As Albany High School students, we are lucky to be able to participate in Career Day every year and Job Shadow day when we are juniors. These events provide exposure to careers we otherwise may not have known about, but many career paths still remain unknown and overlooked.
Predicting the future is always tricky. Figuring out what jobs will be both prevalent and rewarding when we join the workforce is equally so. Taking a look at demographic trends or legislation that impacts employment might provide some clues to future opportunities. In fact, you might not have to look any further than Albany High to see demographic and legislative trends in action.
The Baby Boom generation, which includes many of our parents or grandparents, not to mention teachers, is aging and is starting to retire in huge numbers. According to the Pew Research Center, 10,000 Baby Boomers will reach the traditional retirement age of 65 each and every day between now and 2030. That’s 69 million people retiring by 2030.
As a result, jobs serving the health care needs of the aging population (physicians, physical therapists, nurses)will be in high demand.
But maybe you’d rather work with younger people?
Oddly, even with all those soon reaching retirement age, the high school teaching profession is only supposed to grow seven percent between now and 2030.
Yet, there are certain segments in education that offer significant opportunities. Many of these high-growth jobs are driven by legislation that provides students equal access to public education, regardless of disabilities or learning differences.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Civil Rights code are federal laws that “ensure that a child with a disability has equal access to an education.” The real job-creating provision states that a student with disabilities “may receive accommodations and modifications.”
Though you may not see them everyday, there are many employees at Albany High who help students get this equal access to education. Three important professionals are Carol Aldape, Daniel Vilhauer, and Richard Walker.
Carol Aldape is a Speech and Language Pathologist, Therapist, and Specialist, depending on where she’s working. At Albany High, Aldape works primarily to assess students in their communication skills. Aldape explained that her assessments include but are not limited to “receptive language skills, fluency, speech sound production, auditory processing, and comprehension of what is heard and the ability to respond to questions asked about it.”
Aldape works with students to identify learning differences, and then they work together to formulate a plan of action. “You can teach strategies to compensate for learning differences,” explained Aldape.
Aldape also works countless hours outside the walls of Albany High. Many would see this career as quite difficult and time-consuming, but it is clear that Aldape has found her calling in speech and language. Her path to this point, however, was not as clear-cut as many might think.
Aldape began her college years as a classical and jazz music major, dreaming about becoming a member of the San Francisco Symphony. When her dad substitued for a special needs class, however, Aldape was inspired to pursue a new career path. She went on to study speech and language pathology as well as audiology, but her background in music didn’t go to waste. “My ear was good,” noted Aldape, “and you need to be a good observer.”
Her love of the job is reason enough to consider a career in speech and language pathology, but Aldape also shared, “This is an awesome profession with an abundance of jobs. There is so much work in this field, so much flexibility.”
In fact, the job outlook for speech and language pathologists is increasing at a remarkable 23%, which is faster than average.
Like Aldape, Daniel Vilhauer loves his work at Albany High School. Vilhauer works as a sign language interpreter and assistant football coach for the Albany Cougars. Put simply, Vilhauer is responsible for “interpreting all audible information” for two students. Additionally, he signs for a student who participates in football and wrestling at Albany High, giving important cues and relaying information from coaches. Like many students at Albany High, Vilhauer graduated from high school uncertain of what career he wanted to pursue.
Years later, Vilhauer began on his path as an interpreter upon meeting a girl who was an Americal Sign Languague (ASL) interpreter student. He accompanied her to deaf parties, and as a talkative, social person, Vilhauer was out of his element, unable to communicate with anyone. Ten years after graduating from high school, Vilhauer enrolled in community college, where he took his first ASL classes. On top of his schoolwork, Vilhauer also worked for a non-profit serving the deaf in Sacramento. “I had to sign to survive,” explained Vilhauer. This hands-on experience helped him in finishing his B.A. in deaf studies at a four-year college.
Though Vilhauer doesn’t regret taking the time to find his passion, his advice to students debating whether or not to go college is simple: “Go anyway.” “In the modern U.S.,” Vilhauer commented, “trying to be successful, feed a family, and pay bills would be monumentally difficult without a college education.”
For Vilhauer, the extra time and openness to a new experience has landed him with a job that he absolutely loves, which he cites as the best part of his work. “Even on the most boring day, it’s a great intellectual challenge.” The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that in the next eight years, the job outlook for interpreters and translators will increase by 42%, which is much faster than average. This, combined with Vilhauer’s love of the job, is a convincing case to consider careers in the same field.
Similar to Vilhauer, Richard Walker, a Communications Access Realtime Translation (CART) provider, has found his experiences working with deaf students to be extremely rewarding. Walker explained his job in simpler terms: “I write classroom lectures/ discussions on my Stenograph machine, which is wirelessly connected to my laptop, where software translates the stenography into text for the deaf/hard-of-hearing consumer to read.”
Walker graduated from college as a psychology major, and a couple years after his graduation, attended a school that trains court reporters. Walker then earned his Certified Shorthand Reporter license, and after joining the Court Reporters Association, he went on to earn additional certifications. These certifications include the Certificate of Merit, Registered Professional Reporter, and Certified CART Provider.
Walker worked as a court reporter for 30 years but eventually found that he wanted to focus his attention more on helping people directly through captioning and providing CART services. Outside of his work at Albany High, Walker also “provides CART services at conventions, seminars, and workshops and works with governmental entities to provide CART at commission meetings whenever a deaf-hard-of-hearing participant needs accommodation.”
Walker shared what he believes to be the best part of his job: “Helping to provide my deaf/hard-of-hearing friends the opportunity to fully participate in life activities.” Like speech and language pathologists and interpreters, the job outlook for CART providers is also increasing,
In a lesson about job prospects and educators, it is also worth noting that Aldape, Vilhauer, and Walker didn’t originally expect to be where they are today.
Perhaps it is important to recognize that, despite pressure from parents, colleges, and peers, maybe we should just be open to what life throws at us; otherwise, we may never know what careers and opportunities are passing us by.