After a successful second year, the team behind the social impact project “Overcoming Career Circumscription and Compromise" – which offers career guidance to Grade 9 learners in under-resourced communities – is now focusing its attention on its Vision 2021, which includes several exciting prospects.
The project is a joint effort between the Departments of Psychology and Industrial Psychology at Stellenbosch University (SU). In 2019, more than 80 students and staff members worked together to develop material and present workshops to provide career guidance to more than 1 200 learners in eight historically disadvantaged schools in Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Delft.
It is funded by the Rupert Foundation as well as the Division for Social Impact at SU.
During the feedback session on 24 October, project leaders explained that with the shift in education to the Outcomes-based education (OBE) curriculum, one of the serious problems in the higher education system has been the lack of career guidance.
Because of adverse socio-economic conditions, many learners have limited perspectives of career options and the paths to achieve their career aspirations and are inclined to circumscribe and compromise (i.e., place limits) on their potential choices.
This intervention seeks to assist learners to, among other things, explore and identify their vocational interests and other career attributes, link their career attributes to career choices and make informed decisions about their choice of senior school subjects. This is crucial during Grade 9 when the learners have to select their matric subjects.
According to one of the project leaders, Mrs Michelle Visser, it is also a great example of how the university's three focus areas – namely learning and teaching, social impact and research – can work together towards a desirable outcome.
Postgraduate students get the opportunity to put theory into practice, the community benefits from the intervention and the project creates opportunities for research. Among the research outcomes, the project team wrote a chapter in the Springer Handbook of Innovative Career Counselling titled: “A Group-based Career Guidance Intervention for SA High School Learners from low-income communities".
“We have big plans for this intervention and want to ensure its sustainability," added Visser.
Vision 2021 includes plans to present workshops via SU's telematic services, translate the manual into Afrikaans and isiXhosa, develop an electronic version of the manual and expand implementation to Soweto via a postgraduate research collaboration between SU and the University of Johannesburg.
With the learners who were part of the intervention in 2018 (when they were in Grade 9) heading towards Grade 11 next year, the team is also investigating the possibilities of a longitudinal study. This would entail follow-up sessions with learners who participated in the project last year and assisting them with further career guidance, focusing on study and career choices.
Mr Isaac Engel, vice principal of Rosendaal High School in Delft, thanked the project team.
“Our community is in the grip of poverty and most parents can't afford to send their children to a career counsellor. This project has the potential to change the learners' lives. We have a moral obligation to improve the current generation's circumstances and break the cycle of poverty. South Africa cannot afford another lost generation."
Priscilla Booysen, Director of the Rupert Education Foundation, mentioned last year that they are often confronted by the challenge of learners applying for bursaries without having the right subjects for the career they wish to pursue.
“Thank you for filling the gap," she added this year. “Your vision 2021 is spot-on."
Photo: Anton Jordaan