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Don’t stop asking – it’s your child’s future after all

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The concern in education circles right now is that in some places young people may not be getting the necessary skills at school to meet current and future workforce and employment demands.

Parenthood is by no means easy. As parents, from the day our children are born we nurture them and do whatever we can to give them the best start in life. Then as we watch them grow and begin to make their own choices, we often find ourselves flip-flopping between wanting to empower them to make their own decisions and then wanting to guide their decision-making to help them make the “right choice”, or certainly what we as parents consider the better choice.

There’s no doubt that in terms of career choices and study options for young people, there are more choices now than ever before; it takes the expression “the world is your oyster” to another level. While choice is certainly a positive thing, in a world where technology is advancing at a rapid pace and the employment market is constantly changing, it can be challenging for young people to know what pathway is right for them.

The concern in education circles right now is that in some places young people may not be getting the necessary skills at school to meet current and future workforce and employment demands. University admissions are declining and vocational education and training (VET) options are widely unknown among both students and parents. On top of that, there are “experts” who say that our VET sector requires a major overhaul, which places the sector at further reputational risk.

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As a country, Australia seems to be obsessed with results such as ATAR, NAPLAN and the HSC, but this results-driven culture seems to be counter productive in terms of setting our young people up for success after school and in their working lives.

When it comes to better preparing students for life after school, there’s one common theme that seems to come up again and again – school-industry partnerships. In the Education Council’s recently released STEM Industry-School Partnerships Report, Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel, said that businesses can contribute content and context to the principals, lead teachers and academics who are developing contemporary curriculum resources. The Gonski 2.0 Review found that school-industry collaborations improve education and employment outcomes. They demonstrate the value of learning to students by engaging them in situations where they can apply the knowledge learnt at school and research shows that students who have a chance to develop networks with potential employers have a broader understanding of the labour market, working life and career planning. And, a recent report by the Mitchell Institute at Victoria University found that schools must be supported to partner with industry and community to better prepare all students for work and life.

While some partnerships with industry do exist in NSW schools, they’re still not common practice. University is not for everyone and it’s important that young people are exposed to a range of career pathways early on in their schooling so they can make informed decisions about their working lives based on what skills employers need now and into the future.

As parents, it is our job to find out what the options are and to insist that schools give us the full story even if we have to keep asking to get answers. By knowing what the possibilities are, we can guide our children into subject choices that will interest them and pay off in the long-term.

National Skills Week is held annually to celebrate and inform students, parents and the community of the diversity and career pathways available through the VET sector. The theme this year is ‘Real Skills for Real Careers’ and is being held at the end of August.

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The Council of Catholic School Parents (CCSP) NSW/ACT is the peak representative body for parents with children in Catholic schools in NSW and the ACT. Parents and educators can access more handy resources on the CCSP website:

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