The Australian workforce of the future will need to be larger, more flexible, and more highly skilled and qualified in order to maintain economic growth and prosperity. In the schooling context, students will need to keep pace with changing technologies and industries, be able to seize new employment trends, or be entrepreneurial in their approach to new business and self-employment ventures. Unlike generations before them, young people are unlikely to follow a single career trajectory across their lifetime. Rather, they will enter a workforce characterised by multiple job changes, and increasingly casualised and part-time work opportunities. Students will not only need professional and technical skills, but employability skills and adaptive capacity (Borg, Bright, & Pryor, 2016). Increasingly, the ability to make informed study and career decisions will be essential for both individual success and national productivity. The implementation and promotion of high quality careers services can prepare students to manage these challenges and navigate the world of work.
With such disparities in the quality and delivery of career guidance in schools, it is little wonder that students often struggle to make informed decisions about their future careers. In the state system, students are supported by a Guidance Officer, who may or may not have formal careers training and/or education. As well, Guidance Officers employed by Education Queensland are typically responsible for the wellbeing and personal counselling of entire cohorts - an enormous and time-consuming task that often leaves little time for career education and activities. In private schools, there may be a psychologist, social worker, or personal counsellor with little or no career education or knowledge, who is responsible for career development delivery (CICA, 2017). Indeed, in Queensland, a formally qualified and experienced Careers Counsellor is somewhat of an anomaly in the current school system (Amundson, 2003).
Careers Education in Schools
In a labour market context that is increasingly unforgiving to low-skilled young people, the role of Career Advisers with formal training and experience in schools is crucial. Career Counsellors work with young people with diverse backgrounds, and varying dreams and ambitions, and are often under pressure from systems and school leadership who prioritise particular career education activities.
As well, Career Advisers are increasingly under-resourced, with research from the Career Industry Council of Australia (CICA) showing that one in three career practitioners is provided with less than
$1000 annually to undertake career development activities across their entire school. This equates to half of schools with a population of over 1000 students having less than $3 per student to spend on career education.
As CICA (2017) has highlighted:
“Preparing young Australians for an ever-changing workforce is a growing challenge, particularly when career practitioners are under-resourced and under-funded.”
The research shows that Career Advisers in schools are largely female (80%), over 45 years of age (77%), and more than half (52%) work part-time. The age and working profile of these practitioners can have implications for sustainability and continuity of quality provision in schools (CICA, 2017).
The Value of Quality Career Counselling in Schools
The decisions that young people make at school can have a lasting impact on their lives – affecting not just their further education, training, or employment, but also their social lives, finances, and health outcomes (Miller, 2006). A key function of secondary schools is to prepare students to transition successfully toward a future career path. This involves providing curriculum opportunities to build students’ general capabilities, support students’ interests and aspirations, and support them to make informed decisions about their subject choices and pathways.
The two key components of career education and career guidance are:
- Career education – developing knowledge, skills, and attitudes through a planned program of learning experiences in education and training settings which will assist all students to make informed decisions about their study and/or work options, and enable effective participation in their working life.
- Career guidance – assisting individuals to make educational, training, and occupational choices and to manage their careers and move from a general understanding of life and work to a specific understanding of the realistic learning and work options that are open to them. Supporting students in making well informed choices about subjects can lead them to have a more optimistic outlook on life, sense of purpose, and greater level of contribution that they make to their families and society. There are economic and social benefits when students are supported to make effective transitions from secondary school to further education, training, or employment (Patton & McMahon, 2006).
Put simply, students are more engaged in education and highly motivated about their future when they have a clear understanding of themselves and how they might live and work when they leave school. High quality career education and guidance is an essential part of schooling in preparing young Australians for their futures. Careers are now increasingly seen not as being ‘chosen’ but as being constructed through the series of choices about learning and work that people make throughout their lives. Career education in this sense need not be confined to the few - it can, and must, be made accessible to all.
Amundson, N. (2003). Active engagement: Enhancing the career counselling process (2nd ed.).
Richmond, B.C.: Ergon Communications.
Borg, T., Bright, J. & Pryor, R. (2016). How planning and chance can be integrated in the careers of secondary school students. Australian Journal of Career Development, 15, 54-59.
CICA (2017). Why Career Development Matters. Retrieved April 7th, 2019, from http://www.cica.org.au/uploads/Downloadable%20Resources/Resources/Why%20Career%20 development%20Matters_FINAL.pdf.
Miller, J.H. (2006). Using a solution building approach in career counselling. In M. McMahon, & W. Patton (Eds.), Career Counselling: Constructivist approaches (pp. 123-136).
Patton, W. & McMahon, M. (2006a). Career development and systems theory: Connecting theory and practice (2nd ed.). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.
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Program Leader - Careers