Data-driven guidance: new OECD work on teenage indicators of career readiness
As the healthcare emergency becomes an employment crisis, it is more timely than ever to reflect on the effectiveness of career guidance interventions and ask what works and why.
This week the OECD publishes a new working paper and launches new work for 2021 on career readiness. The objective is to create new data-driven tools that will enable policy makers and practitioners to make practical use of teenage career-related indicators of better than expected adult employment outcomes. The work will be collaborative, working with professionals around the world. In the first instance, there is opportunity to get involved by joining the project mailing list (Anthony.Mann@oecd.org).
The project begins with a working paper, Career Ready? How schools can better prepare young people for working life in the era of Covid-19. In the working paper, analysts review the academic literature (overwhelmingly from Australia, the UK and US) to identify examples of career-related teenage attitudes being associated with better transitions. The paper focuses primarily on national longitudinal datasets as these allow analysts to explore whether young people who exhibit specific teenage characteristics can be expected to do better in work than would be anticipated given their academic achievement, personal background and the local labour market. Looking across the literature, the paper identifies eight teenage indicators that appear in studies in more than one country:
- career certainty: ability to name a job expected at age 30
- career ambition: interest in progressing to higher education and professional/managerial employment
- career alignment: matching of occupational and educational expectations
- career conversations: speaking to an adult about a career of interest
- occupational preparation: participation in short occupationally-specific courses within general programmes of education
- school-mediated work exploration: participation in job fairs, job shadowing and workplace visits
- part-time employment: participation in paid part-time or seasonal work
- volunteering: participation in community-based volunteering
By way of illustration, analysis by Joanna Sikora finds that uncertain Australian teenagers can expect to earn 6% less than comparable peers in adulthood. In other recent work, she finds that youth in Australia who volunteer can anticipate enhancing the status of the occupation they occupy in their mid-twenties – with an impact one quarter the size of completing higher education.
In identifying indicators, the ambition is not to create a simplistic tick box exercise, but rather to enable policy makers and practitioners to gain an easy overview of the extent to which young people are demonstrating characteristics that suggest are building the capacity to demonstrate agency through their transitions. Put another way, indicators provide insight into the critical thinking of students: Are they reflecting on their potential futures? Are they exploring and/or experiencing potential future workplaces? The paper includes three examples of programmes from Finland, New Zealand and the United States which encourage and enable student self-awareness and critical exploration of the labour market through first-hand encounters with the world of work.
The paper then draws data from the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2018 survey of representative samples of hundreds of thousands of 15 year-olds from 79 countries and economic areas to explore variations in and between countries. PISA data provides many insights. It shows for example that teenage career uncertainty has grown by 81% since 2000.
Moreover, analysis illustrates interactions between different indicators. Young people who talk to someone about a job they expect to do after education (career conversations) are significantly less likely to be uncertain or misaligned in their career planning (underestimating the education level needed to achieve their occupational ambition). Elsewhere in the data we see 15 year-olds who have worked part-time or volunteered are significantly more likely to agree with such statements as:
I can deal with unusual situations
I can adapt to different situations even when under stress or pressure
We find moreover that teenage participation in career development activities by the age of 15 is in many countries limited. On average, fewer than 40% of teenagers will have taken part in a job fair by that age.
Typically it is the most disadvantaged youth who appear least well prepared for the future careers – but importantly, the evidence shows that often career guidance interventions can compensate for social disadvantage.
The OECD Career Readiness in the Pandemic project launches with a webinar with Andreas Schleicher, Jennifer Mckenzie (National Centre for Guidance in Education, Ireland) and myself on December 18: https://meetoecd1.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_qmZJJLHATgeitSP_orN7-A
Over the next twelve months, the OECD will:
- Publish two further working papers exploring longitudinal evidence from OECD and national longitudinal datasets across a wide range of countries, exploring data from non-English language countries
- Publish eight guides for practice drawing out practical insights from the research
- Create a new website of key research insights and practice examples
- Hold an online conference in the autumn of 2021
- Create data-driven tools for policy makers and practitioners to enhance provision
To support the work, an informal stakeholder group is being created. Members will be notified of project developments and invited to share both examples of practice that align with the data-driven approach to understanding student agency and thoughts on the further development of the project, should funding allow. It will also be an opportunity to join a collaboration that will conclude in the development of data-driven tools for practice. To join the project mailing list, please email Anthony.firstname.lastname@example.org. Please feel free to forward this invitation to colleagues who you feel make be interested in this work. We will also be raising awareness of the work on twitter – @OECDEduSkills and @AnthonyMannOECD.