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Students & Youth

Career Clusters: Flipping the script on how we talk about work

We’ve been thinking about work the same way for a long time, but over the past couple of decades, the way we work has radically changed. Gone are the linear ‘jobs for life’ you entered straight out of school, and the corporate ladder has become the jungle gym. The school leavers of today can expect to change jobs every few years, they aspire to work for themselves, and they are less likely to work in an office and more likely to juggle paid work with non-paid work and caregiving responsibilities.

All of this means we need new ways of thinking about work. We need to flip the script and give young people ways to visualize their complex, dynamic and squiggly careers before they leave school. The OECD recently showed that around half of all teenagers are still aspiring to around 1% of all jobs. These are jobs that have been around for centuries or even longer (the first teachers, dentists and engineers worked millennia ago). Young people aspire to the visible jobs, the ones they already know about; it’s much harder to aspire to something you’ve never heard of.

It’s also difficult for youth to move away from the ideal of stable, secure work with one firm and opportunities for advancement, and I can’t blame them – I didn’t want to let go of that idea either. But this where thinking differently comes in; we can reinvent the way we talk about careers and work and help increase visibility of a range of diverse pathways.

That’s why this year, Study Work Grow developed the six Career Clusters so that we can think and talk differently about work. The Career Clusters allow us to move past a granular focus on specific jobs, so that we can start to talk about dynamic and flexible career pathways within a Cluster instead.

Introducing the Career Clusters

I’m not the first person to come up with a system of categorizing jobs; to define the six Career Clusters we looked at the research to identify what has worked well and what could be adjusted. We drew from various methodologies (see FYA and Holland Codes for examples) to identify what mattered, and then grouped careers and ways of working into six organic Clusters that encompass multiple dimensions of work. We collected careers based on similar tasks and shared outcomes, similar skillsets, common values and familiar work environments, and found that there was commonality across all workplaces and industries.

Here are the six Career Clusters:

The Makers – these are the ‘doers’, the anti-desk job people who operate machinery and equipment to get the job done. They include people like pilots, florists, technicians and anyone else who makes, monitors and fixes.

thecareerclusters.com

The Linkers – they are the people who connect the public with businesses and organizations, so that they can find the goods, services and support they need. They are the interface between an organization and everyone else, and they work as customer service, flight attendants, marketing managers and public relations officers.

The Informers – these people bring their substantial knowledge and experience in one area to support, guide and teach other people. They work in roles such as accountants, lawyers, science policy advisors and horse whisperers, or any other role that uses their skills and knowledge to help others.

The Guardians – they are focused on health and well-being, and they help us monitor, maintain and repair our health. They include those working directly in health care, like doctors, nurses and dentists, but they are also our fitness trainers, beauty therapists and aged care workers.

The Innovators – they design, engineer and manufacture the places we live in, the roads we drive on, the art we admire and the software we use. Some innovators work with digital technology, others work purely in analogue, but most blend both and are masters of technology.

The Coordinators – these are the people who keep everything running. They manage teams, plan and organize events, and administer systems for all kinds of organizations and businesses. They include senior managers through to entry-level administration clerks.

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The Clusters can change how we view our identity

Instead of asking young people to visualize a future in one narrow job, they can begin to align themselves with a dynamic and flexible Cluster. This makes it easier for them to explore the myriad of jobs and pathways that exist within the Cluster that also align with their interests.

How does this work? Rather than choosing one specific job out of the thousands that exist, students can choose a Cluster and an interest area, and then begin their exploration there. Of course, there’s no expectation that the exploration will start and finish in the same Cluster and industry, but it does narrow the field and give focus to the exploration process.

If we introduce the Clusters early and talk about them often, students will begin to incorporate the Clusters into their forming vocational identity – they will see themselves as a Maker, Coordinator or Informer. They don’t need to start from scratch as the transition from school to work draws close, because they already know quite a bit about how they work, what they value and which skills they have.

It’s a new way of thinking, but one with a lot of potential.

To find out more about the Career Clusters head to this link: thecareerclusters.com.

Lucy Sattler Author
Lucy Sattler is a career education professional with a passion for helping young people make informed choices about life once school is over. She is the CEO and Founder of Study Work Grow, and through her work she supports hundreds of schools and tens of thousands of students with engaging, evidence-based career development resources.
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Lucy Sattler Author
Lucy Sattler is a career education professional with a passion for helping young people make informed choices about life once school is over. She is the CEO and Founder of Study Work Grow, and through her work she supports hundreds of schools and tens of thousands of students with engaging, evidence-based career development resources.
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