Today, students have far more college and career exploration options than I had when I followed my father’s footsteps. Accounting was a solid profession, and I excelled at math, so why not? While all choices in life shape you, in hindsight that choice impacted my path negatively, costing me valuable time, and added frustration to my path. This is the story of many, so I am not unique.
I did not have, or wasn’t aware of, the option of a Google or Microsoft certification program that could result in a great job in an exciting field. Today, enlisting in the military could lead to a civilian career in cybersecurity or many other options that were not available or obvious many years ago. Vocational education or Community College, was stigmatized, not cool back then. Today it is a critical piece of our workforce training.
The opportunity of increased skill and degree attainment, and career choices is great, but perhaps overwhelming for today’s young adults. In the age of the internet, information and misinformation about careers, colleges, training programs and loans flood their screens.
In a pandemic, isolation reduces already limited opportunities for professional advice. The average high school counselor-to-student ratio is close to double what it should be, according to the American School Counselor Association (https://www.schoolcounselor.org/ ) with some states being 3 times their 250-1 recommendation. Some school counselors have less than 15 minutes a year to counsel students on college and career planning.
This is especially troubling for students who are the first generation to go to college, or live in less affluent areas where support at home may be limited. If parents did not attend college or enter a trade program, they may not be familiar with the process. And even if they did, the choices and information are changing rapidly.
It is a bleak picture. Too many choices, too little time, and too much adversity.
However, a partnership between a state authority and a Massachusetts-based technology company is changing how students explore and choose career paths. The MEFA (Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority), and FolderWave (a company I co-founded after finding my real passion of being an entrepreneur and appreciating the art of creating software and solving problems) have created an on-line education and career planning platform available to all Massachusetts students.
MEFA Pathway (mefapathway.org) is considered by some to be the most comprehensive college and career planning portals available to Massachusetts high schools and middle schools. And it is free. To every student. Every school counselor. Every school, regardless of budget size.
For almost 4 decades, MEFA has helped families plan, save and pay for college. MEFA recognized the need for a new way to help all families, far beyond the hundreds able to join its community events every year.
The goal was not to build yet another college website, or to only focus on workforce and career. Instead, the goal was to meld these initiatives and collaborate with the best content providers we could.
The result is an engaging, comprehensive portal for any student with a computer and internet connection to explore careers that match their interests and personality, craft a plan to pursue a career, and upload, organize and store the personal content needed to apply to whatever post-secondary education or training program they desire.
In addition, MEFAPathway.org is for counselors and teachers who can support and engage students by easily seeing who is on track, or off track, in their exploration. This insight will make sure the 15-minutes they have with students is focused and productive.
Beyond being free to use, participating schools can access lesson plans and curriculum for using the platform, as well as instruction on admissions and financial aid topics. MEFAPathway.org also helps schools manage requirements under the state’s Individual Learning Plan initiative, MyCAP, an initiative focused on career success paths. For schools spending on career services provided by MEFAPathway.org, those dollars can be redirected to other needs.
The MEFA/FolderWave partnership is committed to keeping the site experience fresh, by always updating and providing new content such as video interviews with students, or new features to continue to grow the platform. Recently, a feature to explore careers of the future was added to be helpful for middle and high school students and their parents. The tools also show how a choice to start a career may lead to advanced careers, or what paths are possible to move laterally, for example, from a business over technology career.
MEFA Pathway highlights the ability of public-private partnerships to support innovation and drive change quickly in education. This has eliminated barriers and brought support to the fingertips of all students.
Robert Burke is the co-founder of FolderWave, a Westford-based technology company founded in 2000 to meet the needs of education.
- If you would like to learn more about how MEFA Pathway can help you in Massachusetts, contact Jennifer Bento-Pinyoun (firstname.lastname@example.org ).
- Or to learn more about our solutions or how a partnership could work in your state or with your organization please contact Bob Burke (email@example.com )
FolderWave is a student centric technology company that strives to create innovative process oriented solution to empower students and the constituents that support them. Our technology, is built on a scalable cloud based platform, and our people provide mission-driven expertise, to enable organizations to achieve improved efficiency and productivity. For more information see https://folderwave.com/about-pathway/
MEFA is a not-for-profit state authority, not reliant on state or federal appropriations, established under Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 15C. MEFA’s mission, since its founding in 1982, has been to help Massachusetts students and families access and afford higher education and reach financial goals through education programs, tax-advantaged savings plans, low-cost loans, and expert guidance. All of MEFA’s work aligns with the ever-present goal to support the independence, growth, and success of Massachusetts students and families. Visit mefa.org to learn more or follow MEFA on Twitter @mefatweets and on Facebook at mefaMA.