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You are reading: How can Career Development Learning help to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals?

Dr Olivia Groves and Professor Sarah O’Shea
NCSEHE

Having the opportunity to obtain employment that a person desires, and is suitably qualified for, is arguably a fundamental right in life. Certainly, this right is recognised in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which identify “decent work” as key to both economic and personal wellbeing.

The SDGs are 17 objectives for all countries to strive for. They are a “… shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future”. However, there is still much work to do, particularly around the practical implementation of these goals in order to end poverty and other deprivations, improve health and education, spur economic growth and tackle climate change.

A forthcoming book1, written and edited by Australian equity researchers, applies the concept of Career Development Learning (CDL) to highlight how quality CDL practice and research can progress the SDGs. In this summary piece, we offer an overview of some of the key concepts and arguments presented therein.

CDL involves learning about the content and process of career development or life/career management and is a concept widely used in Australian higher education. While effective CDL has been identified as key in shaping societies and the individuals who live in them, and essential for economic benefit as well as personal and ethical reasons, few authors internationally have considered the importance of CDL for achievement of the SDGs.

In our book we connect CDL to four of the SDGs, namely:

  • Achievement of inclusive and equitable quality education and promotion of lifelong learning opportunities for all (SDG4)
  • Sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all (SDG8)
  • Reduced inequality within and amongst countries (SDG10)
  • Implementation and revitalisation of global partnership for sustainable development (SDG17)

The volume, edited by Sarah O’Shea, Olivia Groves, Kylie Austin and Jodi Lamanna, positions CDL as a tool for supporting the educational and vocational outcomes of individuals from targeted equity backgrounds (SDG4 & SDG8).

Within Australia, career education provision has been criticised as being inadequate and inequitably delivered. This has resulted in students from identified equity groups having less access to support and resources to assist in making informed decisions about their future and navigating the world of work. Partnership (SDG17) is an approach which can support equal access to quality CDL, thereby reducing inequalities (SDG10) and achieving lifelong learning opportunities and full and productive employment for all.

The SDGs are designed to make an impact on a global scale and are universal, meaning that they apply to every country in the world. However, also important is implementation at a local level or “localising“, whereby the subnational context and taking action from the bottom up is foregrounded. Localising can be achieved through research and practice which takes an explicit orientation to place, and situating the research in, and reflecting, the unique characteristics of the communities it seeks to inform.

Localised CDL research and practice can be achieved in two ways: 1) through collaboration and partnership with multiple stakeholders relevant to the context, and 2) through application of innovative research and practice approaches which are inclusive, accessible and tailored to accommodate individual needs and preferences.

Through the application of innovative thinking and collaboration to CDL research and practice, we can make vital individual and collaborative contributions to reducing inequality and achieving global sustainability goals for an improved planet for current and future generations.

The research featured in the forthcoming book publication was funded by the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE) and administered by the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE).


1O’Shea, S., Groves, O., Austin, K., & Lamanna, J. (forthcoming). Career Development Learning and Sustainability Goals: Considerations for Research and Practice. Singapore: Springer.