Do you remember taking a career interest survey when you were in high school? Did it determine your career journey, or was it just something you joked with friends about on your way to the cafeteria? Through a partnership with Alabama General Contractors and the Alabama Workforce Council’s Region 3, a better type of career interest survey is coming to Tuscaloosa-area schools: YouScience.

YouScience measures students’ aptitude as well as their interests. Many times, students don’t show interest for a career they could have tremendous aptitude for because they simply don’t know a career in that field exists. Often, careers in education and healthcare show the highest level of interest. Why? Students have been exposed to teachers their entire life in the school setting, and they’ve visited doctor’s offices since they were babies.

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Meanwhile, students tend to show less interest in fields such as manufacturing, our biggest industry in West Alabama. This is mostly because students do not know these jobs exist, or they do not understand the finesse and technical skills associated with them. They can only show interest in what they understand.

YouScience is a way to expose students to different careers and showing participants their aptitude through brain games, puzzles and other practical means. Developed by the team who created WebMD, YouScience is a modern, people-friendly approach to career preparedness. Tuscaloosa City Schools and Tuscaloosa County School System have begun YouScience testing.

We hope that YouScience will open Alabama high school students to the great, competitive jobs we have right here at home. Maybe through learning about their aptitude, they’ll consider applying to Mercedes-Benz Mechatronics Program, Nucor’s Technical Academy or an apprenticeship with Phifer Incorporated.  This aligns with Success Plus, Governor Ivey’s initiative for adding an extra 500,000 post-high school credentialed individuals to our workforce by 2025. By discovering a career opportunity via YouScience, students can learn more about the myriad of educational opportunities in our state. Whether it’s a four-year degree, two-year degree, short-term certificate or apprenticeship, there are many ways for our students to continue learning in Alabama.

Our goal is for YouScience to serve as a catalyst for career technical education enrollment. CTE is imperative for training our future workforce. Plus, it gives students the opportunity to learn competitive skills and earn college credit before they graduate from high school. Approximately 90 percent of CTE students graduate from high school, which is 15 percent higher than the national average. Those of us in workforce know CTE is a win-win, but it’s our students and especially parents who need convincing.

After completing the YouScience profile, a student could learn that he or she has interest and aptitude for a career in healthcare. That’s great, but where do we go from here? The student can then learn about the various health sciences courses offered through their school’s CTE programs. Starting training before high school can lead to less waste of time and money (a student won’t change his or her path of study as much) and better prepare students for their field of interest.

It takes many moving parts to fix our worker shortfall in Alabama, but I believe YouScience will be a useful gear in our workforce machine.

Donny Jones is the director for West AlabamaWorks!