ATConnect All >

The Subject Selection Minefield

Staff Blogger Cam McConnell

I sat with my teenage daughter last night with the plan to complete her Year 11 and 12 subject selection and set plan. We looked at ATAR and QTAC Information, read about VET and Diplomas. We compared rankings, prerequisites and presumed knowledge for university courses.

We looked at the QCAA website and the school subject selection website. We looked at course outlines and QCE information. I looked at future employment predictions and attempted to navigate the myriad of acronyms that dominate the education sector. I was exhausted, confused and we had made very little progress on subject selection.

Then it occurred to me that I have been a teacher for 25 years. I can only image how difficult that this may be if you like me had finished school some time ago. I can sympathise with the parents of the boys in at ATC who are currently trying to assist their sons in to navigate the murky waters of future careers and subject selection.

During my research I read some sensationalist claims that 40% of current jobs in Australia won’t exist in the future. I really don’t think they know what is going to happen in the future and to make these claims is unhelpful for young people thinking about careers. The reality we just don’t know what is going to happen but to look at the past will give us some insight into future trends. Yes, some jobs will no longer exist, new jobs will be created, and most jobs will undergo some form of transformation. The skills we need for work are changing, but our students at ATC can plan and adapt for these changes.

I remember many years ago listening to a university lecturer speak about future direction of construction trades and I distinctly remember the statement that “carpenters in 2020 will not need a hammer”. Evidently, he got it wrong. Of course, some of the skills required in the future are not the same as the past but the many employability traits will stay the same. Employers will always want motivated employees with good communication and organisational skills along with teamwork and problem-solving abilities. The research is suggesting that non-routine jobs which need human problem-solving, creativity, adaptability, flexibility, physical dexterity, and communication skills will be the jobs of the future. So too will jobs requiring physical proximity and interpersonal skills. Examples include engineering, design, construction, education, health services and care work.

The research also says that the prospect of our students and children having a single occupation for life is becoming increasingly unlikely. Today’s 15 year-olds are likely to have 17 changes in employers across five different careers. How they came up with 17 I do not know, maybe another “educated” guestimate.

During my research I came across a video of a brilliant Australian songwriter, musician and comedian, Tim Minchin speaking at the graduation ceremony of the University of Western Australia. He spoke to the graduates about lessons in life and his first lesson was ‘You don’t have to have a dream, instead have a passionate dedication to the pursuit of short-term goals. Be micro ambitious. Be aware that the next worthy pursuit may appear in your periphery which you could miss if you are blindly in pursuit of your dream.’ I found this statement a great piece of advice that could help prepare the young people of today for the future. Check out the video here:

While having a good idea about you want to do will give you a goal to work towards, it is important to be flexible too. Think of plans as provisional. Be ready to adjust your thinking and recalibrate them as you gain more experience.
So, for students at Ambrose Treacy College who are choosing their subjects in Years 8, 9 and 10, the advice is choose subjects that you enjoy. Choose subjects that you are good at and subjects that you may need for further study.

To continue the conversation, please click here to email the author.