10 Things Careers Education Could Cover And Doesn’t

Do you ever get the feeling that careers education should cover more than it does? I was in a meeting recently when it was pointed out to me that what I was suggesting was an “old school” view of HE careers work based around helping people manage careers over their life span. The world had moved on I was told and now we are all about employability and destinations, getting students in to graduate level jobs within six months of graduating. I’ve been thinking in light of this about some of the things I feel that either society or individuals would benefit if careers education (at any stage) were to cover but currently tends to veer away from. I have a list of 10.

1) Ethics – I feel often we talk about values but not ethics. Values tends to be about what we want to have in life while ethics is more about what we should do or what we shouldn’t have. But I feel part of development is gaining a sense of right and wrong, we tend not to pose this question in careers education irrespective of how a student may answer it.

2) Understanding Economics- Where do jobs actually come from? When we say we are in recession what does that actually mean? And what would it mean for me? I feel that these and other economic are vital questions and that economics can help students understand and demystify the world around them.

3) History of Work – Has a job always been what it is today? In what ways has it changed? are these changes good or bad? Like economics History helps us understand and more than this helps us participate in discussion about the future. Economics and History of work together would help students be active members of society articulate about what work should be like.

4) The Environment – My fear for my children and potential grand children is that they will look at my life and be disappointed about how ignorant I was about the environmental impact of my life. I feel that part of making realistic decisions should be thinking through what effect our jobs may or may not have on the world around us,

5) Trade Unionism – Encouraging students to join a union may seem a bit biased and political to some but what I want to advocate is more helping students understand trade unionism and come to an informed decision about it. Trade unionism is an important source of support for many and students should consider how they want their careers to relate to this movement.

6) Employment Law – Shouldn’t educated young people going in to the workplace know their rights? It seems to be me very obvious and just part of a responsible education that students should know legally how they are obliged to behave and how others are obliged to treat them.

7) Spirituality – Spirituality and education tend not to get along and yet the belief in something or someone beyond ourselves which effects our lives is a part of many people’s lives. How spirituality may effect and enhance our careers seems like a worth while discussion. Robert Pryor and Jim Bright have written an excellent chapter on this in their book “Chaos Theory of Careers.”

8) Civic Engagement – Increasingly we encouraged students to see civic involvement as something that can forward their career through gaining experience, skills contacts etc. But why do we not also ask how could our careers forward civic society. Responsible citizenship, being a good neighbor, seeking the good of the lace we live in through employment are not really currently covered in careers education.

9) Life Long Learning – Do we learn to gain or learn to learn to learn. I was recently struck by a quote from Alvin Toffler “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” I feel there is a growing danger careers is about getting a result rather than equipping people to keep on learning.

10) Death – Death seems like a bit of heavy subject to slip in to careers development with young people but death is the greater leveler. It is the great certainty and the great uncertainty. In some ways you could argue that any attempt to grapple with career development without grappling with death is  less than it should be.

I guess what I feel unites this 10 things a desire to see careers work as being broader in its focus and longer in its scope. It is personal development and life long learning in the biggest sense. It is focused on helping us becoming who we can be in a changing society in a way that embraces all of society.

21 thoughts on “10 Things Careers Education Could Cover And Doesn’t

  1. Great Thoughts
    I do occasionally get a chance to present these ideas to students but find that in general students focus more on memorizing academic to improve test scores and are less inclined to work at introducing philosophical elements into their lives. I also find the career education component in Alberta is so short that only a fraction of the potential items can be included. Perhaps the lack of ethics education and other topics that encourage students to see how their actions can effect the world at large could prevent social, economic and environmental disasters like the recent Lac Megantic disaster and the Sub Prime Mortgage Economic crash. It would be comforting to me, at least, to see us prepare the next generation to manage the world better than we did.

    • Thanks for your comment Garth, yes I feel your comment about managing the world better is really apt. I feel pushed about the time to fit this sort of stuff in but I feel increasingly a need to think through these issues and what it means for my practice and for education as a whole.

  2. I agree with both authors above. I tach a Cooperative Education course and I have very little time to get all the required segments in, however I do try to get what I consider to be the essentials in before the end of the term and many of the topics listed we at least have a conversation/discussion about.

  3. What a great list! I think you are right on with some important aspects to add to framing careers education for both individual development and the greater societal good. These are also discussion topics which may be inadvertently neglected in hectic homes where electronics have taken over deeper family conversations. “Perspective” is such a great teacher.

