Young people need early career orientation and chance to have first-hand experience: Education expert

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Chu Cam Tho, Head of Education Research and Evaluation Department, Vietnam Institute of Educational Sciences, stated that when choosing a career, many young people are overly focused on salary and working environment, but lack the actual experience needed for self-reflection.
Young people need early career orientation and chance to have first-hand experience: Education expert
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Chu Cam Tho said that young people need to understand the capacity of close friends when choosing a career.

In the world of globalization, society is undergoing changes in its occupational structure. High school students will be exposed the most by this shift. So, what is your opinion on the necessity of early career orientation?

In reality, educational science has shown that one of many important tasks of the general education process is to guide the future careers of the workforce. The experience passed down from our forefathers also reminds us of the importance of vocational training and teaching through work.

Against the current backdrop, everybody, especially young people, is affected by global issues, such as digital technology and the environment. Recommendations from the World Economic Forum, labor unions and industry associations show that there is a huge shift in occupational structures.

Professions related to science, technology and engineering are facing a serious shortage of labor force. In the service sector, manual labor will trend downwards due to the deepening involvement of robots and automated processes.

Notably, the shift in occupational structures is accelerating. This results in the disappearance of existing professions and the emergence of new ones, while our awareness lags behind. It means that in some aspects, vocational education will be outdated. And of course, learners will suffer for it.

We often mention the necessity of career orientation and acknowledge the need for early orientation. However, if we merely conduct orientation in a fragmented, disorganized manner, it will be a mistake.

It is crucial to integrate career orientation into young students’ educational programs, with an emphasis on providing first-hand experience.

For post-puberty students who are in their latter years of secondary school, we will organize more intensive career activities. These projects are necessary to be practiced in some business - vocational schools models so that the students can gain clearer ideas about the value of the professions, as well as their personal suitability for the jobs.

Most countries are now shifting their vocational education by increasing first-hand experiences and educational integration. For example, Malaysia and Singapore are achieving great success with STEM education. Meanwhile, Indonesia has become a powerhouse in terms of real mathematics education (RME).

Once practical issues in the professional world are well-integrated into education, they will yield sustainable results. In addition, many countries are also focused on specialization.

Specialization is not to limit the number of people entering universities, but to best prepare citizens in harmony with the needs and development of the labor market and human abilities. However, we will still face many difficulties in specialization when the mentality of "choosing a career based on qualifications" is still prevalent.

Young people need early career orientation and chance to have first-hand experience: Education expert
When choosing a career, young people should not rush to the attractive news of high-paid jobs without understanding their own capacity. (Photo: VGP)

Almost schools want to create generations of students who confidently participate in integration, who can become skilled workers in the future. So won't young people find themselves in the middle of a career "crossroads" and know where to go?

In recent years, high schools have followed the trend of actively organizing career-orientation experimental activities for students.

The new universal education program (since 2018) also requires a large amount of time dedicated to experiential activities.

In particular, secondary education (i.e. middle schools and high schools) has set a focus on vocational experience. However, in reality, when the amount of such schools increases, the "holes" within the ecosystem immediately become obvious.

Specifically, there is a lack of suitable environments for students to gain first-hand vocational experience. Vocational schools (including universities) are still not ready to provide visiting high school students with vocational experience, because in reality, they have not been able to organize in-depth career orientation activities.

In particular, businesses have not yet fulfilled their role as a crucial link in career orientation activities. Some businesses accept interns, yet the quality of this practice itself is an "unresolved" issue, let alone their participation in organizing career orientation activities for high school students.

Furthermore, when businesses do not participate in career orientation, they will face difficulties in the recruitment process.

Nowadays, with fierce competition in recruiting, the "education of future employees" has become a useful practice for employers. Participating in career orientation for the youth is also a trend that serves the dual goals in media, helping to develop the creative social ecosystem of any university, vocational school and business.

According to a survey by the Borderless Network for Education Management group (EdulightenUp), the organization of experiential career orientation by these service providers is now more about fun and entertainment (educational farms, STEM workshops, etc.). This limits the development in awareness and beliefs of the participating students.

Successful career orientation occurs when students are educated within a homocentric ecosystem, which entails coordination between family (oriented from tradition, from belief...), school (programme, content, method of education) and society (mainly vocational schools and businesses).

It is necessary to have a joint vocational education which consists of the above three pillars. The schools will play the most important role of fostering connections and execution.

This network has also successfully implemented the model project "Effective Career-Orientation Triangle" with the participation of High Schools - Universities/Vocational Schools - Enterprises. From the results of this project, it is shown that schools need to play a more active role in connecting these "3 pillars".

Even for universities, when participating in the project, they will be able to make suitable adjustments in enrollment and training, so that their training is more closely aligned with reality.

Research is also transferable in value, with students being the main beneficiaries. Students will be able to practice and engross in research, training and practice within vocational environments. From there, they will gain important information for their career decision.

In an ever-changing world, even young people must always be ready for changes and facing challenges or having to take the "last train" when choosing a career. What advice do you have for young people?

Getting educated is to prepare for life. Today's schools need to resemble more closely the "school of life", to make the lessons more practical in meaning. However, there is still a sizable number of students and schools who have not yet been able to grasp this.

If learners only passively approach learning via memorization of knowledge, but are not ready to gain first-hand experience, not only will they undoubtedly lack the confidence to decide their future careers, but they will also not possess the motivation and positive attitude to “enter life” as a worker, as someone who controls their own fate as well as society’s.

Societal changes will occur quickly and unpredictably. But those with abilities will be able to acclimatize, as long as they possess the mindset to learn and gain first-hand experience.

Career selection criteria do not come from just societal trends, but also from self-reflection, on both circumstances and abilities. Many young people lack the latter, and thus potentially becoming overly focused on salary levels and working environments, while lacking the practical experience needed to understand their own personal depths.

Every profession requires a serious, passionate, hard-working attitude, and most of all, sufficient health in order to fully perform. Whether we are chosen by our future jobs, or whether we are able to choose them as the path to success, depends on our utmost preparation in health, mentality, attitude, and knowledge of both the profession and its career path.

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