We find that most young people are engaged, positive, and eager to prepare for their future lives, and they have a keen interest in understanding how the content they cover in the classroom relates to real-world career pathways. This alone is enough reason to embed careers in the curriculum, but on top of this we’ve identified 5 benefits of connecting careers with classroom content.
Going through the process of actively linking classroom content with possible career paths doesn’t need to be difficult, and the benefits extend beyond those for the student alone.
The five key benefits of connecting careers with the classroom:
Let’s look at each benefit in detail:
Benefit 1 – Students are aware of a wider range of career pathways
We know that around 50% of students aspire to just 1% of jobs, which is problematic. This happens because we spend so much time talking about the ‘obvious’ jobs that we forget to talk about the huge variety of jobs that exist.
In a practical sense, this means that we’ll bring firefighters in to schools to talk to young students, but we won’t invite the fire service staff who manage the rosters, maintain the equipment, train the firefighters, or design their equipment. All of these jobs are equally important, but not as visible.
When we bring career-related content into the curriculum, we have the opportunity to go beyond the popular jobs because we insert more regular, small moments of careers, rather than relegating career education to a two-day block in middle school. Teachers can share their diverse lived-experience of the work place to expose students to a huge range of possibilities and spark interest beyond ‘engineer’, ‘doctor’, ‘lawyer’…
Benefit 2 – Stronger links between school and industry
School Industry Partnerships (SIPs) provide schools and students with access to the latest technology and labour market information, which enables teachers to design lessons that will give their students relevant skills and knowledge. Curriculum and textbooks are often slow to adapt, but working with industry gives teachers a way to incorporate real-world applications that are currently in use while still achieving the required learning outcomes.
Students can also benefit from wider networks which improve the range of opportunities they have to choose from when they leave school. Bringing industry into the school, whether that’s through career talks, site tours, or even via videos and webinars can help students align their skills and interests with potential options.
Benefit 3 – Increased classroom engagement
Teachers who explain how the content relates to viable career pathways make their content relevant for students.
“Students feel a sense of autonomy when doing work that, rather than simply fulfilling school requirements, relates to their interests and has personal meaning…”School context, achievement motivation, and academic engagement: A longitudinal study of school engagement using a multidimensional perspective (Wang & Eccles, 2013)
Relevance is important – without relevance, students lose their sense of control over what they’re learning because they don’t understand why they are learning it. In other words, they don’t see the value in the learning, because they can’t work out how it relates to skills they will need in the future.
Expecting students to be able to make those mental connections by themselves is likely to fail because they don’t have the range of experience that adults do. They haven’t seen how it works, and they can’t visualise the potential. When we do this work for them, we help students understand the point of the content, which increases cognitive and emotional engagement.
Benefit 4 – Improved student outcomes
Increased engagement has been shown to lead to improved student outcomes, which makes sense – students who engage with the material and can see how it may be useful for their futures are more likely to pay attention, put in extra effort, and progress to deep learning.
There are also improved social and wellbeing outcomes associated with improved engagement; for example, engagement can benefit the student’s mental health, and improve classroom culture as behavioural disengagement decreases.
Benefit 5 – Teachers feel more confident in career conversations
Teachers are one of the most influential forces in student career-decision making, and this is because of the micro-conversations they have with students about careers. Micro-conversations are those moments where teachers share an offhand comment about a job, or give their opinion about a pathway, and teachers are often unaware that they are even taking place.
When teachers actively make an effort to embed career learning within their classroom content, they also pick up extra knowledge about career paths, which can increase their confidence as they feel equipped to talk knowledgeably about careers with students. The University of Wollongong conducted research into the impact of a career-related Professional Learning program for subject area teachers, and found that not only did teachers feel better prepared to answer student questions, but they also felt motivated to go further and connect careers with the content in ways that suited their learners.
This is just the start…
Preparing young people for the world of work needs new thinking and new ideas, and teachers who are able to incorporate career-related learning into their classrooms are at the forefront of education. The benefits of careers in the curriculum extend far beyond these five, but this is a good place to start the thinking.