So we have schools across 29 states that we support. And so they you know, in most cases, they’re giving them CTE and like to credit in some cases, depending on the course that they’re taking, I can count towards your high school credits towards graduation and computer science credit etc. And so but in most of the courses that that our students are taking, that I hear other high schools are offering when they think about these, they’re ace accredited, meaning that you know, the American Council on Education has gone in, looked at that industry cert and said, this would this would qualify for three hours, six hours, nine or 12 hours, we would recommend those number of credit hours for this course. Which obviously then is incredibly it’s kind of a sort of try credit thing. Free versus just the duel. And I think to your point as well they’ve been, they go in and they start to explore this. They’re like, Oh, I didn’t, I didn’t even, I didn’t even realize, for instance, that when I complete this Google search, I thought I wanted to go into this industry. But oh, my gosh, I just saw all these job openings in a completely different field than I would have thought about that are looking for these types of skills. And it’s not even something I considered until, until I saw that we had a student who told us, I thought I wanted to be a speech therapist, and I may still do that. And I can open my own business. And but now I’ve been anything, marketing is going to be really interesting to me. And so I’m considering marketing, but even if I don’t, I can tie that back to my own business. Just amazing how, you know, the conversations that it opens up, when young people start to get in there and really explore?

Lisa Marker Robbins 20:42

Well, you bring up you know, they they discover stuff, but I’ve had kids also do Coursera or other, you know, job shadows, informational interviews, and go, Whoa, not for me. Yeah, I remember one student of mine did that. And he thought that he would go into something like computer related, did it hated it, but and during his paid high school internship, by the way, everybody, he while he was on the IT computer team, it was with Kroger. He also they collaborated with the finance department at Kroger. And then he was like, whoa, wait, maybe that’s where it is. And I had to remind them, he’s like, Oh, my gosh, I wasted an entire internship because I’m like, that’s not a waste. Not at all. Clear. Rolling out is as important as rolling in Eb

Lorna Bryant 21:38

salutely. It is. Absolutely. I actually say in some cases, it’s more beneficial, knowing what you don’t really want to do and spend because so many students will start something and then well, I’ve already committed three years to this, I might as well just stick with it. Right? Or I have a degree in this, I paid all this money for this. I guess I’m here for the next 10 or 15 years of my life, right? Because they don’t feel like they can take that step back. So rather to know that earlier on is amazing. And then the other piece of it is like you may think you want to go into health care. And you discover I’m not crazy about you know. Exactly. But hey, what I discovered was that in the healthcare field, there are all these other things that I can that I can do, right, I can still be in health care, I can still be in education without maybe I want to be a teacher, but I want to be in that field helping young people. And I think that’s exactly it, you can figure out what you don’t want to do. But it doesn’t mean you don’t have to be in a space that you would still enjoy it.

Lisa Marker Robbins 22:31

Right? Well, I think to you just underscored something because you talked about people earning degrees, when and then going, like, I got to do something with this, right? Like, you know, I was a history major undergrad, who were an English major, I learned grad. And I think that that worked somewhat well back then i times have changed. And I’m not saying don’t get your history or don’t don’t send me any hate mail people. But because there are ways to figure out the path, I think it can be a little more challenging, but I’m such an advocate for families figuring this out while their kids are still in school. And they’re under my youngest just graduated from college two Saturdays ago. Gretchen, thank you. And we so I looked at my husband, like I’m a little bit sad. Like, I feel like we’ve officially we have, we’re a blended family with five kids, and 22 to 32. And I’m like, I feel like the door just firmly closed on a chapter that empty, nothing’s great. And there are things I miss. So my listeners are like, Are you crazy, Lisa, you will someday look back and go, I kind of miss that. But like, while our kids are still in our house, we have a unique opportunity to not be in the driver’s seat, but play a supporting role, and help give them some structure. Some you know, I say to parents all the time, you’re getting ready to pay six figures for college, you have every right to say like, Hey, we’re gonna get we’re gonna do these exercises together to get clear, because once they get to college, they don’t suddenly have the maturity to say like, Oh, I’m gonna go out with this with intention. And I’m gonna set aside the time. And I regularly see in, you know, Facebook groups that I’m in and other places like people were very disappointed and the Career Services at colleges, they think that oh, Career Services is just going to get my kid in internship. And that is not the case.

Lorna Bryant 24:27

No, no, it absolutely isn’t. And the sooner they can, the sooner they can develop some of these skills to your point these advocacy skills and know how to find and identify opportunities for themselves a better one thing that we we have learned in it. I don’t know that it should have been as surprising as it was, but it was when we talked about you know, serving all of these young people. We have keep leaning into the student voice and they’ve got agency and advocacy. And then we asked who what is the biggest influence and we were waiting for it to be our peers or social media. It remained Since the adults in my life, my parent, my grandparent, whomever that key adult is in my life. And second, we’re counselors, and so they are still looking to the adults in their lives to provide some of that structure and guidance may not feel that way. But they are. So we need to know that whenever the conversations we are having, and some of the suggestions we are making continue to have a really significant impact on these young people, despite their ability to you know, speak for themselves as well.

Lisa Marker Robbins 25:26

Yeah, ask any parent of a teen, I remember those days, and they do come back around, by the way, listeners, oh, they do. But they might give you all the body language, all of the flak and make you feel like you’re just a nag. But they, they want it, they need it. They still respect and love you. So as we’re winding up it anything else interesting that came out of that survey or any other tips for our listeners?

Lorna Bryant 25:57

Um, you know, I think the one thing I just want to repeat, I think and lean back on is Don’t, don’t dismiss anything that may not seem to fit the mold of what you think career readiness looks like, right? Or college readiness looks like. More and more of our young people are looking for something that aligns with not just their skill set and their aptitude but their interests and values. It’s incredibly important to this generation. And so anything that gives them an opportunity to, to hone those things to sort of experience and share those things, I promise you is still going to be a really, really important part of their future planning and be you know, feel comfortable leaning into that. Oh,

Lisa Marker Robbins 26:34

well, thank you. That is very wise advice. Connections Academy is obviously doing a great job. You said in 29 states. I know they’re here in Ohio. Yes, correct. Okay. And so if somebody wanted to learn more about connections, where should they go?

Lorna Bryant 26:49

You can just go to Connections. academy.com. Perfect. Okay. And

Lisa Marker Robbins 26:54

that’s a We should say I want to be clear, that is an online

Lorna Bryant 26:58

public school. Right? That is correct. Yes.

Lisa Marker Robbins 27:01

So this is not a private high school that you have to pay for it is an option that public school families have a kid who might want something different than their traditional high school. That’s right. As I said earlier, my massage therapist, sensor, kiddo there, so Okay, thanks, Lorna. It was so fantastic. I appreciate you making the time. Thank you, Lisa. This

Lorna Bryant 27:24

is wonderful.

Lisa Marker Robbins 27:31

Thank you to Dr. Lorna Bryan for sharing her valuable insights on college and career readiness trends. As we wrap up, I encourage you to take the next step in guiding your team by watching my video, how to guide your team to choose the right major college and career. This resource will help you avoid common pitfalls, like missing crucial deadlines or making choices you both might end up regretting. You can find the video at flourish coaching co.com forward slash video and I’ll link to it in the show notes. If today’s episode was helpful, please share it with a friend who could benefit from it too. And don’t forget to rate and review the podcast to help us reach more families with valuable insights and support. Thank you for listening to the College and Career Clarity podcast, where we help your family move from overwhelmed, confused to motivated, clear and confident about your teens future. I’m Lisa Mark Robins and until next time, keep striving for clarity and competence in your teens college journey.