Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Please: a pan-Government approach to careers

The Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) this year published a paper which looks at the experience of 55 students in the tertiary sector (viewable here).

I congratulate TEC on considering not only direct entry students from secondary schools, but also second chance learners and those who are re-entering the education sector. While I understand why TEC's mandate is to focus their career strategy efforts around tertiary graduates, career transitions occur across the lifespan, and the tertiary transition is likely to be one of several transitions that graduates have experienced thus far. In addition, graduates will have many, many more transitions to come before they regard themselves as retired (if they ever do).

Because of this, I would encourage TEC to push for a pan-governmental strategy on career practice. As a nation we shouldn't be focusing on one or two transitions - i.e., the transition when leaving a period of training - within the lifespan, dusting our hands, and thinking "our work is done". Career development is just that: development. It is a lifelong process, and our practices around career need to reflect that we are rarely done.

How I miss Careers New Zealand. Where we once had a government service tasked with covering the lifespan of careers, it is now only there merest blip in the great machine which is TEC. Not only is there little focus now on career progression out of secondary schools, there are now fewer and fewer resources being constructed for the New Zealand environment. Our eye is totally off the careers ball, and many of the stellar, experienced professionals who once staffed the organisation have been scattered to the four winds.

How do we consider setting primary school children up with realistic approaches to career choice without government support (see Phipps, 1995) within the education system? What about secondary school children who rarely have appropriately qualified career practitioners on site (also see Helwig, 2008)? What about some assistance for parents returning to work after a career break, who may, if they are at the bottom of the cliff, possibly have some CV advice supplied by MSD? What about people getting back into work following illness or injury, perhaps supported by ACC, perhaps MSD, perhaps with no support at all? What about retirees who decide they want to 'un'-retire and who also lack government support?

While New Zealanders can pay to see a private practitioner, for many this is not financially possible. The possibility of seeing a professional privately may never have occurred to many. They may have been soured by their own secondary school experience at the hands of a teacher needing more hours being allocated the 'careers advisor' role without qualifications, and think that career practice is bunkum. Or that career practice only happens once we have finished our education.

Career development has become marginalised in New Zealand society of late. Where once we were a shining beacon globally, we are slipping into darkness. Other nations now realise the importance of having a country-wide approach to career development, while we are watering down the effectiveness of our governmental career service by having absorbed it into TEC, and now having almost all the intellectual grunt which once existed disperse. New Zealand has no strategic careers vision. Our politicians seem to think that career development is a one-stop, once in a lifetime thing that we do when we leave Uni.

This view does many New Zealanders' a disservice, and, as a knock-on effect, potentially limits our national productivity. We need good careers lobbyists to help our politicians see the benefits of a national career strategy, and build career development back into the entire government sector. 


  • Helwig, A. A. (2008). From childhood to adulthood: A 15‐year longitudinal career development study. The Career Development Quarterly, 57(1), 38-50.
  • Magnuson, C. S., & Starr, M. F. (2000). How early is too early to begin life career planning? The importance of the elementary school years. Journal of Career Development, 27(2), 89-101.
  • Phipps, B. J. (1995). Career dreams of preadolescent students. Journal of Career Development, 22(1), 19-32.
  • Tertiary Education Commission (2018). ‘Transition to Tertiary Life’ event: Entering and re-entering tertiary education in New Zealand. Retrieved from

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