Why is careers education and guidance important?

A key function of secondary schools is to prepare students for their future. This involves designing curriculum opportunities to support students’ interests, strengths and aspirations, and supporting them to make informed decisions about their subject choices and pathways. Learners can become much more engaged in education and highly motivated about the future when they have a clear understanding of themselves and how they might live and work when they leave school.

There are economic and social benefits when learners are supported to make effective transitions from secondary school to tertiary education and training. Having information about the labour market can help students make decisions about tertiary study and training. Informed decisions also support young people’s overall quality of life, sense of purpose and the contributions they make to their families and communities.

Careers education and guidance has an important role to play in a successful curriculum that supports:

  • students’ interests, strengths and aspirations
  • students’ achievement
  • students at risk of poor outcomes
  • students making informed decisions about their subject choices and pathways.

The National Administration Guidelines for schools require schools to provide careers education and guidance. There are two main parts to careers education and guidance:

  • careers education (developing career management competencies of all students)
  • providing guidance (specific to each student’s needs).

This report identifies factors that contribute to high quality careers education and guidance in New Zealand secondary schools. The Education Review Office (ERO) and Careers New Zealand identified schools that were thought to demonstrate good practice in careers education and guidance. ERO reviewed 10 of these schools in Term 3, 2014.

What does high quality careers education and guidance look like?

The schools in this report demonstrated high quality practices in many aspects of effective design and practice of careers education and guidance including:

  • understanding that their role was to prepare students to make good career decisions through their lives, and that careers education and guidance was important in enabling students to do this
  • carefully designing careers education and guidance activities and programmes to link to the school’s curriculum and pastoral care systems
  • providing age appropriate careers education experiences and guidance to build students’ knowledge as they move through the different year levels at secondary school
  • providing individualised guidance and support to help students at risk of poor outcomes to successfully transition into tertiary education, training and employment
  • identifying desired outcomes of careers education and guidance for students
  • creating detailed plans to develop their careers education and guidance
  • accessing ongoing external professional development from Careers New Zealand.

Most of the schools had developed their careers education programmes over several years. To assist their careers education provision, they had actively participated in whole-school professional development initiatives such as Designing Careers andCreating Pathways and Building Lives (see Appendix 2).

Many schools were extending the roles of form teachers and subject teachers in providing careers education and guidance, including through pastoral support and academic counselling. Schools had clarified expectations for these roles and developed plans to increase teachers’ confidence and support them with useful resources, guidelines, and professional development. Schools involved parents and whanau in developing goals for students and planning how to meet them.

Most of the schools had recently reviewed some aspects of the careers education and guidance they offered students. Some monitored how well the new programmes and practices were being put into place, and some monitored the teaching and quality of the careers education and guidance provided by form teachers and subject teachers.

The schools with the most successful careers education and guidance had worked with Careers New Zealand and used the Careers Education Benchmarks 1 to review current school practices and to improve their provision for students. These schools demonstrated many of the characteristics outlined in the Best Evidence Synthesis on factors associated with effective professional development 2.

What are the outcomes of good careers education and guidance

Overall the students at these schools experienced high quality careers education and guidance and had positive outcomes.

As students moved through the year levels at secondary school, age-appropriate careers education information and experiences helped to build their:

  • awareness of their strengths and interests
  • knowledge about a range of careers and courses
  • ability to make plans and put them into effect.

One student said:

I’m 17 and working for my dream company! This wouldn’t have happened without [the careers adviser].

Many younger students knew it was important to choose subjects that kept their options open. Senior students were more likely to have plans for what they would do when they first left school. Some students had been offered jobs as a result of work placements. Students understood the purpose of careers education and guidance and talked about the value of particular aspects of this and how staff had supported them.