Youth career choices : a comparison of industry and ballet
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In an increasingly competitive global environment the need for highly skilled, resilient workers is paramount. This study responded to this need with an investigation of the attraction and retention drivers that encourage young people to pursue their career of choice. In particular, it explored the career aspirations and drivers of career choice amongst two distinct cohorts of secondary school-aged people and the work experiences and retention drivers of a cohort of early career workers. The first phase of the study investigated the career aspirations identified by secondary school-aged young people aged from 14 to 17 years, including those enrolled in full-time secondary schooling (completing Years 11 and 12 tertiary entrance studies) and those enrolled in full-time professional dance programs who were completing their schooling via distance learning programs. The second phase of the study examined the nexus between career aspirations and work reality for young people entering a career, again encompassing the two distinct cohorts: early career participants in mainstream industry and early career dancers. The study findings help to articulate what it is that young people want from a career, the type of work they enjoy, and the characteristics of their work experiences that may impact retention. As such, it has significant implications for decision making related to future education, career and modes of work, and to drivers of performance, engagement and retention.In seeking to answer the research question: ‘What are the attraction and retention drivers that encourage young people to pursue their career of choice?’, the research design utilised a qualitative research methodology with comparative and content analysis approaches framed in a constructivist paradigm. Data collection involved 46 participants in semi-structured individual or focus group interviews, and the study was structured into two phases as described above. Additional interviews with five retired dancers served to explore and validate the dance participants’ work expectations and realities in this under-researched profession.Findings suggest that decisions about career choice are often made early in life, tend to be intrinsically driven, and are founded upon young people’s exploration of career, self and identity. Career attraction appears to be clearly associated with a passion for the type of work, a career calling, or a sense of vocation. Similarly, career retention seems to have little to do with money or the achievement of extrinsic rewards: irrespective of gender, work/life balance emerged as a key consideration across both cohorts. The study has made a significant contribution to the theoretical framework for the Foci and Bases of Commitment with the inclusion of a possible selves construct. This inclusion will inform the development of strategies that improve career attraction and retention.Developed countries face significant challenges in developing and sustaining a workforce that is equipped for an uncertain future and whose members have longer and more precarious working lives. The findings of this study suggest that the workforce preparation provided to young people by secondary and tertiary institutions is inadequate. The results reveal that dancers, even during early training, tend to have a more accurate and realistic understanding of future career realities than early career aspirants in other sectors. Furthermore, the findings highlight the need for organisations to re-evaluate their work design, development and engagement strategies in order to successfully meet these challenges.Limitations of the study include a geographical focus on Western Australia and a relatively small sample size. Despite these limitations, the study provides a sound basis for further research and investigation into the career choices of young people, linkages between possible self and work commitment, and the role and impact of passion and career calling in work retention.This is one of few studies that have provided a voice for young people in relation to career aspirations and expectations. The findings provide a greater insight into the significant impact of the career aspirations and choices of young people and what ignites and maintains a passion for their work.
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