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Employers who offer work experience to students would be given subsidies or tax incentives under a proposed industry push to strengthen career education in the state.
In a policy paper released on Monday, the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry will put forward 29 recommendations to improve the future of career services in Victoria and nationwide.
Year 12 student and part-time cook Bubble Booker Malcolm preparing sausages for pizza toppings under the eye of Brunswick restaurant Rumi’s prep chef James.Credit: Chris Hopkins
These include adding a compulsory careers subject to the school curriculum from year 7, delivering more practical work experience in all tertiary courses and ensuring every student leaves school with a career action plan.
The latest Education Department data shows a growing number of year 12 graduates are heading straight to the workforce, straying off the traditional path from high school to a trade or university.
There are also significant numbers of students not completing their chosen study at university or TAFE.
The chamber says improved career advice would lead to better choices, in turn helping to tackle the skills shortage that is a handbrake on growth and productivity.
Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief Paul Guerra.Credit: Luis Enrique Ascui
In a survey carried out by the chamber in June, 98 per cent of employers agreed that work experience was important, but only 19 per cent hosted students.
In the same survey, 76 per cent of employers said substantive careers education should be in the school curriculum, including overlooked “employability” skills such as self-management and teamwork.
The policy argues formal careers advice needs to be provided by trained careers professionals, not teachers, and start from year 7, before students have strong preconceptions about their chosen profession.
In South Australia, year 10 students can gain up to 10 credits towards their ATAR based on a personal learning plan, which is designed to explore career options and identify future goals.
All Victorian government school students receive career counselling and complete an annual career action plan from year 9. Programs to support students to think about future careers are run for students in years 7 and 8.
Paul Guerra, chief executive of the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said today’s students were making different choices to those of previous generations, who often went from school to university and lifelong professions.
“If we can get it to a point where there are multiple checkpoints of work experience, rather than just the one or two weeks, we’ve got a better chance of engaging the students into the workforce,” he said.
“We need to help the students coming through understand the options, and the best way to do that is to work closely with the school system and to have the business community as an integral part of that.”
Guerra said he had not yet discussed incentives with the government. “We’ll have that discussion with them over the next couple of months,” he said.
Seventeen-year-old Bubble Booker Malcolm had considered becoming a primary school teacher or social worker before a food studies class reignited their passion for baking.
Booker Malcolm is now finishing VCE while working part-time at Middle Eastern restaurant Rumi. Next year, they will ignore the traditional pathway to an apprenticeship and start working full time.
The Wurun Senior Campus student said they never felt pressure to go to university from their parents or school, with the focus instead on finding something they liked.
“They more just … want me to be happy and actually enjoy what I’m doing, which I really appreciate,” Booker Malcolm said.
Bubble Booker Malcolm said many students were taking time after high school to explore their options.Credit: Chris Hopkins
“And my school’s a little bit like that too. There was a lot of talk of alternative courses and doing TAFE and getting apprenticeships, and not having to do … huge uni degrees straight out of school.”
Booker Malcolm said gap years were also becoming more common as students took time to explore what they liked instead of rushing into choosing a career. They said more work experience could help students test different professions.
“I think there is more of a culture of moving towards exploration and actually finding something you’re really interested in rather than just going for something that’s going to pay well.”
A Victorian government spokesperson said $109 million had been invested in 2018 for the Transforming Career Education initiative, which gives every year 9 government student access to online career diagnostic tools and a one-on-one session with a qualified career practitioner.
This year, it spent $7.6 million to deliver 10,000 work experience placements for students in years 9 and 10 across in-demand industries.
“Career education is a priority in Victoria,” the spokesperson said. “Our schools deliver dedicated support and programs from the beginning of secondary school to make sure students are prepared for life beyond the school gates.”
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