Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic) welcomes the release of a new report in the Parliament of Victoria concerning careers advice activities in Victorian schools. If the recommendations of this report are realised, we believe more young Victorians will get a strong start in the workforce.

As Australia struggles with high rates of youth unemployment and underemployment, and as the ‘world of work’ changes for young people in unprecedented ways, it’s not surprising that careers education has become a hot topic. YACVic welcomed the Victorian Government’s recent announcement of a more intensive and high quality careers education framework, industry immersion experiences for students, and new investment in career practitioners for schools. We also welcomed the opportunity to present to this inquiry into career advice activities.

In partnership with the Youth Disability Advocacy Service and VicSRC, YACVic made a submission to the inquiry and supported young people to present to the Economic, Education, Jobs and Skills Committee. The committee’s final report focuses on many of the issues we raised. (Our original submission can be read here.)

Key findings of the report

The report just released by the Economic, Education, Jobs and Skills Committee warns that careers education has not been meeting the needs of students. Many career practitioners are under-resourced, ‘time poor’, insufficiently trained, and struggling to manage their large workloads while keeping up with their rapidly changing field.

The Committee raised particular concerns about the adequacy of careers education for students facing various forms of isolation or disadvantage. For example, students from rural and regional areas struggle to access a wide range of career development opportunities, due to barriers of transport, distance and cost. The Committee also found that students with disability, students living in out-of-home care, and students from culturally diverse backgrounds, are often held back by low expectations, financial pressures, and fewer supportive networks to connect them with opportunities.

The report proposes key directions for change, including the following:

More intensive careers education

The Committee recommended that school career practitioners be required to conduct at least one personal meeting per year with every student in Years 7-9, and at least twice a year with Years 10-12 students. Career practitioners should have their teaching loads lightened to accommodate this.

Another key recommendation was that schools be funded (and mandated) to employ one career practitioner for every 450 students enrolled.

The Committee added that career development should be designated as a ‘capability’ in the Victorian Curriculum.

At YACVic, we see strong value in lifting the status of careers education. However, to make this work, there must be close collaborative work done with school communities to address capacity issues, especially in rural schools where staffing levels can be scarce.

Connect students with a wide range of industries

As noted, many schools struggle with issues of staffing, time and capacity. This limits their ability to exposure students to numerous different careers. Nonetheless, in principle YACVic welcomes the Committee’s recommendations for new initiatives in this space.

Notably, the Committee recommended more work to lift the status and scope of vocational education and training (VET). They called for the development of a program to promote VET pathways to students, parents and teachers, and for subsidising of VET in Schools courses which align with the free ‘priority TAFE courses’ being supported by the Victorian Government.

The Committee also called for Years 7-10 students to be offered at least two immersion or ‘taster’ days each year, and for the Department of Education and Training (DET) to develop an online portal to help students find work experience placements.

In addition, the Committee called for new efforts to engage industry groups, professional associations and public sector organisations in taster, immersion and work experience programs.

Combat rural and regional isolation

YACVic welcomed the Committee’s recognition of the need to address the barriers that often prevent rural and regional students from taking part in diverse careers education. In particular, the Committee recommended a ‘career development fund’ for regional students from low-income families, to cover their costs in attending careers activities outside their region. The Committee also urged that the Victorian Government support mentoring programs to help students from rural and regional areas to transition to higher education and employment.

YACVic would strongly support such place-based initiatives, provided they were developed in meaningful partnership with diverse rural and regional school communities.

The Committee also recognised that isolation and limited resourcing are also holding back career practitioners themselves in rural and regional areas. The report called for a professional development fund to cover these practitioners’ costs when accessing professional development outside their region, and for a greater range of professional development opportunities to be offered online. YACVic supports this recommendation, however this fund must not only cover transport and accommodation costs, but costs of engaging a casual relief teacher as well.

Address disadvantage and marginalisation

The report contains a strong discussion of the various reasons why some young people miss out on opportunities to learn about different careers and connect with networks, mentors and opportunities. Students with disability, students in out-of-home care, students from refugee and migrant backgrounds, and students from low-income families are all at risk of missing out.

YACVic welcomes the Committee’s recommendation that a career development fund be established to help students from low-income families to cover the cost of taking part in VET in Schools and career development activities.

We also support the Committee’s call for mentoring programs to be funded to help students facing disadvantage through the transition from school to further study and work.

However, it is important to recognise that marginalisation from career opportunities affects different students in many complex ways. The barriers faced by a student with disability excluded from mainstream school and being ‘transitioned’ into a day program, for example, are different to the barriers experienced by a student from a refugee background who is facing social isolation and racism. Specific, strategic approaches are needed to address the different issues that keep young people out of meaningful careers.  

The Committee recommends more work to support schools and careers practitioners to address disadvantage in relation to careers education, and more detailed data about the relationships between disadvantage and careers activities. We would hope that these approaches would take diversity and different students’ circumstances fully into account.

Embed new resourcing in LLENs

The report proposes a significant new role for Victoria’s unique Local Learning and Employment Networks (LLENs). It urges that each LLEN be funded to employ a school career development coordinator to provide additional support to career practitioners in schools, as well as delivering taster and immersion days and other careers activities for students, providing information to parents, schools and employers, and supporting all young people aged 12-21 in the local area.

YACVic welcomes the recognition that schools need expert, external support that is embedded in their local community, and that the LLENs are vital stakeholders here. However, we recognise that the roles played by the LLENs have historically varied according to local needs; a ‘one-size-fits-all’ model may not work, and substantial local consultation is needed here.

Support teachers to deliver careers education

The Committee made a number of recommendations about lifting the capacity of staff who deliver careers education in schools, including:

  • Requiring all school career practitioners to have, or be working towards, a Graduate Certificate in career development
  • Requiring teacher-training courses to include a career development unit
  • Ensuring that at least one career practitioner at each school is a registered teacher
  • Requiring all school career practitioners to hold professional registration with the Career Industry Council of Australia
  • Supporting schools to release career practitioners to attend professional development for at least two days a year, in addition to existing professional practice days and student-free days
  • Encouraging secondary school teachers to undertake professional development in career development relevant to their specialist area.

Make schools more accountable

An aspect of the report likely to provoke particular debate is its emphasis on greater accountability for how careers education is delivered. For example, the Committee recommended:

  • That funding for careers education be separated from schools’ global budgets and spent solely on career development services
  • That secondary school principals be required to report on their school’s career development services annually
  • That each school publish its career development program online
  • That schools ensure their career practitioner is available for consultation at parent-teacher interviews.

YACVic is keen to continue discussion of how we can best support young people to look forward to a meaningful and rewarding career. This topic will be prominent in our policy platform, #vicyouth2020, due for release very soon.