Best Practice Career Education for Students with Disability – Creating a National Resource Hub

15/07/2021

The research project ‘National Career Development Learning Hub for Students with Disability’ is funded by the National Careers Institute (NCI) to establish the first dedicated national Career Development Learning (CDL) Hub for students with disability. This blog post is written by research team members Olivia Groves, Sarah O’Shea, Kylie Austin and Jodi Lamanna.

 

For those working in the field of career development, the benefits to students of quality career education as well as the challenges of undertaking the work of a career adviser are well known. What is not emphasised enough, is the inequity of how career education provision is experienced among diverse student groups across Australia. This blog aims to briefly outline our research in this area – what we’re finding and how you can help.

Last year, the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) funded research to investigate career development provision for students from low socioeconomic (SES) backgrounds. The findings informed the development of a set of Best Practice Principles and practical resources for the provision of career education for this cohort of students. However, an important finding from the project was how the experiences of students with disability (SwD) differed when exploring their post-secondary futures, as well as the lack of targeted careers support for this cohort.

We know that young people with disability (aged 16-25), are more likely to experience multiple and repeated labour market movements, including periods of disengagement and unemployment, when compared to other populations. This group may also have poorer outcomes from university study. However, SwD have both the legal and moral right to be adequately supported when aspiring to, and navigating toward, a desirable career/life. 

In our research, this student population particularly reflected on how their educational journeys were highly interrupted as a result of obstacles related to learning and chronic health problems. For example Elaine (pseudonym), who had wanted to be a teacher “from kindy… and then all through school,” was unable to achieve that career aspiration due to her poor health. “My pathway was kind of influenced by disability in that I never finished my education degree… because I was too unwell to do my… prac[ticum].

For Elaine and others, aspiration and career thinking were impacted by disability from a young age. Leia (pseudonym) told us how her efforts to overcome the challenges of dyslexia narrowed her focus to simply getting through school. “…all through primary school, I wasn’t thinking about what’s in the future because I was simply trying to learn the English language and get through those kind of issues.” 

Leia and Elaine’s consideration of post-school options was equally influenced by disability, a situation often exacerbated by low expectations set by the influencers around them. Leia told us that, “a lot of the time I was hearing… ‘You just need to get through high school’.” Similarly, Elaine told us that “no-one really expected me to get into uni.

To address this need we were awarded National Careers Institute funding to establish the first dedicated national Career Development Learning (CDL) Hub for SwD. This hub proposes to host an accessible range of resources and practical examples of programs addressing CDL for SwD across the student life cycle.

Our ongoing review of key literature and interrogation of existing data has highlighted some emerging recommendations for best practice CDL for SwD:

  • Inform and frame career aspirations for SwD with high expectations and creative career thinking.
  • Ensure CDL materials are accessible and consider sensory needs, mobility, fatigue, vision and hearing constraints.
  • Provide opportunities for SwD to participate in authentic, supported workplace learning/ experience.
  • Develop transition plans (from school to employment), in partnership with schools, parents and SwD.
  • Provide SwD long-term transition support - during school and beyond – with a dedicated support person who helps guide career choices.
  • Educate and train employers and industries to produce a greater awareness of the benefits of employing people with disability, and how to create workplace adjustments for their success.

The project is being informed by a diversity of perspectives - alongside the multi-discipline research team, there is an expert working party who will critically inform the shape of the project as well as ongoing input from students, parents and key stakeholders. 

Currently, we are recruiting participants – including career advisers in schools, higher education institutions, and VET providers - to complete a short survey. Participation from as many stakeholders as possible is important to ensure the voices of SwD and their key influencers and allies inform the project and its outcomes. If you can spare 5-10 minutes your participation would be appreciated. 

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