School kids with the summer off can play online games or chat with Facebook friends, but they also can use their computers to prep for their future.
The UtahFutures website, http://utahfutures.org, offers students, their parents and adults a place to research college majors and employment fields, to take sample exams and career-interest inventories, and to craft a resume that will help them get to their next goals in school or the job market.
Registration is required, but the site is free.
The website, launched a little more than a year ago, is a collaborative effort among the Utah System of Higher Education, the Utah Department of Workforce Services, Utah State Library and a handful of other entities.
"It's a wealth of information, accessible to all people, and it has a ton of benefits," said Pam Jacobsen, Davis School District director of comprehensive counseling and guidance.
"Students seem to like working on it, and they are very interested when you start talking about careers, college majors, what colleges to go to or any future plans for after high school."
Creators call the site the largest of its kind in the country. Holly Braithwaite, spokeswoman for the Utah System of Higher Education, said the state-run site had more than 2 million hits in its first year, and the numbers continue to grow.
"Students can find scholarships and training programs around the country," Braithwaite said. "They can identify paths to get from the education to their career goals. All the agencies really come together to help students plan for the rest of their lives."
Jacobsen said junior high and high school students in Davis School District are used to testing on the site. A popular feature is the Reality Check.
"It's an activity where they go in and estimate how much income they will have as adults and how much they will be spending," Jacobsen said. "To young people, $15 an hour may sound like a lot, but when they start looking at how much it costs to have an apartment, a phone, transportation, food and other things they will need, it gets their attention. Even to get by on a minimum takes a lot of money. It's an impactful exercise in reality."
Jacobsen likes the portfolio option, allowing users to keep an electronic file of test and interest-inventory results, searches and a working resume that lists job experiences, academic achievement and special training or skills.
"Young people can keep a running, ongoing, updated resume," she said. "When they apply for jobs, they will have resumes ready. When they apply to college, they can talk about their achievements. When kids have to talk about themselves, they usually can't think of anything they've done, but they've done lots."
Junior high students can plan their high school schedules. High school students can learn about specific universities in Utah and worldwide, about funding an education and about noncollege training programs in areas of interest.
"It's a great way to get students to commit to post-high school education," Jacobsen said. "They can decide they will go to college and complete it, or complete a one-year or two-year program that will set them up for the future in the fields that interest them most."