Beginning this fall, high school seniors in Iowa need to pass a personal financial literacy class to graduate. In Sioux City, students are discovering that the curriculum is more in-depth than just the nuts and bolts of building a budget or opening checking and savings accounts at a local bank. Teachers like Daniel Duncan are discovering that older teens are quick to engage in the material, seeing it as beneficial to be able to afford college. At Sioux City’s North High School, the personal financial literacy course uses a curriculum developed by Next Gen Personal Finance, which has become a major player in curriculum development for this relatively new subject. Students are excited to see that the curriculum includes information to help them make money and manage it: a Career Unit on how to get and keep a job.
Students Need Real-World Info on How to Enter the Job Market
While critics might complain that a unit on resume-building and dressing for a job interview is not part of the standard personal finance curriculum, it is essential to teach teenagers and twentysomethings these skills. While some school districts may provide beneficial information for teens entering the job market, efforts are not uniform. Many teens, and even college graduates, may receive diplomas without learning important information and skills about how to write a resume, dress for an interview, or answer common job interview questions. High school students are likely to be underprepared for interview questions.
Outside of a comprehensive personal financial literacy class that includes a unit on starting a career, teachers who want to help high school juniors and seniors with job-landing skills may have to search for resources independently. While many high-quality resources are available online, few compare with the comprehensive nature of actual course curriculum. Additionally, an in-person class can have students practice their job interview skills in real-time and get immediate feedback.
Mock job interviews can be done in many classes, but it is preferable to house them under a Personal Financial Literacy course so that all upcoming graduates can practice. In states without a required personal finance class, many high school seniors receive a smattering of financial literacy and job-landing skills in Economics, Government, or English classes, as well as elective courses like Speech and Debate or Theater. Unfortunately, many seniors do not take Speech and Debate or Theater and thus have little opportunity to work on their public speaking or interviewing skills.
Resume writing skills and professional email etiquette may be taught periodically in English classes, but this may vary considerably based on the individual class. While seniors in an AP English Literature class may have a few weeks for real-world writing and email etiquette after completing the AP exams, other classes may not have a designated block of time to cover this information. Housing resume writing, professional email etiquette, and job interview skills within a designated Personal Financial Literacy class is the surest way to ensure that all graduating seniors are prepared for the rigors of the job market. It would also free up the other courses that currently share the load to focus on their own curricula, perhaps introducing students to more interesting material.