This guest article was written by Lucy Sattler, chief Career Practitioner at Study Work Grow and advocate for early career education.
There’s been a lot of conversation lately about the real purpose of our education system, and while I won’t add any fuel to that particular fire, I think it’s worth sharing these three key reasons we have identified which justify the effective implementation of career related learning in schools for students of all ages.
Reason 1 – career learning can improve engagement
Students aren’t robots, but when we treat them like learning machines who are simply getting through the content then they struggle to understand the point behind what they’re learning. Teachers are specialists in their subject area, but they often lack the training, time, or resources to also add ‘Career Guidance’ to their task list, which is where effective and whole-school career education comes in.
Research has shown that where schools implement career education programs, students find it easier to understand how classroom content relates to the real world. As demonstrated through the UOW Best Practice Principles research and Ed Hidalgo’s work as Chief Innovation and Engagement Officer for the Cajon Valley Union School District.
In turn, this increase in relevance directly impacts the level of cognitive and emotional engagement students bring to their learning, which flows on to deliver a range of benefits such as improved academic and wellbeing outcomes.
Reason 2 – it breaks down stereotypes
Despite decades of work to break down entrenched stereotypes, we still see the same sort of people applying for the same sort of jobs. Interest in STEM careers, for example, has barely shifted amongst girls despite significant public and private investment.
Well-constructed career education can work to target misconceptions, increase visibility of minority groups, and encourage more young people to think beyond the obvious choices. We know that young people often place artificial and unnecessary limits on themselves, and this starts at a young age, often before they have completed primary school, which is where career education comes in. We also know that teenagers tend to aspire to ‘old’ jobs – some of which have existed for millennia in various forms – and career education can raise awareness of the pathways of the future, not just those of the past.
Reason 3 – it leads to more confident career decisions (and happier students and parents)
Learning how to use trigonometry or report on the outcomes of WWII may be useful, but these skills won’t help students choose a post-school pathway. Without career related learning and competent, regular career guidance, students are essentially on their own when making big decisions about their career.
Career decision making takes a unique set of skills and knowledge which can’t be absorbed by osmosis, and which should be taught explicitly just as we teach other essential skills like financial literacy. Where schools have delivered comprehensive, regular, relevant, and engaging career learning and guidance, students feel more confident in making their post-school decisions, which leads to happier, less stressed students and parents towards the senior years of schooling.
There are many more reasons
Let’s be honest, I could go on all day about the benefits of career education, but the reality is that the purpose of education is to prepare young people for their future lives, and a big part of that is their ability to manage their careers. Without the skills and knowledge they need, they are left to learn through trial and error, or be steered by other people towards pathways not of their own choosing. We have the research that shows us the types of skills young people need, and evidence-based programs to deliver those skills, and lots of reasons to get started.