JA Career Compass

JA Career Compass helps middle school students build a foundation for making intelligent, lifelong, career decisions through blended classroom curriculum and a hands-on, volunteer-led experience.

This program is the perfect complement to the new middle school Career Investigations unit. JA Career Compass begins with four in-class lessons from the JA It's My Future program taught by the teacher - curriculum and materials are provided. Students then take a field trip to the JA Career Center located in JA Finance Park and work with volunteers to explore career options, learn about industry trends, and build a foundation for future success!

Program Overview:

Lesson 1: Career Paths and Clusters (45 min.)

Students are introduced to the 16 career clusters and the pathways through them. They take a career interest survey and learn about potential jobs within their preferred clusters. They share job information with other members of the class and discuss the importance of all jobs within a community.

Lesson 2: High-Growth Careers (45 min.)

Students learn about the importance of being aware of which fields are growing and which are declining when making decisions about their own careers. They play a game that introduces information about high-growth occupations.

Lesson 5: The Visit (3 hours, volunteer-led)
Station One: My Brand

Students learn that they have their own personal brand and that the brand they build today will reflect on them in the future. They assess their personal characteristics to define their own brands and then develop logos to represent themselves.

Station Two: Career Mapping

Students see how early experiences can build transferable skills that contribute to future job success. They look at the lives of celebrities, focusing on the life experiences that led to their success. They learn about career maps by examining a sample and then create their own.

Lesson 3: On the Hunt (45 min.)

Students are introduced to the basics of looking, applying, and interviewing for a job. They play a game in which they must identify two truths and a myth about the job search process. They learn the fundamentals of creating a resume and engage in a simulation in which they identify appropriate skills for various jobs and decide on where to highlight those skills on a resume.

Station Three: JA Career Center

Students interact with activities designed to inspire career planning, offering topics such as education, lifestyle cost, interview skills, etc. This one-of-a-kind resource provides a foundation for meaningful conversations with onsite volunteers.



Lesson 4: Soft Skills (45 min.)
Students learn about the differences between technical and soft skills and why both are essential for getting and keeping a job. Students also complete a professional skills self-evaluation to determine which skills they already have and which they can work toward gaining. Finally, they role-play situations that require strong professional skills.

























The JA Career Center includes the following interactives:

  • Career Compass:
    • Eight 55" HD touchscreen monitors display seven touchable icons which allow students to access the following resources:
      • Career and Technical Education programs by district
      • Virginia529 college savings website
      • JA My Way – A website providing tips and tools to put students' careers on the express track
      • JA Build Your Future – An app that helps teens break down the cost of achieving young people's career goals into real, easy-to-understand numbers.
      • Job Scatter Plot – An interactive screen that allows you to map careers by pay and education.
      • My Next Move - An interactive tool for job seekers and students to learn more about their career options. My Next Move has tasks, skills, salary information, and more for over 900 different careers.
      • Virginia Wizard – A VCCS site that helps students understand more about themselves and how to achieve their goals through career assessments and college and career advice.
  • Today's Career Trends:
    • An oversized 65" touchscreen monitor that allows multiple students to view industry growth trends. This fun interactive displays career "bubbles" sized according to projected growth data. Tabs allow students to filter the information by career cluster and view career descriptions, education requirements and projected salary range.
  • What's Popular Today Polling monitor:
    • Two sets of six push buttons allow two users to answer various career-related questions displayed on a large monitor. The monitor will display the question with 4 to 6 answers along with the number of inputs per answer. When a student presses a button, the monitor updates with live results.
  • Create Your Lifestyle
    • A 65" monitor is mounted on the wall along with six vertical sliders. This interactive gives students the chance to discover how much their preferred lifestyles will cost per year.  Students move sliders to select lifestyle preferences such as transportation, housing and groceries, and how much it will cost to enjoy those preferences.
  • Hands-On Exhibits (nonautomated interactives)
    • Share Your Thoughts – This gives students a chance to indicate what the most important topic they learned about on the field trip.
    • Ace your interview – Students spin cylinders to choose answers on ways to succeed in interviews.
    • Standing out positively – Students learn what they can do now to strengthen their future prospects.
    • Think Like an Entrepreneur – Simple white boards encourage students to come up with creative solutions to challenges.

Teachers have praised the benefits of JA Finance Park and JA Career Center has been positive:

The new facility is awesome! I love that students experience real life activities and are engaged with everyday responsibilities. – Teacher, Thomas Dale High School

(I would recommend this program to other teachers) because it gives the student the opportunity to travel outside the classroom setting and participate in a real life budget simulation that enhances the curriculum taught in the classroom. – Teacher, Henrico High School

(I would recommend this program to other teachers because it is) great hands-on learning that we cannot duplicate in the classroom .The new facilities are BEAUTIFUL and made the day go much smoother. Some students said, they anticipated it to be a lot of TALKING, lecturing, but it was all hands-on. They really enjoyed it. – Teacher, Freeman High School

Great job and thank you for helping us meet state standards while giving the students a chance to work with awesome volunteers and technology in a really cool environment. – Teacher, Freeman High School

(The best part of the experience was) getting to enjoy the new interactive space. The career center is awesome. Keep up the great work. – Teacher, New Kent High School

JA Finance Park is a must for all schools and students. It provides a hands-on, visually interactive experience for the students to fully apply financial literacy. Many/most students aren't "there" yet in life when it comes to being financially responsible, and what this program does is allow them to know what life is like post-graduation in the few hours they spend here. (The best part was that) the sleek, modern set-up is engaging for all. Along with the technology and stream-lining of things, it allows a great experience on top of the foundation of financial literacy that they are receiving. – Teacher, Deep Run High School


Pillars of Student Success Entrepreneurship:  Financial-Literacy:  Work-Readiness: 
Program Implementation Program Grade-Level
JA-Capstone Middle School
Program Concepts Program Skills
Brand, Career clusters, Career mapping, Career planning, Employee, High-growth jobs, Interests, Job application, Job forecast, Job hunting, Job interview, Logo, Long-term consequences, Personal brand, Recommendation, Resumes, Short-, middle-, and long-term goals, Skills, Soft skills, Symbolism, Tagline, Technical skills, Working environment Analyzing data, Analyzing information, Categorizing data, Creativity, Following written instructions, Goal-setting, Interviewing, Mapping, Model building, Oral and visual presentation, Oral and written communication, Organizing information, Reading for Understanding, Self-assessment, Working in pairs and groups

Program Sessions

See JA It's My Future for Information about Sessions