Education, training and careers: Young Torres Strait Islanders, 1999

Author/editor: Arthur, W, David-Petero, J
Year published: 2000
Issue no.: 207


The principal aim of this paper was to determine what role, if any, young Torres Strait Islanders see education and training playing in their future careers.

As in human capital theory, young Islanders appear to value education and training as a form of investment that will allow them to further their careers. They say for example that they will stay at school to improve their prospects for further education, for training and for employment. Although they thought that education would helped them with their futures, several people felt that more emphasis could be placed on providing job related skills and life skills in school. Nonetheless, the general feeling about education was positive. In addition to valuing study and training as activities that can help them achieve their goals, they also appear to find these inherently interesting.

Although people, might want to stay on at school to Year 12 to improve their career prospects, it appears that sometimes this might have to take second place to family commitments; a compromise similar to that noted in other parts of this project. In addition, the data suggest some inverse relationship between travelling to the mainland for education and staying on to Year 12: students who went to the mainland for secondary schooling were likely to change schools more often and less likely to complete Year 12 than were those attending school on Thursday Island. However, these findings are not conclusive and require further research.

The fields of training in which people were involved reflected features of the regional economy and, to a degree, conventional male/female divisions. For instance, women were likely to want training for careers in education, health and administration, while males were more interested in training for trades. Although some young people had been involved in a deckhand's course, none were doing or planned to do any training associated with the commercial fishing industry. This apparent lack of interest amongst young people in increasing their formal engagement with the industry will be explored in future stages of the project.

It was noticeable that all of the trainees and apprentices interviewed in the survey were in Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) communities. It appears therefore, that having CDEP gives a community the autonomy to offer training and apprenticeships to its members. In this way CDEP helps facilitate career pathways. However, having CDEP is not a sufficient condition for this to happen. Communities wishing to train their young members must also have the relevant levels of infrastructure, the instructors and a commitment from community leaders.

As noted in the foreword, this is one of a set of three papers from an initial survey in Torres Strait. The other two papers in the set deal respectively with people's careers and job searching techniques (CAEPR Discussion Paper No. 205) and with their career aspirations (CAEPR Discussion Paper No. 206). The initial survey that provided the data for this paper is part of a larger study. The study utilises the concept of career which facilitates an exploration of what people think about their future and embodies the idea of change over time. The project aims to determine what may assist or deter people from fulfilling their aspirations, and how and why their ideas about their futures may change. In an attempt to capture these aspects of people's lives, those who were part of this initial survey will be interviewed again.

ISBN: 0 7315 2642 2

ISSN:1036 1774

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