Commissioned by the Careers Industry Council of Australia and published in November 2006, this scoping study looks at possible areas of research on the economic benefits from career development services. Career development services refer to vocational and educational advice provided by career development practitioners. School-based advice currently dominates career development services, though advice is also provided in universities, TAFEs, via Job Network and related programs, and via private agencies.
The key benefit from career development services is better informed decision-making in education and career choice that should assist over the longer term in achieving higher workforce participation, lower unemployment (less job search time and less skill mismatch), greater skill development on average (and so higher earnings) and higher career satisfaction. These benefits accrue to the individual, but are also benefits to society as a whole (for example, through the tax/transfer system – higher productivity and participation and lower unemployment translate into higher tax revenues and less welfare payments – with those savings then able to be spent on other things or handed back as tax cuts).
While it makes sense that more informed decision-making should lead to improved labour market outcomes of the kind noted above, proving the case is a more difficult proposition. Thus far in Australia there appears to have been very little research along these lines. This scoping study outlines potential avenues of research which may be available to help inform on the benefits of career development services:
A stocktake of current usage of career development services, compiling data which may be currently collected on usage of services, what sort of services are being accessed and characteristics of users.
- Post-consultation surveys, examining how satisfied people were of the service provided to them. This could also include interrogation of existing career development related questions in the likes of LSAY, Young Visions and other longitudinal datasets.
- A stocktake of performance of career development services.
- A detailed literature review of the benefits of career development services, building such as via on the material presented in this paper.
- A survey-based approach, preferably via a longitudinal study of users of career development services, to help track longer term outcomes for individuals. The key questions would relate to future employment, wages, further education and career satisfaction. Such a study should contain a well defined target group and a control group.
- A cost-effective method may be to include questions on career development services as part of other surveys, such as graduate destination surveys and LSAY.
- An outcomes-based approach using research other than surveys – key outcomes which career development services are hoping to influence could be monitored over time at a macro level, such as monitoring the average length of job search, levels of job mis-match and measures of skill shortage.
- Economic benefits of career development services if appropriate, and evaluating economic benefits with the assistance of a well specified macroeconomic model.
Terms of reference for future research into the economic benefits of career development services could be developed with these research strands in mind.
Finally, any evidence on improved outcomes could be translated into broaderby extrapolating survey results to the broader population of users.