Chatting to a friend over the weekend she was telling us about her grandson. I will call him Taylor for that is his name; he is three years old, lively and normal. In response to a question about what he was going to do in the future he told his Nana that when he was five he would go to school and after that he would go to university. “Why will you do that?” his Nana asked. Quick as a shot the answer cane back – “To get a job!”
And that is the middle class advantage, growing up with a possibility that develops into an expectation and becomes an aspiration. I would be certain that Taylor doesn’t really understand at this point just what it means. He will know about school because they walk past the local school often enough. He will know about jobs because Mum and Dad both have them. But already the connections between schooling, postsecondary education and training and jobs are starting to grow in his mind.
Middle class children get all this with their cornflakes. It’s part of the chatter that goes on in those homes and it becomes a powerful factor in sustaining young people such as Taylor through the 16 or so years that come between his simple plan and the future.
So starting the talk about jobs as an outcome of education is very important. But it often is hidden behind a number of myths.
Most of the young people we are teaching will end up in jobs that have not yet been invented.
This is patently untrue. Most young people in education now will go into jobs that exist now and many will work in jobs that have been around for a long time. Those who do go into the cutting edge of employment, into the jobs that are really new are not these novice workers starting out but the experienced, highly skilled and workers. The jobs the children in classrooms now will need to be skilled and prepared for are the jobs that are out there now.
We have to prepare young people for a future in which they will have seven careers.
“Career” is a very funny word. Can you set out to have a “career” or does one simply emerge from the set of activities and experiences that are accumulated over time? Is a “career” something you look back on, a useful term that means all the bits and pieces I have done? Is there a difference between changing your job quite a bit and a career that is usually applied to substantial experience in the same vocational area? And that’s the point – we have changes in our jobs bit not necessarily a change of jobs. I have had one job all my working life but I have had six positions. I am an educator – I guess that is my career – but I have added skills as different positions have demanded them.
Preparing young people to get into the workforce – to make a start in a career by getting a job – is a key outcome for schooling and tertiary education and training.
There aren’t any jobs out there.
Try telling that to employers desperate for skilled workers. There are jobs for those adequately prepared. The sad truth about youth unemployment is not that young people are unemployed, although that in itself is not to be desired, but that so many young people are unemployable. You hear quite a lot of talk about university graduates who are clearly under-employed, that is to say that they are working in jobs that require skills and knowledge at a much lower level than their qualification demands. That is not a good thing at all. But with young people who are perhaps early school leavers, the skills of employment are a balance of practical skills as well as what is called the “soft skills” demanded by employers.
These so-called soft skills are attributes such as a strong work ethic, a positive attitude good communication skills, time management abilities, problem-solving skills, acting as a team player, self-confidence, ability to accept and learn from criticism, flexibility/adaptability, and working well under pressure. How would our students score if those were the heading on their report card? And could we point with confidence to our programmes and show that each of these is explicit in them?
Add to this that employment also requires knowing other things as well – language, mathematics, science of one kind or another and so on.
Yes, Taylor has got quite a lot to do before he gets that job!
Announcing the Bridging the Divides Conference
For more information, please contact the Manukau Insitute of Technology Centre for Studies in Multiple Pathways, Colleen Young:
E: [email protected] or P: 09 968 7631.