At a time when the employment market is changing rapidly, deciding on courses and careers can be bewildering for both students and parents.

“Start having the conversations early,” says Brendan Kelly. He says students looking for the right career path have to dig deep into what inspires and motivates them and then look at the available study opportunities and what school subjects they should be taking to get there.

And while there aren’t necessarily wrong career pathways, just different ones, it’s essential to get into careers where they can build good foundational skills.

“Students will be required to keep learning over the course of their lifetimes,” he says, “in a way that’s unprecedented in our entire human history.”

What about parents – are they a good source of advice?

“Parents are the greatest influencers when it comes to students’ decisions about school subjects and where they go on to study or work. Of course, to be able to help their children, parents do need to have the right information at their fingertips. We’re trying to help them do that through our online careers portal, but schools also have a strong role to play in helping parents get the right information.”

What about those who want to take time out and travel – is that a good idea?

“There are mixed opinions about gap years, particularly if young people aren’t clear about the career direction they want to go in. Similarly, some young people go straight to tertiary study or training but then leave before they’ve completed their qualification.

“In the end, whether it’s a good thing or not all comes down to the individual. Some young people go off and have amazing experiences that motivate and inspire them for the rest of their lives – and some don’t.

“The best thing young people can do is to make sure that they have all the information they need to make informed decisions about their study and career paths so they don’t regret their decisions later.”

Trades and apprenticeships can lead to lucrative careers for the more practically minded – do enough students consider this?

“We’d really like to see a shift in young people’s perceptions around having a career in trades. These kinds of careers can be hugely rewarding. And there are also a lot of employment opportunities in trades at the moment – from builders to plumbers to electricians.”

Where are some good online places where students can research their options?

“There are many online portals that would be really useful for students researching their options, but we recommend students start with our careers.govt.nz website, which has tons of information that can help them think about their career paths and what to study.”

What if they don’t know what they want to do?

“If young people need some inspiration about the options available to them, they can start by turning to the influencers in their lives – like family members or coaches – or get guidance from the careers advisers at their schools, talk to teachers or mentors, research options online, or do work experience.”

What misconceptions do students have about the working world?

“Students might get some great exposure to careers over the course of their lives, but they won’t fully understand what that will be like until they start their first jobs.

“For some kinds of careers, it might not be at all as they’d expect. Every job, no matter how good it looks on paper, is going to have some banal aspects to it and that might come as a bit of a surprise to some young people.

“The main thing is that they get good advice about the career they have chosen before they’ve chosen to study or take up a job. That might come from parents, or someone in the industry, through work experience – or by talking to careers advisers at their school or tertiary education organisation. Knowledge is power!”

How important is getting work experience?

“Young people can really benefit by getting hands-on, practical learning experiences. Not only is work experience a great thing to put on their CVs, it can also help them make connections with a new community of people, as well as test that the career they have chosen is right for them.”

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