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You are reading: 2021 OECD Conference — NCSEHE presentations on careers information for disadvantaged backgrounds

The 2021 OECD conference will highlight innovative research and practice, with a focus on what schools can do to prepare young people for their transitions through education into ultimate employment.

The OECD’s Career Readiness project recognises the importance of study and career information for young people. On 27–29 October, the OECD will bring together experts from around the world to help students equip students for their working lives.

As part of this international event, two NCSEHE-funded research teams will showcase major projects conducted under the Competitive Grants Program:

Do all Australian students have access to quality career and study information?

Dawn Bennett, Bond University

The saying goes that people spend more time planning a holiday than a career. For young people in particular, failing to think about potential study and work possibilities can be disastrous. But do all students have access to quality career and study information?

Dawn Bennett (Bond University) and colleagues will report on their Australian study of how students’ access to information on career thinking and exploration differs by socioeconomic status (SES). The results are striking.

The researchers analysed 59,000 cases in over two decades of the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY) data together with the self-reported employability of over 6,000 current university students. They then surveyed career influencers from teachers to career practitioners, and they listened to students’ accounts of their decision making whilst at school.

LSAY data revealed that career and study information for senior high school students is increasingly focussed on traditional university pathways. This is despite fewer than half of Australia’s university entrants entering university in this way. Crucial study decisions are for many Australian students made on the basis of grades, with little or no discussion about their interests or career pathways.

A socioeconomic divide in the type and quality of career information available to students is also becoming more pronounced. Low SES students are more likely than other students to receive information about non-university pathways. And students from middle and high SES backgrounds have greater access to formal sources of career information and to informed family, friends and social networks.

Students from government schools, regardless of SES, report lower career and study confidence and the impacts of inadequate careers and study information in secondary school appear to last well beyond university. Add in the pandemic and the negative impact of disadvantage in higher education is likely to be greater than ever.

The researchers advocate for the systematic use of available data in the support of career exploration and readiness, for accessible career information that emphasises multiple study and career pathways, and for the inclusion of career guidance information in initial teacher training.

Best practice career education for middle-school students from low socioeconomic backgrounds: Two case studies

Olivia Groves, National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education
Kylie Austin, University of Wollongong
Nicola Cull, Australian Catholic University
Laurie Poretti, University of Canberra
Phil Roberts, University of Canberra

This presentation discusses an Australian project which developed best practice principles for career education for students from low SES backgrounds. Two pilot programs were run as part of this research project. Both projects involved the design, implementation and evaluation of career-education programs—one for primary school and one for secondary school students—with the aim of expanding access to quality career education for students from low SES backgrounds.

In program one, Explore your future, Year 6 (11–12 y.o.) student participants experienced university through interactive and hands-on faculty-based career education activities while engaging with university staff and university student mentors in a variety of higher education settings, including a teaching nursing simulation classroom and other teaching spaces. Throughout the day the primary school students undertook five hands-on “future thinking” activities, exploring careers and higher education. Program evaluation (including student and mentor group interviews and teacher interviews) showed the program was successful in supporting the aspiration development and career thinking of the student participants.

Program two, Find your future focus, engaged Year 7 and 8 (12–14 y.o.) student participants from two schools—one low SES regional, and the other rural—in a series of lessons around developing student knowledge and understanding of possible local careers and highlighting the connection between valuable school subjects and career pathways. Evaluation data (including student surveys and staff interviews) showed the program increased students’ awareness of local jobs/careers and confidence that they might be able to get the job they want in their location; awareness of the importance of grades and subject selection; importance of doing well at school and selecting valuable electives; and pathways to work.

For more information and registration, visit the OECD Conference website.