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Step-by-step guide to writing a career education plan

This step-by-step guide can help careers teams or career development specialists come up with a plan to integrate career education throughout their schools.

Reviewing your situation

Ideally you will be looking at writing a career education plan because you identified this as an area for action in a review of your current situation, using the Career Education Benchmarks.

The Career Education Benchmarks cover writing a career education plan in the following sub-categories:

What documentation do you need?

The content you decide to include in your career education plan may depend on your school context. Most schools have accepted ways of organising and writing planning and management documents.

We suggest that your career education plan should include, as a minimum:

  • a vision for the career development of all students
  • a description of what career learning happens, when and where; and what career management competencies students are developing through this learning
  • an outline of the data and evidence you plan to use to evaluate effectiveness.

To increase the effectiveness of career education you may also wish to document key policies, systems and procedures.

To build your career education plan follow the steps below. Start small and add to the plan over time.

Step 1: Develop a vision

Four teachers discuss papers at an L-shaped desk
Your first step is to create a vision for the career development of your students

A vision for the career development of your students can be as simple as a single paragraph stating the knowledge and skills you want them to take with them when they leave school.

We recommend you clearly link student career development to key school strategies and initiatives. Before beginning to create a vision, consult all important school planning documents. These may include:

  • the school’s charter
  • the school's strategic plan and annual plan
  • existing documents related to career education
  • goals and plans of other school-wide initiatives
  • The NZ Curriculum or Te Marautanga o Aotearoa.

If you do not find any direct connection in these documents with students’ development of career management competencies or the career education programme, check with your senior leaders to find out what it would take to build references into these documents.

To create your vision statement, consider the following questions:

  • What are the schooling or year milestones for our students? What outcomes do we want for students at each of these points?
  • What competencies do we want students to develop at school, and take with them when they leave?
  • What will we see if our students are successfully developing their career management competencies?
  • What is our school-wide delivery approach? How do we want to integrate careers education into curricular and extra-curricular activities?

Step 2: Describe where and how career learning happens

Describe the careers-related learning and support, formal and informal, provided across all school activities. Include curriculum areas, co-curricular programmes, pastoral care, extra-curricular activities, and so on.

For secondary schools, this will include the links between career education and secondary-tertiary transition programmes, such as STAR, Gateway, trade academies and other academic and vocational programmes.

Use any information you collected in your previous review to build up your picture. As well as recording what you are doing now, you could acknowledge any gaps you found and things you would like to add in the future.

Start by creating a high-level overview showing at a glance what career learning occurs, or is planned, at each year level.

Add to that a map of how students are developing their career management competencies through this career learning across their years at school.

Step 3: Outline how you will evaluate

All review processes depend on having good evidence. Think about what data and evaluation processes you can use as indicators of the results of career learning in your school.

Could you use student data to chart the impact of some or all career learning?

Think about what data you currently have access to:

  • What data does the school gather to report to the Ministry of Education or Tertiary Education Commission that you could use as an indicator of career learning?
  • What results do you receive from NZQA or other bodies that you could include?
  • What other evidence might help show the school is delivering on your career development vision statement?

How could you collect other evidence to show how things progress over time? Think about:

  • staff, student and community feedback about opportunities students have to develop their career management competencies
  • examples of students’ work, individual or group success stories
  • examples of departmental plans and reports.

Tip: Consider asking your statistics specialists or perhaps your senior secondary students to help you with data-gathering methodology.

Step 4: Build on this base

Documenting policies, systems and procedures will help sustain career education. These link strategy to programmes. They explain how you can put your vision into operation. Some areas you cover could include:

  • the aims of the student career education programme and its contribution to your school’s mission, strategies and goals, etc
  • strategies for Māori, Pasifika and other specific groups of students in your school
  • descriptions of systems and procedures.

Examples of the strategies, systems and procedures you may want to cover include:

  • how you will identify and engage students at risk of not successfully progressing through the next stages of their education and eventually into work 
  • your plan for Māori students to enjoy success as Māori
  • how you will engage families and communities with career education
  • how your pastoral care systems will support students’ career development
  • how you will track students through school and after they leave
  • what career spaces, technology and resources are available for students and teachers 
  • a timeline or calendar of activities
  • staff roles and responsibilities
  • financial and asset reporting
  • processes for review.

Add evidence and action plans from recent review processes as appendices to your management documents. These will show your journey.

Step 5: Make it a living document

Your management documents will be most effective when they are:

  • easy to access and easy to understand
  • shared widely
  • updated regularly.