I had a conversation recently with a Principal who was excited about their new career program – students were going to receive career education for one semester in Year 10, and they would have around 40 minutes a week for this content. All up, this would give them about 13 hours in total.
This amount of time spent on career education is actually pretty close to the average – a report compiled for the Victorian Government a few years back found that the median school provides around 2 hours of career education per student per year, and the vast majority of this (82%) takes place in Year 10 to 12.
Overall, Australian students spend around 1000 hours per year in the classroom, so two hours of career education equates to 0.2% of all time spent learning.
Two hours of career education is around 0.2% of all time spent learning…
I’m just going to leave that there – sure, it’s not in the curriculum, but I would argue that career education is pretty relevant to preparing young people for their lives (which is, after all, the whole point of education).
Putting aside how I feel about the amount of career education we provide to students, let’s talk for a minute about the impact of loading the vast majority of career education into one block unit quite late in the school journey.
By this point (Year 10 – around 15 years old) a good number of students will either have found part time work, or participated in some way in the work force through work experience or volunteering. They may already have a resume, and they may have experience with an interview process. They may also have to have gone through an induction process, learnt about OH&S, and managed their pay and tax obligations.
But we don’t have to deliver career education in this format – we can be innovative.
Here’s where regular, frequent, and small learning moments come in
Of course, I would love to see career-related learning embedded within the curriculum, but the fact that it’s not part of the official syllabus (aside from those few moments in Year 9 and 10) gives us room to be creative.
Let’s play within the bounds of a teenagers attention span, and deliver career education in short, 10 minute blocks throughout their whole educational journey instead. Let them build competency over time, and give them space to have developmentally-appropriate conversations with their teachers and families.
We designed Ponder this way, and what we’ve found is that teachers are well able to handle the conversations in this space of time across year levels.
Generally, teachers take around 5 minutes to deliver the content, then another 10 minutes for conversations (although these sometimes spill over into the next session), which means that if a student was participating in a Ponder unit each week for 6 years of high school, they would have access to around 10 hours of career education each year, or 60 hours over their entire secondary school experience.
That’s five times as much career education as they would have had with the traditional model, and it’s not been concentrated towards the end of their schooling experience.
We need to do more research to understand the longer term implications of this method of delivering career ed, but feedback we’ve received so far from schools is that when they use the Ponder Program they’ve seen an increase in the number of students applying for work experience and asking for meetings with the Careers Advisor, and they’ve also noticed that students are thinking about their careers earlier than they were before.
It’s possible that using this method can help us break through some of the issues related to block delivery of career education, and I’m excited to see where it goes.