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NCSEHE research project update: Higher education career advice for low SES students

In 2019, the NCSEHE commissioned four large-scale projects to improve access to information about higher education study options, pathways, and careers for disadvantaged students and those who influence them.

With a particular focus on low socioeconomic status (SES), regional and remote, and Indigenous students, the research projects are being conducted under the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment National Priorities Pool (NPP) program.

Higher education career advice for low SES students, including low SES Indigenous students and low SES regional, rural and remote students, led by Kylie Austin (University of Wollongong), is one of the successful projects currently underway.

Project overview

This project investigates best practice initiatives that relate to career advice for students from low SES backgrounds. The goal of the project is to understand how to provide modes of career advice for students beyond the traditional resources of careers advisors and counsellors.

Additionally, the project aims to establish a set of best practice principles and a “Guide to Partnerships” that will be accessible across the sector to support career advice for students, particularly to those from low SES backgrounds.

Project activities and preliminary findings

During Stage One of the project, a set of Best Practice Principles (BPPs) for career advice provision to students from low SES backgrounds has been created. These principles have been written in light of an extensive literature review, desktop audit of best practice, and expert and practitioner input. The principles will be further refined in light of the findings from the empirical research undertaken in Stages Two and Three. At this stage, some of the principles of best practice advice are:

  • Adopt a consistent, long-term, life cycle approach to career development and education.
  • Ensure that career programs are student-centred, and strengths based.
  • Create career programs that are both relevant to the specific context and accessible by all students.
  • Embed all career activities within a whole of school/whole of curriculum approach.
  • Implement a partnership approach with all stakeholders—including schools, universities, vocational education providers, communities and industry—when developing, designing and delivering career-related activities.

Stage Two of the project is currently underway and involves interviews, focus groups and surveys of key stakeholders, university students and parents and guardians. Data collection is occurring across the east coast of Australia at the University of Wollongong, University of Canberra, University of Tasmania, University of New South Wales, Australian Catholic University, and University of Technology Sydney campuses. To date, 72 participants have engaged in this stage of the project.

Emerging findings include:

  • Current university students identify their high school teachers as having been key a source of career information and guidance for them. This information and guidance was particularly pertinent in Year 10 when they had been required to choose their senior years subjects. However, some students reflected upon formulating their career aspirations much earlier than Year 10. The early formulation of career aspiration points to the need for a consistent, long-term, life cycle approach to career development and education — one of the project’s identified best practice principles.
  • Parents see university career programs for school-aged children as important in helping them develop their career aspirations. Parents also see extracurricular activities as being important in shaping their children’s career plans. Interestingly, many comments by parents reflect the influence of “one good teacher” on their child’s aspirations to pursue a specific career. This highlights the importance of an embedded whole of school/whole of curriculum approach to career education — a second of the project’s best practice principles.

In summary

By developing best practice principles for career advice and a “Guide to Partnerships”, this project has the potential to enhance the educational and employment prospects for students from low SES backgrounds, including Indigenous students and students from regional, rural and remote backgrounds.

More information about the four commissioned projects is available here.

Posted 20 February 2020 Posted in General, Indigenous, Low SES, Regional, rural and remote