‘Career Education – contemporary approaches to transitions’
Great to be able to attend the Careers Education Association of Victoria (CEAV) conference held at Melbourne University Melbourne – 29th November to 1 December 2017. Due to competing priorities I was unable to stay for the whole of the event but very much enjoyed what time I had available to me.
Arriving on the Wednesday there were numerous afternoon ‘Masterclass’ sessions. Wearing several hats I attended the session on
“Tech schools – classrooms of the future.”
Phil D’Adamo executive director TECH schools Dept’ of Education and Training. Sofia Flusco – associate director Ballarat Tech School. Mark Banks – executive director of three Tech Schools including Melbourne polytechnic.
The session commenced with an explanation of the development of ten tech schools across the state. Please note, not to be confused with other previous incarnations of the term ‘Tech’ schools from previous Government initiatives, “The Tech Schools initiative is part of the Victorian Government’s commitment to creating the Education State by ensuring every Victorian has access to an excellent education. This exciting initiative has invested $128 million to construct and establish 10 Tech Schools across the state with further ongoing funding to support operation. The 10 high-tech centres of learning use leading-edge technology, discovery and innovation to deliver the advanced education and training that Victorian school students need to flourish in the rapidly changing global economy.” I note that Bendigo is the only school in my region with a bulk of the other centres located in and around Melbourne. Phil D’Adamo talked about this initial step as part of an overall STEM plan. For full details please check out the department webpage.
My key takeaways from the session were; (a) the added benefit of teacher training as part of the learning model in these setups. By being in attendance and participating in learning framework outside of the school the teacher is exposed to new professional development opportunities, (b) the ‘collaboration’ effect from having a governance process that involves not just school stakeholders but also the VET sector hosts, industry and even parents. As the discussion continued around this I did make the observation that this can actually be done without dedicated specially funded centres from an infrastructure point of view and in some areas of my region this is already happening. I am also aware from attending many forums that focus on student engagement issues that there is a lot of the talk around having special maker spacers or hubs that could also be thought of as operating under this same or similar model. The key difference being that STEM may not necessarily be the central hook. One of the other key aspects is that at these centres students are put in a situation of solving or focusing on real world problem. Another take on this would also be about putting the A- ‘Art’ in STEM to form the more holistic acronym of STEAM. At the moment the centres are all new and operating with individual differences in delivery and methodology. I look forward to the future data on how well the centres deliver on their intended outcomes. In the meantime I am hoping to generate further discussion around how local communities can form their own centres of excellence and how we connect all pathway sectors and engage our students for a new world of work already happening around us.
The following day was the big day for the conference which included the trade expo as centrepiece to all the keynote and breakout sessions listed for the day. Big thanks to the rest of the Victorian NDCO team for their coordination and work that went into having and staffing a stall throughout the day. I really appreciate how well we can and do work together to value add to the program. Thanks to this team effort I was lucky enough to be able to attend a variety of sessions through the day starting with the opening address.
Professor James, from Melbourne University opened the conference with a reference to Martin Trow’s concept of ‘Reflections on the Transition from Elite to Mass to Universal Access’. Written some thirty years ago Professor James reflected on how this writing had succinctly captured the current issue faced by schools and higher education around the problem of “universal— adaptation of the “whole population” to rapid social and technological change.” In essence how do we as higher educators (as part of the career preparation mix) deliver education that balances the need for generic skills versus specific content, noting that we don’t have a definitive answer at the moment. The importance of scaffolding a base qualification followed by a specialist qualification maybe one answer that they are definitely pursing at Melbourne University.
James Merlino gave a video welcome to delegates in which he discussed the importance of enterprise skills which now form the heart of the new Victorian curriculum. “Career education needs to be a professional service.” I highlight this point in regards my current considerations in responding to the ‘Inquiry into Career Advice Activities in Victorian Schools’ – noting that submission close 15th December. Sort of get the feeling they already know what the major issues are but never the less I look forward to reading the full report, once released, sometime next year.
With the formal aspects of the day completed it was time for the opening keynote, Sareena Hopkins – executive director Canadian career development foundation.
Resilience in action. What does it mean to be resilient in the emerging labour market? What are the implications of this on our field?
First thing to note was her reference to the importance of storytelling where she went onto lead the keynote with a children’s story book reading that featured the story of the broad mind. ‘In this story the broad mind is a thing of beauty with wings to fly, feet designed to dive deep, large eyes that had long term vision and arms long able to embrace all things. On one occasion it was captured by a giant who wanted to see how fast it could run. Because it kept flying instead of running he plucked off the wings. And the web feet made it slow and so that special webbing that allowed it to dive deep was cut. It could now run, and run fast it did. But it didn’t see the finish line due to long term focus. With training and tunnel vision applied it was soon able to see the designated finishing line. And it won the race. But it had its arms shortened because of its tendency to hug the other competitor at the finish. It soon lost enthusiasm and didn’t compete and was thrown away into a tin full of other broad minds. Over time it grew back all the original feature and thrived.’ I am sure this story was not lost on any of the participants and it very much reminded me of the “Animal School” story by George Reavis.
Sareena went onto a rubber ball analogy highlighting the characteristics that resemble or illustrate resilience.
This brought us to the main crux of her message, the number work skill (now and even more particularly in the future) is resilience.
Coming from Canada, Sareena highlighted the context of where her learning had come from and the similar or same issues facing many career advisers, parents and carers in today’s setting. In particular the significant increase in anxiety and depression, and associated mental health issues. Uncertainty of future prospects is a real and common denominator.
‘Whose fault is it?’ Everybody else’s fault seemed to be a common response.
