What we learnt: our Shepparton project evaluation

In March, we coordinated Melbourne-based work experience placements for 33 students from Shepparton's four public schools, in hard-to-reach professions like law, architecture, medical research and engineering. 

Today we've released a report explaining our objectives and evaluating the impact of this project, which was our biggest to date. Read the report here, or click the image at the bottom. 


"I was actually thinking about doing easy classes next semester at school and become a tradie, but when I finished work experience I have a completely different thought. 
I'm now thinking about doing more challenging classes and actually going to uni. Saying that scares me but I am going to try and do my best”. 
- Year 10 student, Wanganui Park Secondary College. 

Young people in regions like Shepparton need greater opportunities to reach their potential.

The region has been identified as a 'hot-spot' for youth unemployment in Australia. The path from school into a professional career is unclear for young people in the region. It's an example of a broader inequality in Australia: that only 13% of young people living in regional areas go on to university. 

We set out to connect students with work experience opportunities that are not available locally, in industries that are normally out-of-reach for students who don’t have access to professional networks.

The results of our before and after surveys show that the project has had a positive impact on students' educational and career outcomes. We've received some thoughtful and insightful comments from our 33 students, and included as many of these comments as possible in this report.

 

After work experience, students indicated that they are more motivated to work hard at school, and better prepared to make informed and confident choices about their post-school pathways.

Students' responses also revealed that they had made connections they will call on in the future, and feel more comfortable in a professional workplace.

These results are consistent with existing evidence that work experience is one of the best career development tools for disadvantaged students. The project revealed the strengths of the Boundless model, which harnesses the combined efforts of teachers and workplaces to connect students with 

Our results also validated what other research on student aspirations has revealed: that the key in supporting students from disadvantaged backgrounds is to keep students' aspirations on track, rather than trying to 'raise' aspirations. Students expressed extremely high aspirations about their future plans.

Based on this evidence, we believe that the significant underrepresentation of regional and low-income students at university isn't explained by these students having different or lower aspirations, compared to more advantaged students. 


In your workplace you become a family and you get to know the people around you, and its just the greatest thing that could ever happen. I'm glad that I now know that being a lawyer isn’t all boring and good things do come out of it.
- Year 10 student, Mooroopna Secondary College.

We need to make professional pathways more realisable for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, in order to reduce the gap between students’ aspirations and their actual outcomes. Work experience is one of the best ways to do this.

Click the image below to download our report.