Subject Choices and Career Guidance

Hello Everyone, My goodness but this year is flying by! A few months ago we were settling into the new academic year and here we are, moving into "subject choice" season already! There is an age-old question that parents and teachers have long wrestled with, “How DO I give my child the correct guidance when choosing their career? Should we guide children towards a career where employment prospects are sound or allow them to follow their passion?”

In my opinion, the answer is: We do too little, too late

Life Orientation is a compulsory subject in senior school through to Grade 12. The curriculum requires that learners go on job shadowing to learn more about careers they may be interested in, but the trouble is that the job shadowing only takes place in the last three years of their school career, by which time they have already made their decisions regarding subject choices. In addition, many schools that offer careers guidance only do so in Grade 11... after the learner has had to choose their subjects for the National Senior Certificate, which they do in Grade 9.

Why is it that we only provide careers guidance after our children have made their subject choices? The reality is that if they make a poor choice of the subjects to study, there may be fields that they may not be able to pursue at university, thus limiting their career prospects. In my experience, careers guidance is ideally done early in the Grade 9 year so that the learner and his parents have a clearer idea of the careers he should be following, the qualification(s) needed for each career, and hence the subjects he should be studying. A more logical approach, don’t you think? So how does one walk the fine line between loving what you do and paying the bills? A good place to start is with a healthy dose of self-knowledge. We’re not talking about the type of awareness that’s only achieved atop a mountain after several days of eating wild plants. We’re talking about understanding what you are GENETICALLY pre-disposed to succeed in. Without this knowledge, people tend to choose careers that are familiar with (my father is an accountant, so I’ll do that too because I know something about it) or ones that their parents persuade them to follow, because the careers are perceived as ‘safe, profitable or in demand’. This is a recipe for disaster! Over and above this, many parents believe that the only ‘proper’ career is one that requires a university degree. However, the reality is that we will always need plumbers, electricians and mechanics to fix our cars. There are many tradesmen and artisans who are making a very comfortable living... some of them are making more than the highly-qualified university graduates who have been retrenched in recent months! As a result, when we provide information on careers guidance, we do include the so-called ‘blue collar’ careers because these careers are ones that not only provide essential services, they can also be extremely lucrative!