Career construction, future work and the perceived risks of going to university for young people from low SES backgrounds
Research Fellowship Final Report
Maria Raciti, USC
The aim of this Fellowship project was to understand the interplay between career construction in the 21st century, future work, and the perceived risks of going to university for young people from low socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds. Making career decisions is becoming increasingly complex and fraught with risk. Perceived risks are endemic in the decision to go to university and this Fellowship project drilled down into the role of perceived risks in light of the contemporary career context where traditional ways of planning careers no longer work.
We live in uncertain times with the rise of the gig economy, job automation, career mini-cycles and an erosion of the sense of security that going to university will “guarantee” access to a defined, stable occupation. With more occupations to choose from than ever before, young people experience confusion or even decision paralysis. With predictions that jobs in the future are more likely to need a university education, there is a need to accelerate efforts to increase participation of people from low SES backgrounds to prevent the further deepening of social inequalities. Indeed, stemming the deepening of social inequalities was the impetus for this Fellowship project.
In brief, this project:
- focused on the role of perceived risks in the decision to go (or not to go) to university for secondary school students from low SES backgrounds
- outlined the decision-making processes of low SES secondary school students
- introduced risk tolerance as a characteristic that can explain differences in how low SES secondary school students respond to the decision dilemma of whether to go (or not to go) to university.
The underpinning research question and objectives were:
- How do the perceived risks of going to university influence the decision to participate in Australian higher education by young people from low SES backgrounds?
- To identify the types of perceived risks that young people from low SES backgrounds associate with going to university.
- To develop and test a model of the influence of perceived risks on the decision to go to university by young people from low SES backgrounds.