By Maria Vitoratos
Are young people being prepared for the world of work, or has the education system created a skilled group of individuals who gain knowledge and capacity without understanding how these elements can enhance their future career aspirations or the world? This article will critically inquire this question through the lens of my experience in working as an educator and a careers practitioner.
For the context of this article, careers education is the notion that curriculum and careers can merge to shape the understanding for young people of how the learning in the classroom can transfer into the world of work. In my experience, I have come across two central informal belief systems.
- Firstly, the academic journey for students is about learning basic skills further extended in post-secondary education.
- Secondly, education systems should rethink curriculum policy to ensure students learn concepts useful for life and work.
Which paradigm is the correct one for young people? As a careers practitioner and an educator, I believe that education practices must merge with the world of work to enhance and ensure that the youth gain knowledge and skills that will be useful and make them competitive candidates for their future career aspirations. As it stands, the primary and secondary education system works in isolation to the world of work. The expectation is that tertiary education systems collaborate with industry professionals to support career and academic cooperation. However, is this acceptable, or is it time to reshape the education system to support the youth earlier?
Currently, the aims of education are mandated by a curriculum geared around test-taking measures rather than a development process that will evolve the learning and knowledge for a young person from the classroom to the world of work. Criticisms of the education system are not a new notion. Recruiters vocalize the difficulties of finding future talent. Claims that young people are not prepared for work cause scrutiny of education institutions and curriculum. So the question remains, are education systems preparing young people with education to prepare them for making the choices for their future of work? In order to answer this question, I contend that one demystifies how curriculum equates to real-life skills. As an educator, I aim to ensure that students critically reflect on their learning and why they are learning it. As a careers practitioner, I aim to ensure that the subject teachers are not simply teaching curriculum content as a static process. Instead, I promote that the curriculum uses real-life context, ensuring that the students gain knowledge with examples of how the knowledge is used in practice. In order to achieve this objective, I assert that the time is now to bring down the metaphorical walls of the classroom to include members of the industry as part of the education process.
According to the OECD (2004), education and employment policies must widen the options for young people to create an education system that can respond to the varying needs of the individual and the community for a lifespan. In order to do so, the curriculum policymakers must address the issues that have created obstacles for quality career guidance for young people due to the limited support, which most often is geared towards the application processes for post-secondary academic pathways. In addition, education leaders must also be willing to open the doors to the classroom to include professional mentors to collaborate with subject teachers to bring real-life skills into the learning outcomes (OECD, 2004). Finally, a stronger collaboration between work and school can develop more robust structures to improve education and work-ready individuals (OECD, 2004).
In working with young people every day and supporting educators with work-related concepts, I understand that a collaborative approach is the most resourceful when considering how impactful education can be for the future of work. This article inspired me to look into the research of Freire (2005), which asserted that critical consciousness is a crucial element to learning. For example, as a student grasps the knowledge of a concept, the more critical the student’s understanding, the more likely the understanding of reality will be. Using Freire’s (2005) research as a motivator, a collaborative approach where industry professionals and subject teachers collaborate can enrich the curriculum for students. For example, allowing students to critically analyze the learning content, why they are learning it, and how it is transferable into the world of work empowers the student to learn more because they understand its relevance in their future careers.
In conclusion, this article was written to offer the reader some food-for-thought. Helping a young person to discover a future career is not the responsibility of one individual but rather the interconnected responsibility of the global community. Educators and professionals can best serve a young person by collaborating to enrich their careers education, which will create a more empowered workforce for tomorrow.
Freire, P. (2005). Education for critical consciousness (original published in 1974 ed.). Continuum.
OECD. Published by : OECD Publishing. (2004). Career guidance and public policy: Bridging the gap. Paris, France: Org. for Economic Cooperation & Development.