Having established the essence and extent of the problem Sareena went on to explain the model – ‘Protective factors for resilience, internal and external’. This model consisted of four quadrants (1) interspersonal factors, (2) social and coping skills (internal), (3) interpersonal supports and (4) institutional supports (belonging to community) (external). A caring relationship that believes in you and links you to belonging. From this model we get the following;
Top ten list of strategies for creating resilience;
- Foster hope. Without this not much else matters. Having a strengths based approach is critical and is the ultimate motivator and supporter.
- Build self-esteem. This is not a conceptual exercise and is very much linked to self-respect. Challenging and changing the internal dialogue from lifelong negative labeling towards recognition of potential not yet unlocked.
- Facilitating self-awareness and knowing oneself.
- Facilitate labour market awareness. Passions lead to purpose. Personalising the labour market trends. Expanding the vision of the possible.
- Teach skills to enter and navigate the labour market. The mechanics of the process.
- Learn to learn and learn from learning. Application / reflection / personal integration / extension. The move away from content knowledge to the reality of constant learning and personal development. Reflection journals as a good example.
“Relationship relationship relationship”
- Nurture relationships.… Even just one makes a critical difference.
- A board of directors to support transitions. Think circles of supports here. Diversity of relationships. Each student should have a board of directors for them as developing a lifelong plan.
- Real labour market applications and exposure. Linking and contextualising the students learning to real world environments. Relevance of workplace exposure to validate goal setting.
- Contribute to community. My comment to this is really the re-framing of the perspective of a career adviser to say, ‘Ask not what do I want to be, but what problem do I want to solve.’
My main observation here is the major role that project based learning, especially when linked to the above community context (social need) can address all ten aspects, also noting the link to the tech schools discussion point above re maker spacers or hubs.
“We are now at the tipping point for career development. Career development is at the centre, or should be, at the centre of what our education process should be and seek to achieve.“ Big thanks to Sareena for her words and direction in a very relevant and well thought key note.
As part of the conference there was plenty of product demonstrations and workshops. One that very much interested me was ‘Employment readiness and the Jobwatch program.’ Presented by Bernadette Gigliotti from CEAV. I was very interested in the Job Readiness Assessment tool that they had been using as part of their Job Watch program. First let me note here the reference of this program happening at the community education hub Melbourne polytechnic (which also happens to host a Tech School). Having many related services being housed in one location has to have learning benefits for all individuals working in close proximity. Using the PaTH program as a model to prepare and transition unemployed youth in their catchment, they needed a better way to capture the essence of the label being applied to a lot of these young people, “they are not job ready.” Having seen a tool being used overseas, called the employment readiness scale, they integrated it into the program so they could measure the very factor of job readiness. Without going into the full details of the program it works on three elements, (1) one on one counselling, (2) employment readiness assessment (ERS), (3) career action plan. In regards the ERS it consist of a self-assessment, an on-line accessible test with print out results followed by a one on one counselling session. It works on a licence per student model with each licence allowing each student to take the assessment up to six times. In their program they are using the ERS at certain key stages not only to measure work readiness but also to guide progress which very much also helps guide the career action plans moving forward. The feedback component has been a great feature in building employment readiness for individuals and consultants alike. The ERS works as a framework for needs assessment intervention design and evaluation and has three components- employability factors / soft skills / challenges. Bernadette stated that whilst the tool worked well for out of work youth and does not necessarily translate to being a career guidance tool for students still in school. Also note ability to customise data reports and data related outputs. Other things to bear in mind were some biases that may happen as part of the self-assessment aspect and also the need for proper training for consultants wishing to use the tool. For more information visit http://www.employmentreadiness.info/home
My next attended session was ‘Transition planning for individuals with hidden disabilities,’ by Carol Johnson, University of Wisconsin-Stout and Kate Johnson, Accessible Systems Colorado.
“There are two types of people in this world, those with disabilities and those who haven’t realised theirs yet.” Really liked this reference which was supported by the discussion around exactly what are hidden disabilities. For context please check out some of the Youtube videos available on this subject (just google hidden disabilities). The presenters went onto discuss the idea of Disability pride and what that really looked like. (The looming of the international day of people with disability was referenced at this point). In most cases there is a process to arrive at disability pride;
- Acceptance of having a disability
- Self-disclosure – acknowledgement
- Supports – where to get and receive help.
- Self-advocacy – only really comes about from the above steps and is a critical skill.
- Connecting with the disability community
- Equals – Disability pride.
(Izzo and Horne 2016)
I am reminded of the saying, ‘You are not the disability but the environment placed upon you.’ Which is a major element of disability pride. Note that disclosure needs to happen before you can have self-advocacy.
It was at this point that Kate made reference to a campaign via her advocacy company – Invisible Disabilities wristbands, “shine a light and be invisible no more.” I really liked the idea that if you wear one of these wristbands you are bringing hidden disability into a framework of acknowledgement.
For more interest in this subject I highly recommend visiting the invisible disabilities web page. https://invisibledisabilities.org/
Note that a bulk of this session was in a question and answer format and that a lot of that discussion revolved around disclosure. If you would like some information around disclosure please note the following NDCO resource: https://www.westernsydney.edu.au/choosingyourpath
Before I sign off – a quick thanks and acknowledgement to NDCO Sally Bailey who was lucky enough to present on the Thursday afternoon. I have already seen an increase in general inquiries to the NDCO webpage and if for no other reason that the event help raise the profile of our program – it was already a success.
Apologies that I wasn’t able to stay for the entire forum but please note the CEAV webpage and if you aren’t already, why not become a member so you can access all the news, updates, links and resources.