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Curriculum & Leadership Journal
An electronic journal for leaders in education
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Career Education? It’s child’s play! Implementing careers planning in a primary school

Jenni Proctor
Jenni Proctor has a Career Development consultancy, Career Clarity, and also works part time as the Teacher Librarian at Mary MacKillop School

Do-it-yourself Career Education has always been a part of childhood. Observe small children at play as they assume the roles that they see in the adult world. Their play reflects the careers around them, with a perspective that is as broad as their experiences allow. Within this play they imagine themselves in occupational roles, often roles that the adults in their lives would consider fantasy: however, it is through play that they explore the world of adulthood, with careers as an important part of how they view that world. Career Education therefore provides a context for learning that is motivating, interesting and purposeful for children.

The concept of ‘Career’ is now accepted as a broader term than it was in the past, defined as 'the sequence and variety of work roles (paid and unpaid), which one undertakes throughout a lifetime. More broadly, "career" includes life roles, leisure activities, learning and work'. (2003, Australian Blueprint for Career Development)

It follows then that Career Education is the ’development of knowledge, skills and attitudes through a planned program of learning experiences in education and training settings which will assist students to make informed decisions about their study and/or work options and enable effective participation in working life'. (2003, Australian Blueprint for Career Development)

To meet the changing demands of life, learning and work in the future our students will need to be equipped, not just with the skills of education and training, but also with the attitudes and knowledge that enable them to achieve the fulfillment of independent, functional and healthy careers in the 21st century. This is the aim of a good Career Education program.

Life skills, personal development and the attributes of lifelong learning are integral to Career Education. Information literacy, an understanding of life and work roles, and decision-making skills are all fundamental. These are already considered important aspects of curriculum, but they are not necessarily linked to Career Education in the minds of primary school teachers. It is in recognising the connections with career-related learning, and making these connections explicit, that we begin to recognise how much Career Education is already occurring in a school. 

Implementing career planning at Mary MacKillop

Over the last three years at Mary MacKillop Catholic Primary School in Brisbane we have developed a Career Education program that is deeply embedded in our curriculum, and enhanced by an annual career awareness event. All of the career education in the school, with the exception of the annual event, is part of normal classroom teaching and learning. Units of work have been adapted to enable this to happen, but the actual work load of teachers has not been increased in any way. Integrated Career Education is not another area of teaching and learning, but another layer of understanding. 

The Australian Blueprint for Career Development has been used as the basis of our program, providing scaffolding through its matrix of career competencies. Professional development helped the teaching staff to integrate these competencies into established units of work and classroom practices. 

Mapping the career competencies against the school curriculum enabled us to identify which competencies were already part of our students' learning, and which were not yet being addressed. This gave us a starting point from which to work. By acknowledging the contribution that some planned activities were having to the children’s career development, this aspect of education was made explicit and these competencies were more deeply embedded into the curriculum. By being made aware of the competencies that were not identified in our programs we then planned strategies to incorporate them.

Career awareness days

While such integration of career competencies enables children’s development to be on-going and relevant to the curriculum, it was difficult within this framework to expand the children’s view of the world of work. To give the children the opportunity to learn about occupations in the context of curriculum, we developed a plan for a three-year cycle of career awareness days. Each year people from the community have been invited to visit the school for part of a day to speak to the children about their work. They are encouraged to be as interactive as possible, and to involve the children in activities and discussion.

Each of these career awareness days has had a curriculum-based theme, enabling the speakers to demonstrate a curriculum concept through their presentation. In the first year we called the day CLAN (Celebrating Literacy and Numeracy), and our presenters showed ways in which literacy and numeracy are essential to their work. The following year we held LLLife Expo (Life Long Learning Is For Ever), when each presenter assumed the role of a lifelong learner and explained how this role was fundamental to their work, for example a chiropractor demonstrated how he is an active investigator. In the third year of the cycle, at our Futures Festival, the presenters gave evidence from their own careers that the life skills the children are learning now will be important in their future, while others gave insights into careers of the future.

Career development has been taught explicitly using the excellent Real Game planning series at two grade levels in the school. In addition, a Career Education Web Quest has been designed for our Year 7 students to be part of an integrated Lifestyle unit.

The competencies that comprise Career Education are too important to be left until secondary school. We are preparing our students for their future, and their career will determine what that their future holds for them.

Developing and implementing a career education program suitable for your students will give them a head start in developing the knowledge, skills and attitudes that they will need to live productive and fulfilling lives.


For further information about this program visit www.careerclarity.com.au (available from 1 September 2005).



Australian Blueprint for Career Development, Draft Prototype, Miles Morgan Australia Pty Ltd, 2003.



Subject Headings

Teaching and learning
Lifelong Learning
Curriculum planning
Primary education
Vocational guidance