Growing number of students unprepared for work – study

Growing number of students unprepared for work – study

A new survey has revealed that 20% of Australian students feel education has not prepared them for work at all.

The survey, by global job site Indeed, explores young people’s attitudes to work in Australia and reveals their biggest employment concerns. It found more than a third of young people feel overwhelmed and fearful about career decisions.

According to the data, just half (53%) of young people believe their education has adequately prepared them for the world of work, and a worrying 20% say their education has not prepared them “at all” for working life.

While 53% of students feel certain or confident about choosing a career path, over a third (36%) say they feel overwhelmed, confused or fearful about deciding on their career direction — possibly due to a lack of support in the decision-making process.

In examining young people’s major concerns, the survey found that respondents are most worried about not having enough relevant experience (32%), are unsure about available job opportunities (21%) and are unclear on what jobs are suitable for them (13%).

Schools should rethink content

Across Australia, Education Departments say they’re rethinking how education is being delivered, but do the recent findings suggest this is more talk than action?

Samantha Devlin from The Careers Department, said the method of careers education is highly, highly varied across the board and there is little to no consistency from school to school.

“Some careers advisors have scheduled time with students, others don’t have any timetabled lessons. However, what is homogenous across the board is the drop-out rate and lack of understanding of the realities when it comes to post school study or work,” Devlin told The Educator.

“In our opinion, the solution comes from widening the breadth of content delivered to students; and making sure schools invest in independent content. As a job search site, Indeed has lots of excellent data and resources that can help students with the process of choosing a career pathway and developing job-readiness.”

Devlin said that in my experience, schools often only share university-produced content with their students.

“But of course, this is pure advertorial wrapped up as ‘advisory content’,” she said.

One example Devlin points to is Health and Sports Science as an area of study, which is fast becoming one of the most desired courses in the country, offered at around 20 different universities with ATARs soaring well above 90.

“Let’s think about how this looks in adland… young, attractive graduate running out on the field with young, attractive elite sports team… treating their oiled-up muscles in the glistening sun, laughing with the coach on the way to another victory, finishing by cheering on the team as they realise premiership glory. Great,” she sad.

“In reality, as so many graduates find out, jobs in this field are scarce and those that exist are heavily admin skewed, with hours of reports and patient write ups required each week, often expected to be completed outside traditional work hours.”

However, Devlin said that while these ‘dream jobs’ exist, prospective students can be in for a rude shock if they aren't aware of the predominant workday reality.

“Anything that helps students explore the breadth and depth of jobs and career paths available will be a positive thing for careers education in schools,” she said.

Setting young people up for success

For educators to set young people up for success in choosing their career, Devlin said they should diversify content that students are given in order to help make their study and work choices.

“You cannot just share advertorial with students. Over the past several years, university advertising has become somewhat ubiquitous, with major institutions and their independent counterparts making serious noise and spending serious coin,” she said.

“With the upward trend of flexible study, alternate pathways to entry and mid-year admissions, there isn’t just one peak ad push anymore, instead it’s a constant buzz around the wealth of opportunities available through tertiary study.”

Despite this narrative, Devlin said it’s becoming clear to experts that there’s a missing-middle-man when it comes to communicating the realities of study and even more so, the career potential and trajectories associated.

“This problem is the catalyst for The Careers Department, which has created an independent platform to provide a 360-degree analysis across 32 areas of study, amassing resources for more than 3,000 degrees offered nationally,” she said.

“We share real, honest and not always ‘picture book perfect’ accounts of the industries and courses. We also link courses to the work force; which is a huge part of solving the problem.”

During The Careers Department’s face to face sessions with students, the organisation encourages them to use a ‘Job Finder,’ which is a live API (Application Programming Interface) from Indeed, to search for real jobs in their industry of interest.

“This helps students better understand the connection between what they are studying and the end-point,” she said.

‘Employers shouldn’t fear worker exodus’

A recent report shows that 91% percent of students are considering working overseas at some point in their careers.

Rather than fear a mass exodus, employees could benefit in pivoting their business to accommodate by-distant work.  

“Paired with their love for travel and adventure, young people’s ambition to work overseas perhaps indicates that a large portion of these students want to work remotely or experience a varied work life, rather than simply working for an international company,” she said.

“This generation are redefining the meaning of overseas travel. The mobile workforce means that young travellers don't feel limited to just 'sun, sea and sand' holidays, but rather, it means they explore new places while working concurrently.”

Devlin said that in 74% of cases, the incentive to work overseas was driven by the want to "travel and be exposed to new things." 

“Platforms like Indeed are encouraging this trend by breaking down the barriers of entry to international work - they've made it possible to search for international jobs from the comfort of your living room,” she said.

“There is a huge learning here for employers - this is generation incentivised by mobility and international opportunity.”