Academic journal article Australian Journal of Career Development

What Can Be Learned from the Roller Coaster Journeys of Young People Making Ultimately Successful Transitions beyond School?

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Career Development

What Can Be Learned from the Roller Coaster Journeys of Young People Making Ultimately Successful Transitions beyond School?

Article excerpt

This project investigated the interrelationships between family expectations and young people's post-school plans. All of the participants were from financially disadvantaged families. The research used interviews to understand these young people's perspectives of their transition experiences: the ways in which young people's school experiences impacted on their post-school pathways; how the young people weighed up costs and benefits in their decision-making; and exploration of the barriers and enablers encountered by the young people in their transition journeys. The findings endorsed the significant role played by families in young people's career decision-making and revealed some areas where such families might be provided with greater support.

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Those who are involved with young people when they are moving from school to tertiary education, training or work will be well aware that the transition pathway is seldom linear. Young people today are likely to experience periods of part-time employment, casual work, unemployment and, for some, periods of time outside the labour force and education altogether (Dwyer, Smith, Tyler, & Wyn, 2003; Harris, Rainey & Sumner, 2006). What can be learned from these various patterns of transition? What implications might a deeper understanding of these patterns have for schools?

This article discusses the outcomes from a research project that was conducted by the Australian Council for Educational Research for The Smith Family (Bryce, Anderson, Frigo, & McKenzie, 2007). The Smith Family is a national, independent, social enterprise that started 85 years ago. It supports disadvantaged Australian children and aims to create a better future for them through education. The research looked in particular at the role of families in young people's transitions from school to tertiary education, training or work. The young people who participated in narrative-oriented interviews were all in touch with The Smith Family through its Learning for Life program where children are sponsored to assist their education through provision of financial assistance and tutoring, mentoring and literacy programs. The young people and their families were located across three Australian states. The researchers spoke with them at the end of 2006--approximately two years after they had left secondary school. Three areas of the research form the substantive focus of this article:

* The ways in which the young people's school experiences impacted on their post-school pathways;

* The ways in which the young people weighed up costs and benefits as they made career decisions; and

* A consideration of the 'barriers' and 'enablers' that hindered or helped the young people to achieve their desired post-school options.

The article concludes with a consideration of what implications these outcomes may have for schools. Our purpose was not to generalise outcomes from the small sample of ten young people and nine family members. Instead, our purpose was to use a narrative-oriented interview approach to enable a deep understanding of issues raised by particular young people. By way of introduction to the substantive focus of this article, we first present a brief overview of the study.

OVERVIEW OF THE STUDY

The study aimed to shed further light on the interrelationships between family expectations and post-school plans of financially disadvantaged young people (Bryce et al., 2007). An earlier study (Beavis, 2006) had identified uncertainties about how and to what extent family expectations shape young people's educational plans, particularly their plans for transition from school to tertiary education, training or work. The research blended outcomes from an extensive literature review and the telling of stories by ten young people and nine of their family members. The ten young people were achievers from The Smith Family's Learning for Life program. …

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