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Using Role Models to Encourage Nontraditional Participation

One of the main barriers to attracting more students into nontraditional programs is the shortage of positive role models in these occupations.  Many students are receptive to the notion that they can be anything they want, but in terms of real influence on academic and career decisions, role models speak louder than words.  Sharing experiences with students to expand their academic and career options can help them realize the benefits of keeping those options open. 

Who Can Serve As Positive Role Models?

  • Teachers
  • Parents
  • Community Members
  • Older Students
  • Recent Graduates 

Tips for Using Effective Role Models 

  • Present role models in such a way that the student can identify with them.  The most effective role model will connect with their audience as a "real person" working in a real job.
  • The role model should discuss not only what they do on the job, but the impact the job has on their private and family life, interests, and life goals.
  • Ongoing publicity is essential to provide recognition of women and men working in nontraditional careers and to encourage young people to consider all their career opportunities.
  • Sometimes the most effective role models are older students who are enrolled in nontraditional programs.  Students who have chosen a nontraditional program might be asked to help with recruiting, speaking, and mentoring. 

Questions for Adult Role Models 

  • Describe a typical day on the job.
  • What is the salary range for work such as yours?
  • How do you use math, science, and computer skills in your job?
  • What is it like to be a woman (or man) in this job?
  • How did you decide on this particular career? 

Sources: Vocational Options in Creating Equality. Albany-Schoharie-Schenectady BOCES.  Volume XIV, No.1 March 1993.  Michigan Center for Career and Technical Education, Michigan State University.