Minot Public Schools Career and Technical Education Director Pam Stroklund calls the Web site created by career counselor Steve Beutler "a hidden jewel."
"Due to all the local, state and national presentations Steve conducts, Minot has become the role model for career counseling around the country and this site is highly accessed," wrote Stroklund of the Web site, which
can be accessed at (pages.minot.k12.nd.us:80/votech/careerdevelopment.htm)
Beutler has been the career counselor at Minot High School since the 1990s and worked under the school-to-work program grant provided by the Clinton administration. He said his Web site grew out of resources he wrote and discovered over those years. Beutler said it took him months to write the material on the site. Checking links to other Web sites to make sure they remain up-to-date is also time-consuming.
The Web site contains information about financial aid and scholarships, those offered in Minot and in the state and others that are offered nationwide; a link to information about ACT testing and a free or low-cost study program to help students get ready for the college entrance exam; plans for which courses a student could take each year in high school in order to meet certain career goals, with information about different classes offered by the Minot Public Schools which are grouped under the state's 16 career clusters: agriculture, food and natural resources; architecture and construction; arts, A/V technology and communications; business, management and administration; education and training; finance; government and public administration; health science; hospitality and tourism; human services; information technology; law, public safety, and security; manufacturing; marketing, sales and service; science, technology, engineering and mathematics; transportation, distribution, and logistics. There are also links that will list possible careers under a certain category and college requirements.
Beutler is particularly proud of a program called MyLife, which includes a series of exercises that help a teenager see what's really involved in grown-up responsibilities such as renting an apartment, buying a home, buying transportation, paying monthly bills and living on their own. The Web site notes that certain bills will be higher in certain areas of the country. People living in the south could expect to pay higher air-conditioning bills, while people living in the north will pay higher heating bills, for instance. Kids see how much the life they want will cost and then explore careers and how much they can expect to earn from different ones. Students discover how much more a person with a bachelor's or an advanced degree would make on average than someone with a high school diploma.
Beutler recently created a simplified version of the program for middle school students called MYLIFE Junior which he presented this month at the National ACTE conference in Charlotte, N.C.
Beutler also wrote documents such as Nail That Job, which offers resume writing tips, and the Career and College Planning Guide, which he shares with others. Beutler said he allows other groups to use the material on his Web site as long as it being used for educational purposes. He gets a number of e-mails from all over the country commenting on how helpful people find the Web site. He said some other schools require students to go through the exercises in MyLife.
Beutler said these are life skills that all students need and he thinks the exercises are in some cases more helpful than hearing the same information from a teacher. He recalls one student who proudly showed him a picture of the $40,000 car the student planned to buy after he graduated from high school. The boy planned to get a $10 an hour job in Los Angeles. Beutler had the boy look up information on how much car payments, auto maintenance and auto insurance would cost. Soon the boy was hanging his head. He told Beutler, "Mr. Beutler, I can't afford this car." Beutler said the boy admitted he wouldn't have believed Beutler about the expensive car if Beutler had told him.
Beutler also said it's important for kids to plan out their futures, particularly in the current job market. At career and technical education conferences, he's heard that the average engineer in India makes about $17,000 per year, much, much less than an engineer with similar education in the United States, and that four other countries will soon be turning out similarly qualified, lower-paid engineers in the next few years. Those are the people that Minot students will be competing against, he said.
He tells the students that they need to have something a bit extra to make them stand out. For resumes, that means a "visual resume," unlike the old-fashioned paper resume that are a dime a dozen, he said. Minot students all have a digital portfolio on the school system's Web site where they can keep work they've done throughout their school careers. Beutler said there's enough space on the server for students to keep that portfolio on-line through college. He tells the students to save everything because they never know when they might want to show a paper or a special project to an employer to show what they can do.
Beutler said his Web site is a good way for parents to guide kids in choosing classes or in seeking out financial aid; it's also important, though, that kids make the future career choices they want. He hears from some kids who say they'll be choosing the college and career major that their parents want them to choose, even if it's not the one that they themselves want.
One girl told him she planned to go to college, major in the field her parents wanted her to major in, and then would work for a few years in that field before going back to college to get a degree in the field she wanted. Beutler told her she needed to drop the idea of pleasing her parents and just major in what she wanted to major in. At a time when tuition costs are rising, it can be expensive to do otherwise, he pointed out, and parents need to remember that it's the child's future career, not theirs. That can be hard for some parents to remember, particularly if a student has chosen a career that pays less well, but students need to make their own decisions. Beutler's Web site helps give them the information and the tools they need to make the best choices possible, beginning at an early age.