On the Selection of a Career

by John Kyle, Director of Technical Education

School Days magazine
June 1926

     "This problem is intimately connected with that of the middle and vocational schools. Probably fifty per cent of the adolescents who will complete the middle school course between the ages of fifteen and sixteen years will shortly afterwards be compelled to become wage-earners. Every possible effort should be made to give them preparatory courses in some form of vocational work. The regular teachers and the school principal will need the advice of a liaison officer who is closely in touch with the needs of employers on the one hand and with the possibilities of vocational training on the other."
          From Survey of the School System by Messrs. Putnam & Weir

     One of the most difficult problems for boys and girls to solve when they leave school is the one which calls for decision in the selection of desirable employment; and by desirable is meant that kind of work which has opportunities for future promotion in opposition to the kind which is generally termed "blind alley."

     The selection of a career demands careful and thoughtful consideration and a knowledge of the many trades and professions which are accessable to the youthful aspirants. To assist parents in this task many school boards engage men who act as vocational officers. These officials operate employment bureaux through which much is done to assist in choosing vocations with due regard to the gifts with which nature has endowed the boys and girls.

     For many years past must (sic) has been systematically accomplished in European cities and in Great Britain, but notwithstanding their best efforts it is always apparent that a great proportion of pupils who leave school are compelled or condemned to commence duties at work for which they have no particular talent and even less interest.

     In such cases night schools are formed to be the road to freedom, a means by which they may emancipate themselves from their unfortunate position. Boys and girls who leave the public school to go to work are well advised to attend night school classes where they can continue to study those subjects which bear directly upon their life's work or upon some hobby in which they may be intensely interested.

     The selection of a vocation, however, is no easy matter, and it is one of supreme importance. We are informed on many sides that the wealth of the province lies in its natural resources, its agriculturals areas, its forests, its minerals, fisheries, good homemaking and worthy citizenship. But it is only by intelligently trained skill that anything important can be done in any of these departments.

     Any job for a boy or girl which has a big wage attached to it should be severely scrutinized for it is likely to prove one in which there is no future promotion. Even acceptance as a temporary expedient is dangerous because those who have once experienced the big wage will rarely accept another job with less remuneration.

     If such an ocupation be accepted every endeavor should be made to ultimately secure a footing in a line of work which will have more appeal and in the meantime enrolment should be made in night school classes as a preparation for that day.

     Benjamin Franklin was taken as a boy to visit sawmills, engineering works, counting houses, banks and a variety of industrial establishments in order that he might intelligently select the line of activity into which he could put his whole heart.

     This would seem to be a sensible proceeding and might well be adapted where the Junior High or Middle School exists. These schools with their varied curriculum enriched with much handwork are primarily to place the means before boys and girls whereby they may display their native capacities and even "find themselves".

     It is certainly to the advantage of the boy and girl as well as to the nation that as few youthful people as possible should go to work in a haphazard way without any special regard for future prospects or special abilities.

     In the Junior High School, Vancouver, Principal Herd, for the past few years, has invited prominent employers of labor to his school with the object of enlightening his pupils with a description of the business, and prospects for employment therein. Each speaker receives a list of headings in advance in order to ensure attention to the main points of interest. These addresses are duly reported and mimeographed, each pupil receiving one copy.

     At the end of the school years the pupils bind their reports into book-form and each pupil thus takes from school an up-to-date statement of many employment avenues in Vancouver.

     Luckily a great proportion of the young can do one thing as good as another and they are not likely to fail if they develop the power to concentrate on their job and work industriously for future advancement.