Year 12 exams are in full swing and we are getting almost daily reminders from the media that young people need to think and plan beyond their final days in the classroom.
Even the premier of New South Wales, Mike Baird, has chimed in with his advice to students.
But a focus on exams, ATARs and university offers provides a skewed image of what it means to finish high school.
Less than half of young people finishing school go on to university in Australia. Yet the focus of many of our media and public conversations tends to reinforce university as the gold standard that all young people should strive for.
This is further reinforced by government targets to increase the number of 25 to 34-year-olds completing a bachelor degree or higher to 40% by 2025.
But university isn’t the only option. Neither is it the best option for everyone.
This year alone more than 290,000 young Australians aged 15 to 24 were unemployed. So what can be done to support them?
We need to focus on improving careers advice for young people in schools to help them make informed decisions about their future careers.
Career planning with students cannot be left to one report or one year level. It must be embedded into regular activity and encompass far more than 19th century career matching approaches.
Aptitude tests and career matching mean students often leave school with a fixed mindset believing that their past, current and future will be determined by their IQ, Aptitudes and matched abilities (see Carol Dweck, Stanford University). On the other hand students who have a growth mindset (IBID) believe their past, current and future performance is determined by their ability to learn from mistakes, persist when things are difficult and exert the effort required to succeed.
Career-life education in schools must encourage the development of a growth mindset with consistent learning experiences at key points across their educational experience.
Uber suffered a legal blow this week when a California judge granted class action status to a lawsuit claiming the car-hailing service treats its drivers like employees, without providing the necessary benefits.
Up to 160,000 Uber chauffeurs are now eligible to join the case of three drivers demanding the company pay for health insurance and expenses such as mileage. Some say a ruling against the company could doom the business model of the on-demand or “sharing” economy that Uber, Upwork and TaskRabbit represent.
Whatever the outcome, it’s unlikely to reverse the most radical reinvention of work since the rise of industrialization – a massive shift toward self-employment typified by on-demand service apps and enabled by technology. That’s because it’s not a trend driven solely by these tech companies.
Workers themselves, especially millennials, are increasingly unwilling to accept traditional roles as cogs in the corporate machinery being told what to do. Today, 34% of the US workforce freelances, a figure that is estimated to reach 50% by 2020. That’s up from the 31% estimated by the Government Accountability Office in a 2006 study.
In a report released this week, the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) claims that up to 70% of young people are preparing for jobs that will no longer exist in the future. The report also raises concerns about decreasing entry-level occupations for school leavers and the impacts of automation.
In another recent report, the Committee for Economic Development of Australia predicts that:
almost five million Australian jobs – around 40% of the workforce – face the high probability of being replaced by computers in the next 10 to 15 years.
Some of the jobs most at risk of being automated include office administration staff, sales assistants, checkout operators, accounting clerks, personal assistants and secretaries.
How many windows and tabs are open on your computer as you read this article? How many different tasks are you trying to do on your computer right now? Electronic devices tempt us to try to multi-task, but according to research, only 5% of people can multi-task efficiently.
People have a maximum attention span of around ten minutes, thus the amount of attention we can devote to processing, encoding, storing and retrieving information is limited.
When students divide their attention by simultaneously trying to take notes as they listen to the teacher, check Facebook, answer texts and respond to email, their notes are less effective because they are distracted by non-academic activities.
Arguments against the use of laptops, tablets, smart phones and other devices in the classroom largely centre around problems with multi-tasking and distractions on the devices. It also becomes an equity issue if not all students can afford the latest devices.
Times are tough for young Australians. The costs of education and housing are rising. The youth unemployment rate is double the national average and competition for good jobs is intense.
Many young people are taking longer to reach the conventional milestones of adulthood: independent housing, career stability, a partner and children. This is not because young people no longer want these things, but because they have become harder to attain.
Financial literacy in Australian is low, particularly so in those under 25 years of age. What might be surprising is that it is low even among university students.
Recently I was part of a research team that undertook surveys of students from across Australia aged 17-20. Students were asked to rate their understanding of different areas of financial importance: budgeting, saving, managing debt, investing, retirement planning, tax, insurance and superannuation.
They were then asked to answer some basic questions related to each of those areas, with some interesting results that are yet to be published.
We ask young people to make a lot of life-changing decisions. At 13 or 14 you choose GCSE subjects. Make the wrong choice and you could be ruling out your chance to pursue medicine or a number of other science and technology occupations. At 16, young people make choices about the area that they want to specialise in and whether they want to pursue vocational or academic tracks. At 18, there are still more decisions about whether to go to university or not and again what to focus on.
Think about yourself at 14, 16 and 18. Did you have enough information, experience and direction to make these choices wisely? Would a bit more support and advice have been useful?
Throughout our lives we have multitudes of experiences that shape how we then behave in the world. Some of these lessons are learnt rapidly, such as why we shouldn’t put our hand on a hot pan on the stove. Other, more autobiographical experiences can be stored and recalled explicitly as our memories.
These memories can be recalled and described, such as what we did for certain birthdays, or experiences from our holidays. We can also learn to perform certain actions and behaviours that are totally new to us – for example, learning to ride a bike and drive a car. These actions can be thought of as muscle memories, or “non-declarative” memory.
It’s not enough that students are paying to do the online course, but after some time, they are in fact running out of self-control. Dr David Glance from the University of Western Australia’s Centre for Software Practice ran a study into drop out rates in MOOCs classes (Massive Open Online Classes) which are free and open to anyone. In the article he compares doing a course online to going to the gym, or going on a diet. At first they sound like great ideas, but they always end up dropping out due to how easy it is to quit.
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