Visualising and realising a career should start in Primary

Program creates excitement about education and how it connects to future employment.
Nov 25, 2021
Get them thinking about careers young and watch engagement jump.

When it comes to career education it looks like you can never start too early, if thinking about a career starts young it tends to create enthusiasm for learning and colours an entire education.

Young people’s ideas about where they fit in the world are often narrow and distorted by their social background. These ideas about identity start to get hardwired from the Primary years.

Having students repeatedly engage with possibilities for their future from the Primary years means they’re significantly more engaged with their learning, feel empowered to take action on ideas for their future careers and are more excited about who they may become.

Early careers education also makes a lot of sense from a timing point of view, when students commence senior school they are already under a lot of pressure, adding considerations about their future career to that is a lot to deal with.

Liv Pennie, Co-Founder & CEO of BECOME, is behind a program which gets students thinking about their careers, captures data as their thinking evolves and lets teachers guide the process.

“We know if students are interested in a subject and see that it’s relevant to what they are thinking about doing in the future, they are going to be an engaged student, a happier student and a more successful student,” Dr Jim Bright who is Director of Evidence & Impact for BECOME says.

The program also underlines that there is a vast array of jobs and pathways you can pursue to achieve an interesting, fulfilling professional life.

“Change is constant, careers are not linear, and while we agree that children’s future careers are not linear, we teach in a linear fashion and assume children’s careers will follow suit,” Dr Bright says.

“By taking an inquiry-based approach, students develop a full understanding of who they are and how they can be active in designing their future in a constantly changing world of work,” Liv Pennie says.

“We can’t teach young people how to think critically and deeply about their future when major decisions need to be made in a rush towards the end of schooling,” Pennie adds.

“We need to give them the time, space and tools, to learn and practice the skills to explore, design and navigate their own future.”

The BECOME.ME app underpins the process, it lets students explore their ideas about a career based on their own strengths and interests. The program’s teacher resource centre offers lessons and supports integrated learning, professional learning and parent engagement. A student’s data and evolving ideas are captured in a dashboard.

Bright and Pennie presented their findings at the OECD Global Conference ‘Disrupted Futures: International Lessons on How Schools Can Best Equip Students for Their Working Lives’ in October.

They presented data from a cohort of 180 students at St Luke’s Catholic College, Marsden Park NSW. The group of 10–13-year-olds participated in the career education program BECOME, data were captured before, during, and after the program.

Of the 10–13-year-old students, 77% said they think about their futures often or all the time, yet less than 10% had discussed their ideas for their future with a teacher.  

The findings underlined the narrowness of perceptions about possible careers, 52% of students aspired to one of only five occupations (physician/surgeon, visual arts, athlete, performing artist, vet/vet assistant). These results correspond to OECD findings which showed that students have little awareness of the wide variety of careers open to them. 

After participating in the BECOME program 69% said ‘I feel more confident that I can take action on my ideas than before Become’, 63% said ‘I will definitely keep doing things that move me towards my ideas for my future’, 58% said ‘I am more excited about the world of work and who I might become’.

“After completing BECOME, there was a 20% increase in how connected students feel their learning at school is to their future,” Bright says.

“The benefits are in preparing them for tomorrow but also for inspiring them today. We are trying to make this best practice become common practice.”