Rapid shifts in the skills needed in today’s careers are outpacing the learning environment and careers development capacity of secondary schools.
Increased career shifts, work diversification and unpredictable job growth are some of the challenges that face students as they transition from secondary schooling to careers and further study. How do we equip today’s students for the future of work within the curriculum environment and through school resources and careers development?
How is the workforce changing?
The Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) 2015 research report, The New Work Order (FYA, 2015), highlights the three societal shifts influencing careers for young Australians: globalisation, collaboration and automation.
Today, 60% of students are being trained in careers that will be radically changed by automation, the report notes, while more than half of today’s students will work in careers where they need to be able to use, configure and build digital systems.
Seventy-five per cent of the fastest-growing occupations will require STEM skills, a PwC report from 2015 notes (PwC, 2015), while 44% of traditional jobs are at risk from automation. As these pressures on the workforce grow, young Australians will need to change careers more frequently than their parents did. They will have many jobs with many different employers, and may hold several jobs simultaneously, the FYA report notes.
What is the current state of careers awareness in school students and careers advisors?
In late 2017, Australian STEM-specialist publisher Refraction Media, which I co-founded with CEO Karen Taylor-Brown in 2013, partnered with the University of Adelaide to investigate careers awareness in schools (Ng, Vivian & Falkner, 2018). The report identified several challenges to careers development in schools including:
• A lack of policies and inclusion of careers development in the school curriculum;
• A high burden on teachers to create careers development programs with no training available;
• Programs failing to link skills/students to relevant jobs;
• A high focus on VET careers and pathways;
• Cumbersome and unmaintained online resources;
• Online resources lacking information on jobs and articulating information ineffectively;
• Quizzes using speculative questions; and
• Online resources rigidly categorising careers.
What are the problems?
While the strategic skill sets inherent in STEM subjects are in high demand, participation is in decline, especially with girls and underrepresented minorities. Stereotypes around STEM careers persist and there is a lack of diverse role models.
Katrina Falkner, from the University of Adelaide’s Computer Science Education Research (CSER) group (Falkner, 2017) says: “Since 2001, enrolments in Engineering (and related technologies) have seen a steady increase through to 2015, moving from 58,330 to 106,283 students. However, both still stand in stark contrast to a number of other discipline areas, with Management and Commerce, Society and Culture and Health having high and increasing enrolments.”
Enrolments are also increasing at a much greater rate for males compared to females, the CSER group notes (with male enrolments increasing by 73.49%, but female enrolments increasing by only 40.51% over the same period).
How does Careers with STEM address these issues?
What is STEM + X? In 2014, in partnership with Google, Refraction Media kicked off the Careers with STEM magazines with an inaugural magazine called Careers with Code, aimed at addressing the decline in enrolments in ICT studies and focusing on career opportunities in digital technologies, particularly for women. In 2015, this was joined by issues of Careers with STEM Science and Engineering and in 2016 we produced the first issue of Careers with STEM: Maths.
These quarterly magazines are distributed free to every Australian high school (4–50 copies, depending on the title) and are available as free e-magazines through the CareerswithSTEM.com.au website.
The narrative is about ‘STEM + X’ — where ‘X’ is the student’s passion, goal or interest. By focussing on combining STEM skills with their own ideas and interests, Careers with STEM aims to:
– Show that STEM skills are applicable to all careers, beyond the stereotypes of software engineers and scientists;
– Engage students interested in arts, humanities and social change, including girls;
– Develop an awareness of the changing nature of work and the intersection of career areas as an area of innovation;
– Promote entrepreneurship and enterprise skills;
– Present diverse role models across a range of STEM career areas.
Diversity and representation
Each issue of Careers with STEM includes >50% female representation and >30%representation of non-Caucasian races.
For each STEM career profiled in the magazine and the >150 website profiles, we provide a ‘pathway’ showing the study options and career changes involved when working in this career. We also actively seek out a range of different pathways into careers, including tertiary and vocational study, online study and self-taught.
What does Careers with STEM include?
Careers with STEM includes quarterly magazines (free copies distributed at the start of each term, with subscriptions and orders also available online from $1.95/magazine), as well as a website with videos, quizzes and profiles.
There is also an app for students through the Android and Apple Play stores ‘STEM Career Finder’. In addition, each magazine is accompanied by three, free downloadable posters plus Teacher Notes linked to the Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies and General Capabilities. The Teacher Notes provide flexible activities to career practitioners, educators and library programs through a matrix of activities linking directly to articles in the magazines. Educators can also access professional learning materials developed with the University of Adelaide (Professional Learning ‘In a box’) on the Careers with STEM series, and join the Careers with STEM Facebook community for information on events and updates.
How has the product been received?
Since its inception, 1.1 million Careers with STEM magazines have been distributed free in Australia, New Zealand and the United States (Careers with Code launched in the USA in 2016). The website and social channels and e-magazines reach an additional 50,000 readers quarterly.
“The Careers with STEM magazines are engaging, inspiring and relevant. In my opinion, they are unique. I have used them and will continue to use them with my senior students and with my junior careers classes. I like to hand copies to students, as well as to use them as a class set on multiple occasions. They are so inspirational and valuable for those who know what they want to do, but also in helping those who are not so sure, to start really thinking about what they might like to do. — Janet Lake, Careers Advisor, Corowa High School.”
Some comments from a 2017 student survey include:
“I have engineering experience but minimum coding experience, so this magazine helps me understand basic programming terminology and pathways to college.”
“It assures me that there’s a place for me in the world, no matter what any career advisor or peer can say.”
“I love how they bring our attention to important science and important people in science.”
“I like that you provide advice to such a wide range of people, so I can benefit as a student but also when I graduate too!”
“Careers with STEM empowers girls to believe and achieve.”
How can you access the materials and join the conversation?
Subscriptions to Careers with STEM include yearly individual subscription ($19.80/year), bulk order options and Classroom and Library sets including 25 copies each term, high-gloss poster prints, and Teacher Notes. You can find out more about the Careers with STEM series by following Careers with STEM on Twitter, joining the Facebook Community, or signing up for the Education Insider monthly e-newsletter.
- Foundation for Young Australia (FYA) 2015, The New Work Order: Ensuring young Australians have skills and experience for the jobs of the future, not the past. Accessed 16 April 2018
- PwC.com.au 2015, A Smart Move.
- Ng D, Vivian R & Falkner K 2018, Advising Students on Careers of the Future: A Report on the Careers Development Landscape in Australia, Computer Science Education Research Group, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide.
- Falkner, K 2017, A Look at IT and Engineering Enrolments in Australia — Updated! Posted on 15 February 2017.
The full article was originally published in ACCESS Volume 32, Issue 2, June 2018.
“While the strategic skill sets inherent in STEM subjects are in high demand, participation is in decline, especially with girls and underrepresented minorities.”
– Heather Catchpole (above), Head of Content at Refraction Media and Careers with STEM
Author: Heather Catchpole
Heather co-founded Careers with STEM publisher Refraction Media. She loves storytelling, Asian food & dogs and has reported on science stories from live volcanoes and fossil digs