With over 13 years’ experience in helping people understand and define their next steps, Geelong Careers Specialist Tanya Derrett-Houghton, faces a challenge when her own son finishes VCE and asks “what’s next”?
High school done and dusted
As the parent of an 18-year-old who has just finished year 12, I feel a huge amount of relief. Secondary school was a burden for my teen and finally it’s done and dusted. A new journey of learning is about to begin; he will no longer be taking the back seat in the way his career unfolds. So what part do I play? He is my child, so obviously I feel invested in his happiness and his sense of accomplishment. Lets face it, for the most part I will still be footing the bill, so I want some value for money!
What does learning and career success look like to me?
I’d like to see my son ‘spark’ when he talks about what he’s accomplished at work and in study, observable confidence and interest, engagement in learning, development of adaptability and resilience. I want his learning journey to result in him becoming someone who will survive and thrive in this ever-transforming work landscape. He needs to understand himself, understand that life is change and how his interests and strengths will enable him to consider and explore a multitude of options through the span of his career. I’d also like to see him able to do the research, understand what the opportunities are now, what they will look like in a few years, and how he can adapt his talents and interests to navigate the future world of work.
How am I approaching these lofty work choice ambitions for my son?
I’m providing him with the support, experiences, tools and information he needs to make considered choices. He’s bright, but academia has never really been his forte, he was dragged through school kicking, screaming and resisting every decision he thought school was making for him. So even if I had wanted, I wouldn’t have been able to vicariously recreate my Uni days through him. Besides as a Career Consultant recently working in the Uni sector, I know how much has changed since my day. Attrition is higher than it’s ever been, yet my generation (Gen X) are often focused on their children heading to Uni straight out of school as we still see it as a ‘the’ pathway to a successful career. University is not right for everyone straight from school and University employment outcomes are not what they used to be either. Don’t get me wrong, post -school education is vital but what is right for one is not right for all. I’d prefer my son not be one of the 1 in 5 statistics who drops out of Uni with nil but debt and regret. It may be right for him one day, but not in 2019.
Explore, explore, explore
Initially my teen thought electrical work would be the way to go; he enjoyed maths and it was hands-on. I wasn’t totally convinced, but I expressed my support for exploring this as an option as interest and opportunity are a good combination for work fit. Electrical is one of the more challenging apprenticeships to get locally but it’s reasonably future proof, it’s one of those areas which isn’t likely to be automated in too much of a hurry. Its estimated that one-third of jobs in Australia are at risk of being automated by 2030. The fine motor skills involved in electrical work still pose a challenge for cost-effective automation.
Long story short, he trialed electrical with some work experience and study through school and hated it! Which is fine because he’s young and it’s okay explore the options when you don’t get the right fit. And there is always more than one option. Gen Z is predicted to have ‘portfolio’ careers, according to the Foundation for Young Australians they are likely to be employed in 17 jobs and have five different careers of the span of their working lives.
The other two areas he weighed up were film-making and horticulture. In all honesty media and film was his first love but he knows that love doesn’t always pay the bills and likes the idea of some financial independence sooner rather than later. This meant for him horticulture was the way to go as it provided opportunities to train and earn money at the same time and it still came a pretty close second in the love stakes.
I could clearly picture myself in a few years on his land in my stone cottage amongst the vines with a mountain backdrop and a bottle or six of home-grown pinot noir. From Horticulture to viticulture it made perfect sense. Occasionally I still forget it’s not about me!
My dreams aside, 2018 his final year of school, he decided to undergo a school-based traineeship in Horticulture which he has absolutely loved and is keen to follow this path for now. It also turns out his aptitude and work ethic aren’t too bad either as his traineeship hosts have offered him a part-time job in horticulture for 2019. So, he will continue to work where he underwent his traineeship and will also study Landscape and Construction (not viticulture). The job is a huge relief for him (and me) as youth unemployment in this region is high (above state average) at 12.8% in September 2018, but apart from that it’s inspired him to learn. For the first time ever, he is motivated and excited about study. He has purpose and can see the relationship between education, career goals and his job prospects.
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