With final exams for high school leavers fast approaching, the question of what to do next becomes even more prevalent amongst youth. As educators it’s essential for us to be joining this conversation so that young people know what we have to offer them. However, it’s not enough to keep communicating with students like we have in the past; we need to understand them to get through to them.
In our After The ATAR II report, we collected information about how Gen Z make decisions about their future. We received nearly 5,000 responses from youth about their attitudes towards school and the possible pathways ahead of them. You can get a copy of the paper here, and for your benefit we have also broken our research down into relevant segments for educators, employers, and media agencies.
Our resource for educators will be available for download soon.
Love learning, hate school
Consider this: 82% of youth surveyed agree with the statement, ‘I love learning’, yet only 13% agree with the ATAR system. There’s a discord between our youth’s attitude towards education and what we’re actually doing to nurture that, so as educators we need to acknowledge how they’re feeling.
Young people also believe that the ATAR system and a culture of chasing marks is negatively affecting the rest of their school experience. Just 12% agree with the statement, ‘high school successfully prepares students for the real world’, and only 9% believe ‘post-school success’ is their school’s highest priority.
When it comes to making decisions, our school leavers are operating more out of misinformation and confusion than anything. In fact, 43% of Year 12 students still have no idea what they want to do when they leave school.
Out of the students that have planned their post-school pathway, 68% have chosen to go to university. However, 18% of youth believe they have a poor understanding of uni, and less than half have a good/strong understanding of VET.
School leavers need to be more informed about their options so that they can make the best choice for themselves. We have identified parents and caregivers as major influencers, with 48% of youth getting their most trustworthy career advice from them. However, this figure was 43% for web searches, demonstrating that young people are taking more agency in their decision-making; educators should take note of this and empower them with unbiased, useful information.
Ways to communicate
As part of Gen Z, this year’s school leavers do not remember a time without the internet. They are some of the first true digital natives, which means our efforts to market to them must be in a way that is natural to them.
We found that 61% of youth believe social media helps expand their career/life aspirations, yet 74% believe older generations don’t communicate with them effectively. To be relevant we need to be on social media; the audience is already on there, and that’s where youth are open to new opportunities. However, to be efficient in these spaces we need to utilise youth voices to engage the youth or use organisations that specialise in this.
What they’re looking for
The majority (79%) of young people choose their university based on courses offered. We also found that 67% of university students are concerned about their HECS-HELP debt. For marketing to resonate with students we should emphasise course and job outcomes; this way, we’re actually addressing the concerns that young people have when making this decision.
The biggest struggle that young people are facing is their fear of the future and figuring out what to do with their lives (23%). Things like the current housing crisis and an uncertain future job market are causing anxiety, but there’s also hope. Young people want to change the world for the better, and are willing to work within current systems to make that change. It’s our responsibility to tell them how we can help them achieve that.