Dean Minchington from Workforce IQ kindly submitted this guest article to Study Work Grow all about his new careers tool – the Work Pathways Profiler. If you’re interested to learn about how it came to be, what it does, how it works, and some of the benefits to high school students, read on.
Starting from Monday 7 June they’ll be showcasing 100 of the jobs in their extensive database over the following 100 days.
Here’s what Dean has to say:
Work Pathways Profiler
Over the coming 100 days, WorkforceIQ will be profiling one job each day from the new Work Pathways Profiler database. There are over 700 jobs in the database, so you can explore more jobs each day if you don’t want to wait.
The Work Pathways profiler has been designed to help you quickly and easily find jobs that match both the subjects you’ve selected at school and your interests. Meaning you won’t have to sort through hundreds of jobs to find your match.
How did the profiler come into being?
Back in 2018 frustrated by the complex and disconnected road people had to navigate to transition into employment Dean Minchington, the former CEO of an Industry Training Organisation (ITO) in New Zealand, decided to try something new.
Five years running the ITO had provided Dean plenty of opportunities to speak with schools, students, employers, and their employees. When having discussions about the transition to work with people in these groups some common comments kept coming up, including:
“We want to connect with schools, but we don’t know how”
“Students coming out of school don’t seem to have the skills for work”
“Really, I can try out a job while I’m at school. What would I do?”
“We have to work within a timetable. How can we make that fit?”
“If a student came here, what do I do with them? I’m no teacher”
These discussions suggested that the challenges people were facing fell broadly into two themes.
The first theme was language
It was clear that everyone had the same goal of preparing students for the world of work. In reality the communication from employers about what they wanted, the way students communicated their achievements at school; and the challenges that schools faced in offering the best mix of subjects in a crowded timetable, all meant that the messages were getting confused.
Employers spoke in a language of “skills”, while students were discussing “grades”, and schools were trying to manage “timetables” and offer the best mix of “subjects”.
It was clear some sort of universal translator was needed.
The second theme was the connection
There is a general desire for employers to be good citizens in their community. Connecting with schools, sports clubs, and local churches commonly ranked highly in their priorities.
Employers in many industries have staff shortages and offer real opportunities but they don’t always know how to connect with their local school and community to “showcase” the jobs they offer.
Schools and students are almost always keen to connect with employers, but just how to connect wasn’t always clear.
For example, many of the students we talked to hadn’t considered the option of trying out a job before deciding how to pursue a career pathway, even though most employers seemed to welcome this approach.
And in many cases, a student’s career decision seems to be strongly driven by the subjects that they are taking at school and how these align with jobs. Instead of thinking about jobs they would be interested to pursue earlier on in school life, then selecting the subjects that would be useful in helping them to achieving these career goals.
It seems that making connections with employers, using those connections to try out a job, and connecting the right subjects with job pathways all seemed to be key challenges.
So, what was the answer?
One of the greatest and most-influential artists of the 20th century, Pablo Picasso, is often quoted as saying: “Good artists copy, great artists steal.”
Picasso was referring to the fact that good artists and great artists work very differently:
- A good artist will see another artists style and then try to emulate that style as closely as they can.
- A great artist will select elements from another artists work and incorporate it into their own unique mix of influences.
When building our solution, we recognised that we are not the first to approach this challenge and there was likely to be good solutions out there already that were worthy of “stealing”.
In saying we wanted to try something “new” this was more about looking for the best elements available and stitching them together. Of course, there were things we would have to build but our goal was, where we could, to construct something from existing elements that were proven successful but arrange them in a way that they were better and easier to use than the individual parts.
So, the hunt was on and we found a lot! We found piles of great learning material, we found an abundance of profiling tools, careers information platforms, plus some great examples of support.
Mentoring increases support
We didn’t want our solution to be just another online platform and from our research, many of the most successful programs included mentoring in some form.
So, we decided to include mentoring but also wanted to challenge our thinking on the function of a mentor and determine if this type of support would be right for all the phases of the transition to work journey.
We asked if maybe the right support could be coaching or maybe a tutor. To make an informed decision we need to understand the differences.
Mentoring is based on the experiences of the mentor and focuses on the development of the mentee as a whole person. Mentoring does not require any specialised training and can be undertaken by anyone senior (or junior, in some cases) to the mentee.
Coaching is a trained and practised skill that helps people set and reach personal goals that are in line with set objectives. It takes their skills and capabilities to the next level by reinforcing what they know or can find out through personal discovery.
When looking at the overall design we considered the transition to work journey and what key things needed to be achieved along the way. We broke this down into three phases
2) Work Experience
By looking at the journey in three distinct phases we were able to consider what tools and support are needed in each phase.
It was clear that in the discovery and plan phase students would benefit from the experience of a mentor however during a work placement, where a student is exploring the occupation and industry alignment to their own goals, being coached to find out things for themselves was a more appropriate approach.
It was also important to consider support when customising available learning material to achieve the outcomes and underpinning learning for each phase. An example of this is the learning materials for the work placement phase were designed in the form of a project.
The design of the project encourages the student to ask the right questions of the host employer rather than providing the knowledge in the material itself. By defining the approach and developing supporting materials the Career Discovery program was established.
The tools required
With the support and learning materials decided it was now time to consider what tools might be useful along the way and there was a lot to choose from.
