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March 3, 2021

By Sarah Burns, Director of Research Application, and Sandy Bauler, Program Specialist 


When a person’s work environment aligns with their interests, they are more likely to perform better at work, achieve greater academic and career success, and may even earn more money than their peers. As educators, it can be difficult to engage youth in these conversations and encourage them to explore meaningful careers. Here are three ways to start.  

1. Help them understand and articulate who they are 

At this stage students are asking themselves, “Who am I?”  

The San Diego Workforce Partnership helps youth harness the language to express their interests and describe the value they bring to the workplace so they are equipped to find careers that fit them and get their foot in the door.  

To do this, we use a framework called the RIASEC, developed from psychologist John Holland’s Theory of Vocational choice. The RIASEC framework uses six themes to describe people’s interests and match them with careers. By learning how to align their personal interests with careers, students are empowered to build careers where they will experience greater success and satisfaction. 

2. Use tools to reinforce connections between personal interests and potential careers 

Once a student knows what their interests are, the next question is, “Who can I become?”  

We use the RIASEC framework to create anchor points in our career exploration tools, such as our priority sector posters and My Next Move is an easy-to-use hub that includes information on priority jobs and essential skill development, as well as resources like resume support.  

By leveraging an online RIASEC assessment that connects each student’s interest themes with careers that they may have never considered before, we support guidance conversations to encourage reflection and goal setting based on this information.  

3. Support them in designing their own journey 

Lastly, students need to know how to reach their individual career goals.  

All Workforce Partnership youth program participants receive foundational job readiness training through our newly designed curriculum, which covers communication, work readiness and financial literacy. Any educator, mentor or case manager can use My Next Move, the online RIASEC assessment or the essential skill rubric to support youth as they create their career journey.

To learn more about our career exploration work for youth, read about the Launch Pad in Cajon Valley Middle School. 

Want to partner with us? Email Sarah Burns at 

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