Choosing A Career


As parents we need to be aware of trends in job markets. The Age stated that "employers no longer expect long term loyalty from employees. Statistics show that most employees will change jobs at least every ten years."


This change in work habits can be attributed to four main causes. Firstly, many people do not make wise career choices. Secondly, changes occur in the workforce due to changes in technology and our society in general. For example, some architects offices that used to employ thirty architects now employ two as computers now do the job of the other twenty eight architects. Thirdly, many companies do not encourage and reward staff loyalty, mistakenly believing that they can easily find another employee to do the same job. This is not true. However simple the job, training needs to take place and during this time the employer will not get full value from the employee. Fourthly, many children leaving school are not trained in the work ethics. Employers complain that children now expect to start at the top, be paid large wages for little work and be provided with work that is always enjoyable and entertaining.

While we can not eliminate all of the factors mentioned above we can at least reduce them and make sure that our children make wise choices.


1. Choose a field

From the first year of high school it is important that both the parent and child begins considering possible careers. With some children this is easy, since the general field is obvious from a young age, e.g. a child who has helped fix cars from the time they were little, and whose nose is always under a bonnet is obviously suited to become an auto-mechanic. Other children give no obvious indication of marketable skills although it is possible to narrow the field by listing jobs the child is obviously not suited for. 


2. Check out job opportunities in this field

Once some general choices regarding jobs have been made the next step is to check that a wide range of jobs are available in the chosen field. Begin with Centre Link and the newspapers. If there are not many jobs advertised for a chosen career do not assume that there will be plenty in a few years time when a course is completed. The Melbourne Age reported that the average age of teachers in Victoria was forty three and that within two decades there would be plenty of jobs in teaching. This may be of use to our grandchildren but not to our children.

Other examples of fields where there are few jobs are solicitors, architects, engineers--other than aircraft engineers, doctors, nurses, web designers, programmers. If jobs are advertised, check what qualifications and experience are generally required. There is no point completing a course that is unacceptable to employers. Nor, should it be noted, will employers generally choose applicants who are over qualified for a job.


3. If there are no jobs in the area consider allied fields

Again After Homeschooling will be of help. Wheels are shown containing four levels of occupations, all related to interest in particular subjects.


4. Check out possible Pathways to this career.

Every university course in Australia must have a pathway leading to it. A pathway provides other means of entering University. Other countries will also have alternative methods of entry.

The child may not need to travel all the way through the Pathway at this stage but options will be available for later in life. Look first at Certificate 2 or 3 at TAFE level. Some courses say year twelve is required but almost without exception an equivalent TAFE course will be accepted, e.g. those who are State Enrolled Nurses will have little trouble entering a course to become a registered nurse. It is important to note also that nursing courses are expected to change shortly as plans are underway to revert to a system where nurses spend much more time working in hospitals.

 It is possible to even gain entry into a Diploma Level Course with Year 10 providing there are empty spaces and the Head of the Department can be convinced the child can pass the course.

TAFE's will generally provide extra help with these Pathways if you need it. Speak to the Head of the Department and not the Administrative section as we have found them very unhelpful.


5. Follow the Pathway back to the original pre-requisites

 At Certificate 2 level these are often none or minimal.


6. Discover what traineeships, apprenticeships or other means of paid training are available

 It is always better if it is possible to work in the field you are being trained for. The course will make more sense, the employer will pay for the training and the child will benefit by being paid at the same time. It is important to note that in some cases you can not enter a TAFE course unless you are already working in the field. For example, you must be an apprentice to be trained as an electrician.


7. Speak to people who are doing the job and find out what qualifications they feel are necessary for the job

This is one of the keys to a successful career. TAFE's and Universities ask for the minimum they consider necessary for them to train you. Those who work daily in the job will be able to provide you with an idea of the practical skills needed. For example, an engineer will be able to tell you the specific subjects and skills you will need for the job and not just for the course. Their help will increase your child's ability to make wise subject choices and will give the child a future edge when it comes to employment.


8. Where possible try and obtain training that will provide multi-skills

I am increasingly worried at the number of graduates from Information Technology courses. Firstly, since most of these courses are full time, the students have little practice outside the course. In Victoria alone 400,000 complaints have been made against back yard operators. Many of the problems have arisen because those fixing equipment did not have enough practical experience at fault diagnostics.

As more and more equipment becomes computerized employers will employ those who can both fix and programme the equipment rather than hire two separate people. Our daughter, Cindy, is an electrician who works on robotic equipment in factories. She needs to both fix and programme it. My son, Peter, has worked with surveying equipment. He is an electronic apprentice. The newer equipment needs to be both serviced and programmed. Burglar alarms can be fitted by those with limited electronic skills however if there is a problem a technician is required therefore more and more employers hire technicians. Peter is now undertaking an electricians and instrumentation apprenticeship, which, when completed, will give him a triple trade. Even in offices staff are now required to perform many different jobs. Homeschoolers need to ensure that they make themselves as employable as possible. For those wishing to undertake an apprenticeship a pre-apprenticeship course may given them the edge they need.


9. Choose high school subjects that will fit you for the career you have chosen

If you want to work as doctor, nurse, engineer, technician, pilot, electrician choose advanced maths, science and english. Do not assume that any maths will work. It won't. I have discovered at least fourteen different levels of maths so far. The number on the front cover of a maths book means nothing. We can help you with choosing subjects and books.

If you wish to work in an office, arithmetic or accounting will be far more suitable, but emphasis should be placed on English, typing and shorthand. Shorthand went out of vogue for a while when employers began using dictaphones but many employers now prefer, when possible, to have a secretary to dictate to.

Whatever career chosen, subjects should not be so limited that the student is locked into one possible career only. People change their minds, some before they leave school and some when they are more mature.


10. Get paid part-time work

Employers are looking for two things in this area. Firstly, that the child knows how to work and can stick at a job. Employers do not care if the child has had a paper round, worked in a supermarket etc., even if this is unrelated to the job they are applying for. They are interested in how long the child has worked at the job and if they reliable and hardworking. Many homeschoolers find that these jobs lead to further work or alternatively that they can be passed on to others members in the family as they become older. Homeschoolers should be the best possible employees they can be and make themselves indispensable.

If the area is specialized the employer also wants to see that the child has shown interest in the field. In practical areas, e.g. fixing cars, photos can be taken. In some areas like art, a portfolio may be necessary. Voluntary work can also count. For example. if the child wants to be a vet nurse or work with the elderly etc, voluntary work may mean the difference between getting a job and not getting a job. References in this area may make the difference.


11. Be flexible

Check every six months on job availability, traineeships, apprenticeships etc. in your chosen area throughout the highschool years. Change career direction slightly if necessary. There is no point spending years training for a career where there are no work prospects. Employers are reluctant to employ those they believe are overtrained for a job since, mistakenly or not, they believe they will not keep the employee.


12. When applying for a permanent job be persistent

 A child will be extremely lucky if they get the first job that they apply for. They need to check with Centre Link each day. They should apply for all possible jobs and attend as many interviews as possible making sure that they are appropriately and neatly dressed.


 13. Be aware that having an university degree does not ensure that you are paid more.

 Most people with university degrees work for salaries. They are often expected to work long hours but are not paid extra. Those without degrees are often on wages, that is they are paid by the hour. If they are required to work over time they get time and a half or double time. Tradesmen are generally the best paid men in the community.