Choosing your own life
This week marks National Career Development Week (17-23 May), with the aim of encouraging all Australians to take responsibility for managing and developing their own journey towards a fulfilling and prosperous career – an ideal very close to my heart.
The theme of the week this year is ‘get the life you love’ which sounds like an obvious proposition, but is so easily lost among young people just starting out in the career world.
Following a passion can fall down when kids aren’t aware of the paths available to them to help with a smooth transition beyond the classroom, and confidence wanes. Instead, it can be easy to settle for a future which a young adult would never have expected to pursue as a child.
This week The Smith Family has helped 22 mostly Indigenous middle school girls travel from Alice Springs to Melbourne to experience big city life and develop aspirations for their futures.
They are being exposed to career opportunities they may never have known existed and learning about the paths necessary to pursue them.
Barriers to success can come in many shapes and forms and for Indigenous youth in particular, they can be stifling. It’s essential that their career development is nurtured, which, in the case of students from regional and remote communities, means opening their eyes to the wide range of career options available.
This week’s visitors to Melbourne are part of The Smith Family’s Girls at the Centre program which runs out of Centralian Middle School in Alice Springs.
The program is open to students in Years 7 to 9 and aims to address barriers to educational success for Indigenous girls. For the second year running a group of girls has been invited to take part in the trip, during which they are billeted with families of students attending two prestigious Melbourne girls’ schools.
They take part in a range of activities, including attending school classes, visiting local universities and TAFEs, participating in sporting activities and navigating big-city life.
Last year one of the participants pulled aside an Indigenous leader at Melbourne University, where she was a guest, telling him to remember her face as she would be back to pursue a scholarship within a few years.
This act displayed considerable confidence and demonstrates that exposure to opportunity can be a huge motivating force for young people when it comes to their futures.
Amidst the recent conjecture about the NAPLAN tests school students sat last week, it pays to consider the wealth of learning opportunities available to children outside of the classroom.
A simple test may help determine basic literacy and numeracy skills, but does little in acknowledging the practical applications of that learning that kids are applying in the real world, as well as the sociability and leadership qualities necessary to reach their potential.
Girls at the Centre participants are already recording significantly higher school attendance rates than peers not involved with the program. This comes down not to a sudden improvement in literacy and numeracy skills, but the efforts of dedicated ‘Girl Coaches’ employed by the program who work with the girls and their families to help break down barriers to educational pursuit. Access to mentors, community role models and career guidance all play an additional part.
Giving kids breaks in life to show them how to be leaders in their communities is essential to their success. These breaks open doors to the world so that kids can develop aspirations for their futures and understand the skills necessary to achieve their dreams and in turn, open their minds to the value of classroom lessons.
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