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​Preparing our Students for a Future Labour Market

Co-curricular activities help give students the skills they need to enter the workforce.

The opening sentence in the Report on the Review of Senior Secondary Pathways into Work, Further Education and Training, commissioned by the Education Council and published on 8 June 2020, stated that “education must prepare young people both for active citizenship in a democratic society and for purposeful engagement with the labour market”.

We know that our culture of active citizenship at Ivanhoe Girls’ certainly prepares our students to be kind of heart and generous of spirit and action, but how does active citizenship prepare our students for their purposeful engagement with an unknown future labour market? 

This question is being asked and explored not only in Australia but also globally. For example, a British Chamber of Commerce survey reported recently that 88% of employers in England believe school leavers are not prepared to join the workforce. Furthermore, it was reported in the Welsh Youth Parliament’s Life Skills in the Curriculum Report that there were “large gaps” in the life skills being taught in Welsh schools. The latter Report was published at a time when Welsh students were calling for changes to the curriculum that would enable them to be "taught" confidence and empathy.

I thought this was an interesting concept; to teach confidence and empathy, as it is my view that these are dispositions and personal attributes that need to be nurtured in students over many years through experiential opportunities and embedded into a school culture rather than into a school curriculum. Nevertheless, I agree with the sentiment that values highly the progressive development of important life skills to ensure students are ready to engage effectively in a future labour market.

Recently, I particularly reflected on co-curricular activities and why they are so important to the experience of being an Ivanhoe Girls’ student. While we are always future focused in preparing our girls for life after school, it occurred to me that in 2020, our students will be benefiting significantly from existing dispositions and learning new ones as they experience offsite learning brought about by the COVID-19 restrictions. 

Preparing our students to be ready to be effective citizens in a future society is the same as developing them for a future full of unexpected and inevitable setbacks. In Year 12 Exit Surveys, the students tell me that it is through the co-curricular program at Ivanhoe Girls’ that they often discover their passions, leadership and learn a broad range of life skills. For example, they learn teamwork, commitment and resilience through sport; they develop discipline, and creativity through music and drama; they hone their problem-solving, global thinking and communication skills through debating and future problem solving. Our students appear to value the co-curricular program as much as we do, perhaps without explicitly knowing how much the experiences contribute to readying them to thrive in the future. 

While the education landscape may have dramatically shifted in 2020 as a result of COVID-19, we know that our students continue to sharpen important life skills that will be of great benefit to them in their future lives. As they continue to learn in the offsite mode, they also have greater control over the time, place and pace of their own learning, they are enhancing their multimedia and technology skills and they are making informed decisions about how they learn best. 

In summary, it is clear to me that the active citizenship demonstrated by our students during their co-curricular activities does indeed prepare them to be active contributing citizens as well as for purposeful engagement with an unknown future labour market.

Dr Deborah Priest