  4. I’d also add politics as a major thing that should be covered. Also related but distinct how to organise community and collective action to make your life better alongside those that you live and work with.

    • Yep Tristram agree about politics and community/ collective action. Been exciting by reading a bit in to some of the new ideas around community recently. Feel it is exciting new area to do some more thinking around.

  5. Perhaps we could present a ‘careers problem’ to a mixed discipline group of students and ask: how would an anthropologist / philosopher / political scientist / historian / economist / student of literature / theologist / psychologist / sociologist etc think about this problem? How can you apply your disciplinary approach to your career thinking?
    As a ‘discipline’ careers has been dominated by psychology and sociology, Tom is encouraging an opening up to other disciplines too. Thanks Tom!

  6. Interesting list. I am wondering if those of us in this field understand these 10 well enough to teach it! : )
    For an interesting overview on how the economy “works”– I recommend watching a learning series called “Crash Course” on YouTube. It is an overview on some of the more current and influential factors: the environment, boomer demographics, energy (dependence on oil) and finances. It attempts to explain in laypersons language how lending, government debt loads to private banks and inflation all weave together. If we are taking a holistic view, possibly we need to prepare people to take into account that how making a living may be quite different 10 – 20 years from now.

  7. Great stuff Thomas.
    It’s important because it provokes thought about what should be included. I’d go for ‘why should I care about globalisation’, ‘how can the internet help me’ and ‘what’s critical about thinking’.
    But, for me, the real importance of your blog is the provocation to new thinking.
    So what do we say about where all this goes in the curriculum? It’s not going to fit into edge-of-timetable scheduling.
    I can’t help wondering whether you’re not so much talking about careers education as challenging what needs to be done to make more of the whole curriculum learning for living.
    Do you think?
    Thanks anyway.
    Bill Law

    • Thanks for getting in contact Bill. Glad you liked the post. Yes I feel the question around curriculum is really important. I feel the big question is asking what is education for. My feeling you need to ask it at an institutional level but also for students personally so they can make informed choices around what they want to learn.

  8. Hi Tom I look forward with interest to your thoughts about how to discuss death within careers education. The nearest I have come as a Carers Adviser to linking these 2 topics was a group discussion with 6th form students about A level exam results. The previous year I had a student who did not do well academically tell me how, after his results, he went off to London with a mate who had left school after GCSE’s The motivation for this trip was not simply a desire to “get away” from things but was based around a feeling that his more academically successful friends found it very difficult to cope with his failure – when he met them they were hesitant, uncertain, didnt know what to say, often ill at ease etc I could relate to the emotions and feelings displayed by this students friends as I have been in similar situations and often the cause has been the death of someone known to me and my meeting a partner friend etc. It made for an interesting discussion – survivors guilt complex – anger v apathy, male v female responses – do they differ and would you be ethically justified in killing your parents if one of then said “its not the end of the world you know”

  9. Excellent list. I have recently been working with employers on sort-after employability skills in young people. One area regularly mentioned was an understanding of business – so including economics, history of work, employment law, trade unions etc would be of enormous help.
    I am attempting to sneak it in through a PSHE(E) type programme -because unless a student chooses business studies as a qualification, or has keen parents they normally won’t learn any of this!

  10. Hi Thomas, great post.. Interesting that spirituality is listed separately to death… I think you can also discuss limitation – life is limited not only by death, but many other factors including Tristram’s politics! Sorry I’ll re-phrase that, by the political influences that Tristram raises! And of course many other factors.
    The most alarming aspect was that somebody called your thinking old school. Preposterous! The shovelling of people out of institutions into whatever jobs are on offer in the locality is certainly old school – as old as secondary modern and even older.

  11. Hi Thomas. I really appreciated your career development/management thoughts with a more holistic view of career within education (plus Tristram’s addition of politics to the list). As a former teacher, counsellor, career educator (retired) I also appreciate the struggle of priorities in fitting career management skills into a curriculum as an “edge-of-schedule” option for students. Your list of 10 (plus 1) appear as some of many fundamental outcomes for any good education, it certainly is for good career development. Good career development is prioritizing and learning to make the “connections” between our education and the world around us. For educators, maybe it’s not about where career development (as an option) fits into education… rather, where education fits into one’s career development. Engagement will be the result of helping students see the “connections” in imagining their career path.

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