Career Development and Social Inclusion at St Patrick's College: A Case Study

Article excerpt

CONNECTIONS BETWEEN CAREER DEVELOPMENT AND SOCIAL INCLUSION

With regard to career development, O'Brien (2001, p. 66) defined social justice and social change work as '... actions that contribute to the advancement of society and advocate for equal access to resources for less marginalized or less fortunate individuals in society' and noted that a concern for social justice and socially inclusive career development practice has been strong within the discipline. This concern for social justice outcomes through career development work has influenced the work of many Australian career development practitioners (McMahon, Arthur & Collins, 2008b). Indeed, a review of the Australian Journal of Career Development since it was first published in November 1992 reveals at least 33 articles or case studies concerned with socially inclusive career development services and interventions and the achievement of social justice outcomes. The articles and case studies reviewed focused on career development services and interventions for a range of groups including Indigenous Australians, women in non-traditional fields, people from different cultural backgrounds, low socio-economic background students and clients, work-bound school students, people living with a disability, and students and clients from rural and remote geographic locations.

The Commonwealth government's (2009) social inclusion policy is a timely reminder of the social justice roots of career development services and is a useful framework for the continuation of career development services and interventions that attend to inequalities in the opportunity structure in Australia. Indeed, failure to strengthen the connection between career development services and interventions and social inclusion and social justice serves to reinforce existing social and economic inequalities in Australian society (Hughes, 1995). From a theoretical perspective, the Commonwealth government's social inclusion policy has a partner in the domain of career development. Whereas the Commonwealth government's social inclusion policy is concerned with multiple layers of disadvantage, systems theory framework (Patton & McMahon, 2006) is concerned with multiple influences within the individual, social and environmental-societal systems that bear on an individual's career development. A systems theory framework provides a map of elements within the individual, social and environmental-societal systems that influence an individual's career development and endorses career development services and interventions at each of these systemic levels (Arthur & McMahon, 2005). The Commonwealth government's social inclusion policy is an environmental-societal influence itself and has the potential to positively influence the career development of individuals who experience multiple layers of disadvantage in Australian society. This article will briefly describe the evolving career development program at St Patrick's College, a secondary college in northern Tasmania, including recent career development initiatives and interventions underpinned by a systems theory framework and aligned with the Commonwealth government's vision of a socially inclusive society.

ST PATRICK'S COLLEGE CAREER DEVELOPMENT SERVICES

St Patrick's College is a coeducational Catholic secondary college in Launceston, Tasmania. At the time of writing, the student population included 1390 students from Year 7 to Year 12, comprised of 683 male and 707 female students, 60 students with special learning needs as a result of a significant disability or learning barrier, 31 humanitarian entry students primarily from African countries, and 24 Indigenous Australians. The St Patrick's College mission is to be a school community of faith, service, respect and the pursuit of knowledge in the Catholic tradition. Catholic identity, compassion, excellence, individuality, justice and relationships are the six elements of the college's mission statement. …