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Careers Information is Different From Occupational Information

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There has been lots of discussion over recent years about the relevance of different job classification systems and accompanying job descriptions. Some of this has spilled onto the provision of careers information.

Job classification systems and accompanying job descriptions exist to provide objective and accurate definitions and evaluations of the duties, responsibilities, tasks, and authority/hierarchical level of a job, and to determine pay or salary grades attached to a job.

The International Standard Classification System (ISCO) developed by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) is used by many countries as an inspiration for national job classification systems. It also enables the collection of labour market statistics and supports recruitment activities.

In 2017, the European Union launched the first version of a European multilingual classification of skills, competencies, qualifications and occupations (ESCO) that is also based on ISCO-08. ESCO aims to create a common understanding of occupations, skills, knowledge and qualifications across the EU’s official 24 languages that enables employers, employees and educational institutions to better understand needs and requirements, and to support EU labour force mobility.

But what has this kind of information to do with careers information?

Essentially, careers information refers to the information that individuals, families, and communities require to assist them to visualise, plan, and decide on future learning and work opportunities. Most people only know of a few occupations (and the learning pathways, if any, to these), through their families, friends and communities, and know some job stereotypes through media representations.

The OECD Dream Jobs report (2020) showed that too many teenagers are unaware of or ignore new types of jobs that are emerging, and, at age 15, have a very narrow range of job expectations that are traditional, and associated with social class and gender. This lack of awareness, ignorance, and narrow focus have been persistent over time.

In an age of limitless information, information to support career learning is a real challenge. 

So what kinds of information do people need for visualising and planning their futures, and what are their preferred ways of learning this information (experiential, simulation, visual, print, audio etc.)?

A little test for you! Choose a job to explore on the internet and then take a look at some national websites and compare, contrast, and evaluate the presentation and content of the career information provided. Here are a few website presentations for a police officer:

  1.         (USA)
  2.   (New Zealand)
  3.     (England, UK)
  4.   (Scotland, UK)

Now if you were a busy digital teenager or adult, which of these would you stop/continue looking at after seeing the first page?

Andre Tricot (OECD, 2002), sets down 10 principles to guide the development of careers information for career learning. That's a start!  Also read about the construction of careers information and of people's differential capacities in understanding and using information.

Academic researchers have undertaken little or no empirical studies of career information in career learning, and that, despite its importance for social equity. Perhaps marketing research is more appropriate and will yield more relevant results.

Career information learning is a pedagogical activity. Career information tools and learning experiences should be pedagogical by design.

ISCO and ESCO and other labour market information tools serve a different purpose.

In a digital age, more people may know less about the world of work! Time for some corrective action!

If you have any question or comment, please contact John McCarthy: [email protected].


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