Inspire Me! Teach Me! Don’t Crush My Dreams
27 March 2018 at 4:45 pm
Melbourne City Mission chief executive officer Vicki Sutton reveals what students want from school careers advice.
The pathway from school to work is not always straightforward – especially for young people whose education and training have been disrupted due to homelessness, mental illness, or learning disability.
So, what does great careers advice look like for these students?
In Melbourne City Mission’s submission to the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into Career Advice Activities in Victorian Schools, three “game-changers” were identified by young people attending our independent school, The Hester Hornbrook Academy.
Game-changer 1: Give me individualised careers advice that focuses on my strengths and supports me to confidently engage in post-school options
We know that students experiencing “disadvantage” are at greater risk of poorer post-school outcomes than their peers. But “disadvantage” is multi-faceted and multi-dimensional.
Young people told us that they require “personalised and situational advice” that reflects that nuance. They want and need to be treated as individuals, rather than a “cohort”. And they want that career advice to start from a position of strength and positivity, not deficits.
One student told us: “It should be realistic, yet inspiring. It shouldn’t crush dreams, but perhaps reshape them.”
Another said schools careers advice should: “Teach me what I am interested in, build on that. Then teach me how I can apply it in the real world.”
Students who said they had received high-quality, individualised careers development and advice described feeling “in charge of my life”. “It gave me more confidence,” one said. Others explained “I felt like I had direction and motivation” and “I felt relevant and hopeful”.
One of our teachers added: “We want to ensure we don’t set our young people up to fail … We need to take small and deliberate steps that form a pathway.”
They are big advocates for career development activities to be embedded throughout the school life-cycle. This normalises future-focused careers conversations for students who may not be exposed to this at home. It’s a key to assisting students with a successful transition to post-school education, training or employment.
Game-changer 2: Give me careers advice that recognises and values different pathways
Commonly-held attitudes that young people need to finish their Year 12, get an ATAR and then go on to further education doesn’t acknowledge the diverse and multiple pathways that young people can take to get into their career of choice.
Our students and teachers expressed frustration that, while high-quality vocational options such as the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) are becoming better known, there are persistent misunderstandings about pathways from VCAL to university and other education options.
One teacher reflected: “Just because the young person has done the VCAL does not mean they have a set future or must enter a trade. These are options, just like going to university or into employment.”
Another said: “There’s this idea that if you do well at school, you’ll do well at life. [In fact], we know there are many different options and pathways available.”
Game-changer 3: Give me access to more applied learning experiences
The value of applied learning experiences was consistently raised by our students, their teachers and youth workers. Young people said these experiences assisted them to shape their career aspirations.
“I did two placements during my schooling,” one student told us.
“These both helped me to see where I wanted to be in the future and sort of guided me to take the path I wanted. I definitely learnt a lot and grew as a person because of these.”
Another reflected: “I was forced into retail and it made me realise I hate retail.”
Our students also highlighted the importance of networking. For young people who do not have stable relationships or good support networks, it can be more difficult to get a job. Access to multiple and diverse applied learning experiences helps build their social capital in their community and can assist them to gain post-school employment.
About the author: Vicki Sutton is chief executive officer of Melbourne City Mission, one of Victoria’s oldest and largest community services organisations, with a broad service platform encompassing early years, education and employment, homelessness and justice services, early childhood intervention and disability services, and palliative care services.
The Parliament of Victoria’s Economic, Education, Jobs and Skills Committee’s Inquiry is currently holding hearings, and is due to table its report in Parliament on 30 September 2018.
Melbourne City Mission’s submission to the Inquiry can be read here.