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You are reading: Access to, and efficacy of, careers and study information for low SES students

Ameliorating disadvantage: Creating accessible, efficacious and equitable careers and study information for low SES students

Dawn Bennett (Bond University) Jane Coffey (Curtin University), Michael Dockery (Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre), Ian Li (University of Western Australia), Sherry Bawa (Curtin University) and David Carney (Career Industry Council of Australia)

The career and study decisions made by secondary school students have a significant impact on their future career pathways, to the extent that these decisions can “make or break” students’ future career and study aspirations. Despite this, knowledge and awareness around contemporary employability and career construction is lacking amongst students from low socioeconomic status (SES) cohorts.

Quality career counselling is crucial if low SES students are to recognise, explore and realise their potential. However, recent budgetary changes to the public secondary school system have resulted in career counsellors no longer being considered an essential service. The inevitable result is that low SES schools, which serve the students who are most in need of careers and study advice, are less likely to provide that advice. This places already disadvantaged young people at a further disadvantage from which they may not recover.

To compete for financially sustainable and meaningful work, young Australians need the capabilities necessary to develop and sustain their employability. In Australia, students from particular disadvantaged groups experience poorer employment outcomes. These students also experience higher rates of attrition and deferral.

The need to ameliorate disadvantage is also driven by the implications of the fourth industrial revolution. Low-skilled work is declining and will continue to do so in line with technological change. Traditional jobs are in many cases being replaced by a myriad of casual, short-term, part-time and self-employed work. In this labour environment, the implications of disadvantage are becoming more pronounced and persistent than ever.

The demise of low-skilled work signals a significant risk for the Australian economy and a particular risk for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The project

Generally, students from disadvantaged groups experience higher rates of attrition and deferral and poorer graduate employment outcomes. This project addresses the critical need to understand and improve low SES students’ access to, and the efficacy of, information about higher education study options, pathways and careers. This includes low SES Indigenous, regional and remote students.

The project consists of three Inquiries:

  1. Inquiry 1 will examine support relating to study, pathways and careers for students and influencers within low SES secondary schools. The Inquiry will compare the findings with the support available at non-low SES schools
  2. Inquiry 2 will employ an established survey alongside institutional and national datasets to analyse the career and study confidence of low SES university students and compare their confidence with that of their peers
  3. Inquiry 3 will engage with low SES students in Years 11 and 12, and into higher education studies, to understand how disadvantage is experienced during the transition into study and across the undergraduate experience

This study will create a unique understanding of the accessibility and efficacy of school-based career counselling services and student success, and will identify gaps in service provision and generate recommendations for policy, service design and delivery.

The outcomes of this study have significant potential to improve low SES students’ access to, and the efficacy of, information about higher education study options, pathways, and careers. This includes the provision of information for low SES Indigenous, regional and remote students.

Once equipped, these students will be in a better position to engage in further studies and to enter the workforce as skilled workers who are able to sustain meaningful careers across the career lifespan. The end result will be more equitable workforce participation, lower work displacement, and improved employee satisfaction and wellbeing.