A variety of transition strategies must be available to children within the K–12 and postsecondary education environments to focus on career awareness and personal awareness. Role models, exploration activities, and resources should be arranged to promote an understanding of various career options and the skills and interests required for individual success. Students who can increase their knowledge about careers in the arts, sciences, information technology, business, engineering, and/or social/human services, will gain a better understanding of the preparation required.
I remember very well when I as a faculty member at NTID sat down with a dean of the RIT college of engineering and asked him at what stage in a young person’s life was ideal to start thinking about a career as an engineer. He replied that one should start no later than sixth or seventh grade because if one aspires to study engineering, college preparatory courses should be taken all through high school—four years of English, four years of mathematics, and four years of science. He emphasized that starting as a junior in high school was too late.
Fortunately, the IDEA mandates improved transition through the development of an individual transition education plan for postsecondary study or employment. Such plans are to be prepared when the child is fourteen years old. School-to-work legislation provides federal funding to school districts to empower educational reform and encourage life-long learning through self-awareness and skill development.
Obviously, schools play a critical part in developing students’ awareness and understanding of the career development process. For example, formal courses in all aspects of a curriculum—English, math, science, and social studies—can introduce students to the important aspects of careers, work, and technology.
It should be pointed out, however, that while these courses are helpful to students, they are not sufficient to encourage students to develop their career awareness skills and use them in appropriate career exploration endeavors. It is through participation in extracurricular activities such as student government, sports, drama, newspaper/yearbook, or other organizations that students can learn to work together and achieve common goals. Teachers play an important role in influencing and advising students to become involved and develop their leadership skills.
Deaf role models should be part of the career development program so that they can interact with students and discuss the implications of careers and how leadership roles in various school activities can impact their career decision-making process. Role-playing activities effectively teach students about different aspects of leadership roles as related to career development.
An obvious need exists for a systematic approach to design, develop, and expand opportunities and choices for deaf and hard of hearing adults to pursue postsecondary education in a wide range of educational programs. The objective of postsecondary education is to enable deaf persons to develop and continue to expand their overall skills, which will foster growth and development in their careers. Every effort must be made to create a positive environment for deaf students in the pursuit of their education at all levels.
As parents and educators, we need to ask how evolving technology will impact education and career attainment for deaf children. Certainly the internet has provided a window to the world for deaf and hard of hearing children, but it has also increased the speed at which changes occur in the world. Will deaf and hard of hearing children of today be able to use these emerging technologies for their advantage, or will the technology leave them educationally and occupationally father behind than they are today? This is the challenge. We must teach our deaf and hard of hearing children to grasp and use the technologies and not avoid them if we are to truly make a difference for the deaf adults of tomorrow.