Comprehensive advice on careers and study pathways, delivered across the student life cycle, is essential to overcome the long-term impacts of disadvantage, a new study has found.
The report, published by the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE), recommends a national commitment to developing contemporary resources for students from low socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds, as well as their careers influencers.
The research team, led by Associate Professor Jane Coffey from Curtin University and Professor Dawn Bennett from Bond University, developed evidence-based recommendations to effectively deliver information about higher education study options, pathways, and careers to low SES students.
“Given the changing nature of work, the impact of disadvantage is significant and long lasting, impacting opportunities for career sustainability in the long term,” Associate Professor Coffey said.
“Engaging directly with career advisors and students from a diverse range of Australian schools and universities, we observed inequitable provision of career and study information throughout secondary education.”
While high SES students valued career information more in Year 12 and beyond, low SES students wanted guidance from Year 7 onward to allow for more informed subject selection and career-related advice.
Tertiary and secondary focus groups highlighted the impact of being assumptively streamed too early based solely on academic performance, citing a lack of quality information on the accessibility and availability of alternative post-school pathways.
“There were few ‘door openers’ but many ‘dream killers’, particularly for those from low SES, regional and remote schools,” Professor Bennett said.
“The dream killers communicated rigid and restrictive study pathways, with limited options which had a profound impact on students’ self-belief and future goals.”
The report recommends a national approach and commitment to the provision of equitable, contemporary resources for both students and career influencers, including a central information repository.
Findings also indicated qualified career practitioners be recognised as critical to the core business of schools, working in conjunction with trained educators.
Professor Bennett, noted the potential for meaningful careers advice, delivered in early high school, to positively impact long-term career outcomes.
“School students from low SES backgrounds may not have had the same exposure to careers and educational pathways as their more advantaged peers, although their aspirations are often equivalent,” Professor Bennett said.
“The recommendations from this report support the provision of timely, relevant information so all students can pursue their goals through the most appropriate pathway.”
The final report, Ameliorating disadvantage: Creating accessible, effective and equitable careers and study information for low SES students, is available here: https://www.ncsehe.edu.au/publications/careers-study-information-low-ses-students/
This research was funded by the Australian Government Department of Education under the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP) National Priorities Pool (NPP).