Regardless of a students' career ambitions and whether they involve tertiary studies or entering the workforce, career education must become a priority.
This view was reinforced with the release of Life, Disrupted: Young People, Education and Employment Before and After Covid-19 by Monash University's Centre for Youth Policy and Education Practice.
"Schools that focus too heavily on academic performance and students' tertiary destinations and not enough on careers counselling were doing their students a disservice," according to the report.
An overwhelming focus on academic performance has permeated our education system. Secondary schools are judged on the average ATAR their students achieve and their number of VCE achievers.
But judgement solely on these criteria means schools have little incentive to cater for students wishing to undertake skills-based learning and other traditionally non-academic pathways.
Schools that nurture a student's skill-based ambitions and give them industry experiences leading to a rewarding career should be equally recognised.
Such student's achievements should be celebrated alongside VCE high achievers.
Australia needs tertiary educated individuals but the intense focus on academic performance has taken curriculum space and resources from career education. In fact, career education is no longer a mandatory part of the Victorian curriculum.
Students on the pathway to tertiary studies, destined to become civil engineers and accountants, still need career education.
No one wants a student to drop out of post-education studies because they discover their preferred occupation isn't what they thought it was, due to a lack of career education.
The Monash University report supports the goals of the Neil Porter Legacy.
The Warrnambool-based not-for-profit was formed in the memory of local teacher, Neil Porter. It holds the core belief that students should be exposed to a variety of careers throughout their schooling.
This view is supported by the Review of Career Education in Victorian Government Schools (Dandolo, November 2017) that was commissioned by the Department of Education which states 'career education should be explicitly incorporated into the curriculum to increase its prominence, reflect its importance and to equip students with significant support before they leave school'.
Rather than being incorporated into the curriculum, career advisers report the intense scrutiny of a schools' academic results is causing resources and curriculum space to be directed away from career education.
An Australian-wide survey, released by the Careers Industry Council of Australia and McRindle, found secondary students rated an individual session with a career adviser as the most useful career education tool.
The same study found only 53 per cent of career advisers were able to complete such sessions due to other demands on their time including teaching duties and being hired on a part-time basis.
The NPL is making career education a priority with a locally focussed and action-based approach. It has launched the Fifty/Fifty program that pairs industry members with current secondary school classes.
Students in elective classes involved in the program are exposed to pathways, workplaces and required skills in their chosen area through working with industry members.
It's a 'try before you buy' approach as students experience an industry before making any career-based decisions.
A Year 10 Automotive class has begun a unit of lessons where students are divided into small groups, transported to local automotive businesses and undertake learning on-site for 90 minutes a week.
These students receive first-hand experience of several areas of the automotive industry. Some may find the industry isn't for them and that's fine.
Each student who discovers something they don't want to pursue is a step closer to finding something they do.
And while every member of each class in the program will not pursue the occupation they experience, the industry involvement still provides them with expert knowledge, the latest equipment and real-world learning during their classes.
Similarly, a Business Studies class is working with a financial firm to learn how to balance the books in a small business. In all 16 classes are paired with 25 industries.
Former teacher, Matt Porter, representing the legacy created in his father's name, notes they don't endorse entering the workforce or further study as a better option.
"We want students to experience different careers, to be exposed to the many options through guest speakers, community involvement in classes, industry experience, tours of workplaces, meetings with career advisers and seeing educational facilities. They can then decide if further study, employment or a combination of both is the best pathway for them," he said.
Schools can't be blamed for focusing on ATARs when the community does the same. It's time to shift the focus to career education.
- Submitted by the Neil Porter Legacy