Who’s Missing From The Future World of Work Conversation?
By Jess Pollard
It’s hard to miss the explosion of research and content that is currently being created around the changing world of work. Globalisation, increasing casualisation, automation and ageing workforces around the world are just some of the trends that are making headlines. In this conversation we hear the voices of policy-makers, researchers and educators, but there is a voice and opinion at the core of this issue that I feel is often drowned out or not asked for. These individuals are also the key to future-proofing Australia’s economy.
In 2017 we drove around NSW putting on career exploration workshops at over 17 NSW high schools. This was as part of a pilot program in which over 1,000 year 11 and 12 students used our CareerHQ Compass tool to create their own careers report. In this report they self-selected from a list of over 1,000 jobs, 6 -10 which they are directly interested in pursuing after school. We had rural schools, urban schools, private schools and public schools and an overall gender balance of approximately 60% female.
Each student and the schools Careers Adviser received access to the individual reports online. We also got to trial our unique data technology that combines every individuals report into a school or year report tracking the career interests of large groups. This gave us the opportunity to bring the data from all of the schools together. Our tools created an online, interactive report that highlighted and ranked from a pool of over 1,000 students around NSW the most popular to the least popular:
- jobs of interest
- industries of interest
- lifestyle considerations for students
Some interesting findings from this pilot included:
- allied health, sport and education roles dominated the top 50 most popular jobs.
- lawyer or solicitor was voted the most popular career option for students.
- a lack of STEM interest. In the top 50 selected jobs there was only 4 STEM jobs listed (scientist, marine biologist, sport and exercise scientist and biologist).
- mathematician was the least popular role in the pilot with 1 student selecting this as one of their top 3 career options (equal to abattoir worker).
- a lack of IT interest. Only 10 students within the pool selected either IT software developer and web developer as one of their top three career interests.
- a lack of physical trade interest. Builder was the only physical trade listed in the top 50 selected jobs.
- more students selected being interested in becoming a barista than the total of those interested in becoming a medical physicists, radiographers and robotics / mechatronics engineers.
These findings are thought-provoking and offer a rich addition to the future world of work conversation. In real-time this pilot witnessed some the challenges being discussed in regards to the changing world of work. While the dominance of allied health and education roles was a positive trend that aligned with the growth of high touch and people-centered careers, other trends were more concerning, notably the lack of interest in STEM careers (in particular mathematics and IT) and physical trades. Alongside this, the clustering of interest and oversaturation of particular jobs such as the large numbers of students wishing to become lawyers, photographers and actors is a finding worth understanding more deeply. For example, in 2016 universities around Australia produced nearly 15,000 law graduates in a market that contained only 66,000 solicitors (Featherstone, 2016). My intent in looking at these numbers is to question how we can invest more heavily in expanding and inspiring each individual’s understanding of the labour market and the greater possibilities that are available beyond traditional and popular roles.
It struck me after conducting these workshops and talking to teachers that a key part of the future world of work conversation that is being missed or underrepresented is what our young people and future employees are interested in pursuing. They are going to be our future workforce and developing a deep understanding of their interests should play a key role in how we think about future-proofing our economy. We need to ask students as they are the final decision-makers.
With the rise of social media and Instagram in particular, it seems logical that becoming a photographer is increasingly popular. As humans we choose to do work we know, enjoy and are good at (and often what our parents did). This is not to say that the demand for photographers meets the supply represented in our survey. But it does evidence that schools could better assist their students and communities by investing more heavily in expanding and broadening the range of careers young adults see as accessible and possible in their lives.
Career guidance exists to expand and inspire those possibilities and after meeting so many different young adults, I feel that conversation must begin from understanding what makes them tick. Encouraging them to think more deeply about their own life and experiences and to extract out of that meaningful threads that they can start to place within a broader range of job and industries.
This is all well and good, but becomes challenging when you witness the realities of the time and resource scarcity being faced by many careers advisors around the state. This is not to be confused with a lack of care. The teachers I met were inspiring and doing their best with a difficult situation. Our workshops and my observations support national findings that 52% of career practitioners do their role on a part-time basis, that career practitioners are 1.75 times more likely to have had their time allowance decreased in the last 3 years and that 1/4 of career practitioners don’t know what their annual budget is (CICA, 2017). Of those who know what their budget is, 1/3 have less than $1,000 to spend on career development across their entire school (CICA, 2017). Perhaps the most poignant response I had in regards to possible careers funding was from a Sydney public school in which there was no careers funding because it is was “going towards paying for the formal”.
This funding and resource challenge perhaps highlights why in our survey given to students after they completed their reports:
- 21% of students indicated that they were not engaged in their career programs
- 21% don’t feel that they get enough attention
- 8% don’t feel that it’s comprehensive
- 9% don’t feel that their program encourages a wide range of options.
At CareerHQ we have immense respect for the teachers and students who are today navigating the transition from study to work and our key objective is to support them.
I have two hopes that are the key takeaways from our schools pilot. Firstly, I believe we need to value more highly and find ways to listen to the voices of students in shaping careers programs. It is only once we begin to listen to and understand at scale the career interests of students that schools and organisations can start to create student-centered careers programs that truly meet the needs of students. This is becoming increasingly important with the changing world of work and our ageing population. We need to unleash and inspire our young people, not tell them what to do and put them through traditional and tired programs.
Secondly, running these workshops highlighted to me that in order to create meaningful outcomes in both rural and urban areas we need to begin to focus more heavily on community-wide approaches to career development and transition support for all ages. I witnessed schools and universities banding together to solve local career challenges (in Central West NSW), and even beyond this there is the potential to bring communities together at large as equal stakeholders in this issue. This includes local businesses, councils, chambers of commerce, universities, parents and schools. Everyone has a part of play in helping individuals to navigate the challenging jump from education to employment. And we are stronger together, than simply trying to go it alone.
Local solutions can only be created by a shared dialogue that deeply understands the needs of locals students and industry. We believe that creating large group career interest data that tracks the current and emerging interests of students is a vital part of that conversation. That is where we are seeking to help. We hope to provide rich data that can impact how schools and communities appreciate, value and respond to the emerging career interests of the generations that will support Australia’s future world of work.
More About Us and The CareerHQ Compass.
The CareerHQ Compass is the only student-directed career tool that brings together the overall career interests of large groups, including the ability to interactively break down and contact different groups. We were excited that in our survey from this pilot, over 95% of students said they would recommend the CareerHQ Compass to someone who is trying to decide what to do after school and 85% of students said that the CareerHQ Compass and Careers Database gave them more confidence and certainty around their career and study options.
Explore your career options with the CareerHQ Compass
- Create 6 – 10 career options that suit you
- Discover your strengths and interests
- Explore whether your career options match your unique lifestyle considerations
Career Industry Council of Australia (CICA). (2017). As key influencers, school career practitioners need more time to assist students to make well-informed decisions. Retrieved online 8 January https://cica.org.au/wp-content/uploads/CICA-Media-Release-21-June-2017.pdf
Featherstone, Tony. (2016). Why do students enrol in massively oversupplied university degrees? Retrieved online 8 January http://www.smh.com.au/small-business/managing/the-venture/why-do-students-enrol-in-massively-oversupplied-university-degrees-20160810-gqp2u2.html