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NCSEHE research project update — Informing key influencers of low SES regional, rural and remote students’ education and career pathway choices

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.

Informing key influencers of low SES regional, rural and remote students’ education and career pathway choices: a whole community approach, led by Professor Sue Kilpatrick (University of Tasmania), is one of the successful projects currently underway.


This project aims to design, trial and evaluate whole-community, place-based, coordinated career and education pathway information and support. It will establish career and education pathway working parties in three case study communities in two states, each resourced with a pathway broker. Working parties and communities will be made aware of a suite of programs and interventions found to be successful in informing and influencing key influencers of student pathway choice. Working parties and communities will be assisted through a process led by the researchers to select and/or modify programs and interventions aligned with community needs. These will be trialled and evaluated.

Project activities and preliminary findings

Career and education pathway working parties (of 11–19 members each) were established in two rural communities in Tasmania (Huon Valley and Break O’Day) and one in NSW (Batemans Bay). The working parties include representatives from local high schools, TAFEs, Trade Training Centres, parents, local government, libraries, industries (e.g., aquaculture, agriculture and tourism), Neighbourhood Houses, Rotary Club and other community organisations.

The first working party meetings were organised in each of the case study communities in November and December 2019. Community data related to education and future local employment opportunities, gathered through desktop research and interviews with key influencers, were presented in the first meetings. The local pathway working parties collectively have a good understanding of job opportunities in their communities.

Baseline interviews were conducted with the working party members in each of the case study communities. The working parties identified parents and families, industries/employers, VET providers, teachers, industry mentors, training organisations, job service agencies and community organisations (such as Neighbourhood House, library) as key influencers of rural student education and career pathway choices. Additionally, the working party in Huon Valley considered health professionals, learner driver mentors, social media and job-related sites as other influencers. There was general agreement among the working parties across three case study communities that parental engagement, industry engagement and the connections between local industries and education and training systems are the main community influences in relation to educational pathways and career choices. Based on these preliminary findings, the working parties were guided in the selection and/or modification of interventions and programs.

At the second working party meetings, held one month after the first meetings in Break O’Day and Huon Valley, participants discussed a suite of programs and interventions that have been found to be successful in informing and influencing key influencers of education and career pathway choices. After some discussion, the Break O’Day and Huon Valley working parties selected two program interventions in each community aligned with local needs.

The following are the programs the working parties have selected to trial in their communities:

  • Parents Matter (for Break O’Day and Huon Valley): Train parents to organise events to familiarise other parents and families with career pathways and associated education pathways.
  • Warm Connections (for Break O’Day only): Training and information resources for local library, Neighbourhood House and other community organisations staff and volunteers, to assist rural adults to make good decisions about undertaking further and higher education and training.
  • Beacon Foundation’s Growth Industry Program (for Huon Valley only): One-day program to raise teacher, parent and other staff awareness of skills shortages and career opportunities within the local community and around Tasmania.

The Batemans Bay’s second working party meeting is delayed due to the impact of recent bushfires in the region. The meeting is scheduled in early March 2020.

More information about the four commissioned projects is available here.

Posted 9 March 2020 Posted in General, Low SES, Regional, rural and remote