In New Zealand, the Industry Training Federation in partnership with the Ministry of Education had developed the Vocational Pathways. The Vocational Pathways was a simple concept where subjects (or unit standards as they are known in New Zealand) are aligned with a pathway or pathways.
A pathway is made up of a cluster of jobs from an industry group and, in New Zealand, there were six pathways.
The use is also simple; a student inputs their portfolio of learning and the more subjects that align to a pathway the better the indication is that their portfolio will be valued by that industry.
To get around the issue of language the alignment of subjects to industry is expressed in a simple bar graph. The occupations in each pathway are also linked to useful information about the job like wages, training, and job opportunities. We decided to use the vocational pathways model in our solution.
Next, we looked at other profiling tools and found interest profiling was valued by students as among the most useful. We found that even though the “engine” behind many of these profilers was common, the way profiling questions were displayed varied. We also found two that we liked from Australia and New Zealand, but both had strengths and weaknesses. We liked the visual approach taken in New Zealand but there were far too many questions, and we liked the short form approach taken in Australia, but it lacked the useful visual cues. We decided to build our own taking the best bits from both.
We then thought wouldn’t it be great to bring these two aspects of profiling together. As we were building one part, we decided to bring everything together in one platform and with that the very first work pathways profiler was born.
Designed for use in schools
Finally, we considered how the career discovery program which now included the work pathways profiler in the discovery and plan phase could be rolled out. We found that careers advisors or staff involved with careers education were fantastic, passionate people committed to a great outcome for their students.
With this fantastic resource already available, albeit stretched quite thin in places, we considered the best approach was to support this work rather than trying to duplicate it. So, the final decision we took was to provide the career discovery program as a standardised system to be used by schools.
Knowing how busy careers staff can get we also wanted to provide an option for schools to contract in mentor support to run workshops when career staff got too busy to do this themselves.
To systemise the program the Career Discovery learning materials and Work Pathways profiler were packaged along with assessment materials, marking guides, lesson plans and delivery materials for careers staff and externally contracted mentors alike to use to provide a consistent approach for the students.
We also provided an option for these resources to be housed on our Learning and Assessment platform to make access and tracking easier and more transparent.
Trial success in New Zealand
In early 2019 we were given the opportunity to test the system using the Career Discovery Program and Work Pathways tool with a group of high-risk youth in south Auckland who may not have been on a clear track to employment or further education. The results were outstanding with around 96% of all participants gaining employment or going on to study with a clear occupation in mind.
We wrapped up 2019 on a high knowing that what we had built, worked.
With strong interest in the product, we decided to concentrate on New Zealand through 2020 with a view to using that year to explore options to make the system and tools work in Australia. By March 2020 however COVID 19 had locked the borders and closed workplaces; it seemed like our dreams of offering the system to a wider audience were dashed.
Adapting the program for Australian schools
Luckily, this was not to be the end of the story. The Department of Education, Skills and Employment wanted to see if a version of the New Zealand Vocational Pathways could be made for Australia. We embraced this opportunity without hesitation. It is not often you get to do a project for the second time and use all the learning from the first round. We assembled a team that had worked in New Zealand and Australia and were also involved with the early stages of the Vocational Pathways in New Zealand.
After eight months of consulting via zoom with schools, student focus groups, state and territory curriculum authorities, industry peak bodies, employers, training providers and government the work pathways pilot was released.
Even though this project was primarily a mapping exercise we decided to use the platform created for New Zealand as a “test” platform so the mapping could be brought to life for users.
We had hoped to use the same methodology used for the New Zealand Vocational Pathways but found very quickly that this was not going to be viable. The reality is the solution for Australia, even though it deals with the same “language” problem as in New Zealand, now uses a completely different approach to achieve the same outcome.
In a way we’re pleased it’s uniquely Australian, we even think it works better!
That was back in March this year and we were confident the pilot had successfully managed to demonstrate a “proof of concept”, but at the end of the pilot the profiler had just three pathways and was missing vocational subjects.
Since then, we have expanded to nine pathways, added the most common VET subjects used in Schools and curated the Career Discovery learning materials originally designed for New Zealand for use in Australia.
Launch Time in Australia
The goal we held at the end of 2019 had now been realised. We are thrilled to now be able to make available the first Australian version of the Work Pathways Profiler and Career Discovery learning materials. Of course, research-based projects like Work Pathways continue to evolve over time. As more people use the system and give feedback or we see more data in the profiler we learn more and can refine mapping and materials, so this is just the beginning.
100 jobs in 100 days
To celebrate the release, we will be profiling 100 jobs from our jobs database over the next 100 days by posting these on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Registered Nurses, Electricians and Software and Applications Programmers will be in the first week. Let’s see if we can get people talking about careers and following the social media posts.
Of course, we think this is all very exciting and the products are something a bit special but don’t take our word for it! Visit our website www.workforceiq.com.au and sign up for a 14-day free trial or book a one-on-one demo to see for yourself.
About Workforce IQ
WorkforceIQ is an education consulting company with offices in Brisbane (Head office), Melbourne and Wellington. Our consulting focus is around Vocational Education and transition to work; however, we also offer products including our innovative career profiling tool, “Work Pathways” and the overarching Careers advice program the “Career Discovery”. The Work Pathways tool and Career Discovery program, originally developed for the New Zealand market, were updated in 2021 as part of a project delivered to the Department of Education Skills and Employment and now cover all the states and territories of Australia. A key focus market for these products is senior secondary schools.
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