Academic journal article Australian Journal of Career Development

Career Development Practice: Facilitating Work-Integrated Learning in Higher Education

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Career Development

Career Development Practice: Facilitating Work-Integrated Learning in Higher Education

Article excerpt

Australian universities can no longer be seen as rarified educational institutions acting as society's repository and dispensary of higher knowledge and learning--if indeed, they ever could be. With the tide of global and national trends demanding universities better engage with the ever complex worlds of work, they are now prone to the vicissitudes of market forces, the vagaries of politics, the risks of securing and balancing private and public funding, the demands from employers for 'employable' graduates and, of course, the needs and desires of their primary interest: students. Indeed, there is an increased focus on learning outside of the academy, and recognition that workplaces can be rich sources of opportunity. This challenges traditional notions of academic work and the university constituency, but presents valuable opportunities for university career development practice. The Australian Government's Bradley Review of Australian higher education in 2008 brought these issues and more into sharp focus; and the review frankly asked no less a question than: 'What is the future of higher education in Australia?'.

It is amidst this complex and dynamic environment that university career development practitioners contribute to institutional missions to produce positive graduate outcomes. To that end, this paper focuses on the role of career development practice in higher education. Using the example of the connection of career development learning to the mainstream delivery of work-integrated learning as our case in point, we show how career development practitioners in Australian universities make a significant contribution to the advancement of the profession and to reinforcing its place as a legitimate educational partner in the provision of higher learning.

REVIEWING THE SECTOR

Following release of the report of the review of career development services in Australia conducted by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 2002, the Australian Government's Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) recently investigated the career development services of tertiary educational institutions: universities, TAFE colleges and registered training organisations. This review--at least for higher education institutions--was preceded by similar reviews conducted in the early 1990s. Those earlier reports flagged the current need for career services with calls for a greater investment in services by their host universities, along with recommendations on benchmark staffing levels. The most recent review indicated a subsequent growth in the number and size of career services within universities. It found that each Australian university has a career service (however named) operating as a distinct organisational unit, albeit with considerable variance in size, capacity, autonomy and operational budget. An average career service would be minimally staffed by a manager along with staff responsible for career education, career information services, employment services and administrative support. Whether there is an appropriate quantum of investment across the sector remains a moot point. As such, we hasten to highlight the variance in the sector: some career services consist of little more than one or two effective staff members, whereas others comprise units with over fifteen staff members and some operate only via access to temporary contract staffing resources.

It is through the prism of resources that the delivery of professional career development services must be considered. Every university career service is confronted with how to most effectively and efficiently deliver career development services to thousands of students whose population's diversity (with respect to socioeconomic, demographic, educational and development needs) make it impossible to roll out a one-size-fits-all approach. In essence, the answer requires a strategic approach which is not only responsive to current trends in the sector, but which lays the groundwork for the innovative enhancement of career development services so as to ensure their relevance to design and teaching of future degree programs--core business indeed. …

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