August 30, 2016 Anissa R. Hicks

The Inside Scoop on Growing Exploring: Tips From Circle Ten Council

Story by Kelly Puckett of Circle Ten Council

Career Experience programs are in high demand nationally, and there are many ways to take advantage of this current buzz to help grow your program. At Circle Ten Council, we saw Exploring membership grow by 16.5% in 2015, and ended the year with an 18% growth in posts! Using the strategies below, we also added posts in five new career fields – architecture, horticulture, automotive repair, marketing, and technology entrepreneurship. Discover how Circle Ten Council brought Exploring membership to new heights with these five tips:

1. Identify Youth

Use career interest surveys – These are the best way to identify youth if your schools will consent to do them. Remember to always bring the results back to your schools. Providing this valuable information will build a strong relationship with them.

  • TIP: When prospecting for new posts, go to schools where you have established a good relationship. Many have advisory boards or Parent Teacher Associations where they will let you give a presentation. Among the members of these groups, you can find business people who may be willing to sponsor a post! They are already invested in that school and often would like to do more, but don’t know how. Market the program as “adopting” that school.

Identify all the high schools in your area with career academies, career clusters, or career and technical education programs (CTE programs).

  • TIP: Work to create Exploring posts nearby to which you can invite students in these programs. For example, if a school has an automotive repair program, try to set up a post at a nearby car dealership or automotive technical school. You can even partner with the school to do some of your Exploring meetings during school hours.

Identify schools that already gather career interest information through systems such as Naviance, Career Cruising, etc. and ask if you can use their data.

  • TIP 1: Remember to remind schools that our surveys are free—they have to pay for most other systems.
  • TIP 2: Learn about the systems your schools use to gather career interest information and become an expert on their pros and cons. Our surveys may still be a great addition to what they are already doing. Make sure they know that we use our data to connect students directly with local businesses. No other survey does that!

2. Build Strategic Partnerships

Join career and technical education (CTE) advisory boards. All of the individual CTE programs (law enforcement, aviation, automotive, etc.) have their own advisory boards that meet throughout the school year. CTE teachers are required to find people working in their profession to join the board and advise them on the curriculum. If you are working to start a post for the students in their career field, they will be happy to invite you to join their board. You may even meet a person on the board who would sponsor the post.

  • TIP: Schools always need more internship opportunities for their students, but businesses are often reluctant to have interns because it’s a big commitment. Exploring Posts are a great way to get businesses involved that are reluctant to offer traditional internships. Set them up to offer Exploring experiences once or twice a month (at minimum). Often, representatives at these businesses will meet Explorers that they see great potential in, and this relationship can grow into an internship or employment. Additionally, youth will get excited about being involved and may ask for an internship themselves. It’s really hard to say no to a young person excited about your industry!

Identify district-wide CTE directors, not just CTE coordinators at individual schools – These people can be great allies and some of your biggest supporters in the schools. Most CTE programs have CTSOs (Career and Technical Student Organizations) that students are required to join (like DECA, HOSA, or Skills USA). CTE directors love Exploring because it can enhance those CTSO programs by providing community relationships, mentoring, potential internship partners, and community service – exactly what these programs need as well.

3. Build a council Exploring Committee to help

Target top business leaders in all 12 of the Exploring career clusters and use their help to grow membership. One of the most valuable contributions will be their ability to introduce you to other top volunteers.

Target leaders in education such as principals, superintendents, and CTE directors that can help connect you with students. They can also keep you informed about what’s happening in the schools in your community. Because of the strong nation-wide emphasis on career education, schools have many options of programs with which their students can get involved. Creating good relationships with educational leaders and showing them the unique benefits of Exploring are vital to growing your program.

Have an appropriate mix of business and educational leaders on your committee. Be mindful that top level volunteers are busy people (that’s good!). They only have so much time to give, so be strategic and use your time with them wisely.

4. Don’t forget about Exploring Clubs

Learn about feeder patterns in your school districts. In many middle schools, students have to choose their career focus for high school at the end of eighth grade. Public middle schools have a feeder pattern that show which high schools those students can attend based on their geographic location—find out which high schools those students feed into! Look at the career clusters and programs available at those high schools and start an Exploring Club based on a survey of those careers.

  • TIP: Get a community organization like the Chamber of Commerce, a Rotary Club, or even the school’s own PTA to be the sponsoring organization. When planning the yearly schedule, focus on a different career field each month and include visits to local businesses. Don’t forget the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade Career Exploration Lessons available in digital download from the Learning for Life resources in myBSA. They enhance the program of Exploring Clubs greatly.

Start Police and Fire Exploring Clubs at departments that already have posts to help boost post membership. Make the primary focus of clubs citizenship, physical fitness, leadership, and community service.

  • TIP: Consider joint meetings of post and club members every once in a while so that older youth can learn leadership by teaching and encouraging younger participants.

5. Utilize the new Be an Explorer leads

At Circle Ten Council, we have been receiving a few leads every week from people who visit the national Exploring website. Make sure to follow up as soon as possible. We have already connected several youths with posts near them, and our local advisors appreciate the new membership they didn’t have to recruit themselves!

Scouting Wire would like to thank Exploring Executive Kelly Puckett of  Circle Ten Council for submitting this story.

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