Monthly Archives: November 2002

Tests will help students key in on careers

By Kellie B. Gormly, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Thursday, November 14, 2002
Your local news
About the writer

Kellie B. Gormly is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review staff writer and can be reached at 412-320-7824 or via e-mail.

Ways to get us

West Allegheny High School sophomores who are considering future careers will soon take tests to determine whether their dreams match their abilities.West Allegheny is one of more than 90 schools in southwestern Pennsylvania utilizing the Keys2Work program, a growing Pittsburgh-based operation that administers three 45-minute American College Testing WorkKeys skills tests. The tests pinpoint which careers match a student’s skills and interests, and which skills a student must improve if he or she is set on a certain vocation.

Students set on becoming lawyers, for instance, might discover deficiencies in reading for information or in listening and writing. The test then would point to the need to improve in those areas or pick another career.

“It’s a reality check for kids to see that you need this level of math or English,” said Lynn Birnie, guidance counselor at West Allegheny High School. “Most students seem motivated to improve on those skills if they don’t score high enough. If you know what you’re working toward, you’re more likely to work harder.”

During class time in the spring semester, about 10,000 southwestern Pennsylvania students will take the ACT tests in applied math, reading for information and locating information, which tests the ability to interpret information from charts or graphs. The students take the tests with pencil and paper but analyze the results on-line once they get their scores from the school, said Jeffrey Curry, director of community outreach for Keys2Work.

The Web site, which stores students’ files, pinpoints the areas that need improvement and lists strong career matches based on interests indicated. It also lists many employers and the qualifications they seek for jobs, along with potential apprenticeships. Students can access and update their files for up to 10 years after taking the tests.

“Its purpose is to give students a forward vision as to what their potential fits are in the work place based on their current skills, interests and desired level of academic achievement,” Curry said. “The goal is to get them on board and thinking about careers in 10th grade and to be able to develop a solid path in school.”

Two years ago, West Allegheny first tried Keys2Work with a group of about 10 to 12 kids. All the school’s 244 sophomores participated last year, and will again this year, Birnie said. She said the sophomore year is an ideal time to participate in Keys2Work because when the teens become juniors, they can sit down with counselors to evaluate their test results. Then, they can evaluate which college, trade school or other training avenue to aim for after graduation.

“In order to find an appropriate career, it has to be something they’re both interested in and have the skills for,” Birnie said. Keys2Work “helps them plan their path and helps them know where they need to be.”

Keys2Work started in 2001 with grants from several local agencies — including The Pittsburgh Foundation and Heinz Endowments — that make the program available to schools for free. The number of students taking the test this year will be more than double the 4,500 who took the test last year, Curry said.

Birnie said she has received a lot of positive feedback from students about Keys2Work. They are able to retrieve their results and search for career information from the Web site, at their leisure, and many students have discovered career possibilities they would not have thought of otherwise, Birnie said.

“The kids do really like it — it’s gone over very well in our school,” she said. “We look forward to doing it in the future. ”

Key skills

Pittsburgh-based Keys2Work gives students a chance to test their skills and interests against possible vocations. Seven skills examined by Keys2Work:

  • Reading for information
  • Applied mathematics
  • Locating information
  • Applied technology
  • Observation
  • Listening
  • Writing