Shaping the Future: Connecting Career Development and Workforce Development-Australia Country Paper

Australian Journal of Career Development, Spring 2006 | Go to article overview

Shaping the Future: Connecting Career Development and Workforce Development-Australia Country Paper


Australia is a continent of 7.69 million [km.sup.2] with a population approaching 21 million people. Twenty-four per cent of Australians were born overseas; 80 per cent live within 100 km of the coast and 67 per cent are urban dwellers. Fifty-five per cent of Australians between the age of 25 and 64 years have a vocational or higher education qualification. Half of the workforce in 2003 4 was in the 45-64 age range, up from 24 per cent a decade earlier. The unemployment rate is 5.2 per cent and the workforce participation rate 63.3 per cent.

Constitutionally, Australia has a federal structure, with major governmental responsibilities divided between the federal, six state and two territory governments. There are also 673 local governments across the nation that have responsibility for local planning and the provision of services such as libraries. The states and territories have primary responsibility for education and training with additional funding provided by the federal government, whereas public employment policy and service provision is a federal responsibility. This includes social welfare policy.

At the federal government level, responsibility for education and training resides within the Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST) and employment is the responsibility of the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR). Departmental arrangements vary in the states and territories.

There are a number of key forums for progressing joint federal, state and territory decisions. The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) is the peak intergovernmental forum in Australia. It is chaired by the Prime Minister and members comprise state Premiers, territory Chief Ministers and the President of the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA). The role of COAG is to initiate, develop and monitor the implementation of policy reforms that are of national significance and which require cooperative action by Australian governments. COAG recently agreed to a new National Reform Agenda designed to deliver social and economic benefits. One of the three streams of the National Reform Agenda is human capital development, so issues relating to education, training and labour market participation will now also be considered by COAG in coming years (COAG, 2006).

The Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA) oversees some policy developments that cross all educational sectors. One such area is career development. Much of the momentum for national career development initiatives has been progressed through committees established by MCEETYA, including the National Careers Taskforce, the Transition from School Taskforce, and the newly established Career Development and Employment working group.

A number of national workforce development issues, especially those that relate to the vocational education and training sector, are considered by another Ministerial Council--the Ministerial Council on Vocational and Technical Education (MCVTE).

CAREER DEVELOPMENT IN AUSTRALIA

The Australian career development industry is extremely diverse (Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs, 2002). This can be seen in the range of occupational titles found in the industry, for example, career counsellor, employment counsellor, career teacher, work development officer, career coach and vocational rehabilitation worker. It can also be seen in the nature and needs of the client groups served, and the sectors in which career development work is located, including schools, transition programs, technical and further education (TAFE) institutes, universities, job network services and the private sector (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD], 2002b). In Australia, the private guidance sector is strong and has been boosted by 'government policies to contract out public services which are free to the user' (OECD, 2002b, p.

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