Changing Careers/Staying Relevant: Facilitating the Path of Mature Students in Higher Education

Fraser, Lyndell
(2018) Changing Careers/Staying Relevant: Facilitating the Path of Mature Students in Higher Education. Doctor of Education thesis, University of Liverpool.

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ABSTRACT The impacts of the ‘Knowledge Economy’, ‘Globalisation’ and technological change are widely documented as creating massive changes in the world of work. Established roles are disappearing or being “hollowed out” while new work emphasises different skill requirements: creativity, problem solving and working in fluid environments involving cross-disciplines with rapid knowledge acquisition. Under challenge too is the linear education-work-retirement or “three boxes of life” model which gave a level of stability or predictability. The literature is extensive on the challenge and potential high level policy responses, with education figuring prominently as a critical element in meeting those challenges. Some question whether the State should play more actively to protect or assist individuals in managing change – particularly the increasing and risky propensity for education journeys to be self-managed and funded, and driven to meet economic needs. Aging populaces are placing pressures on government resources with actions addressed to keeping people working including lifting retirement ages and deferring access to publicly funded support. Mature individuals are staying, and will seek to remain, in employment for financial security and social connection while being drawn to education to effect that employment. The research directed its focus to issues arising for mature learners: how do they see their learning equipping them for the future, how is learning engagement impacting sense of identity and agency, and how do they see themselves prepared to navigate an uncertain world? Is the ‘three boxes of life model’ of education-work-retirement still influential and does it affect mature learners’ expectations of education and understanding of the unfolding work environment. This appears a less researched area and the research aims to complement studies directed to assisting mature individuals into learning and to successful completion. An exploratory research approach was employed. It used the ‘Life Course’ paradigm as a framework to situate processes by which social changes and other factors impact mature people’s work and education paths. This assisted address the multi-faceted factors at play in career trajectories and transition paths including the emergence of biographicity as a critical skill. Data for the study was obtained from interviews and focus groups with mature age students in counselling, psychology and social work at a private Australian higher education institution. Learners’ approaches to career change, lifelong learning concepts and managing the rapidity of change in employment were examined. Attention was directed to how learners perceive their sense of identity and agency, pointing to the emergence of self-awareness and self-assurance and capacity to navigate the changing world of work flowing from the education experience. Interviews with professional associations further informed understanding. The research directs attention to issues in the policy domain identifying a series of key themes important to understanding the position of mature learners including motivations, mindset and skills, views of identity and self-assurance, aspects of agency and perspectives on the ‘three boxes’ view and the role of technology and work change. The study highlights the potential contribution of mature individuals from educational engagement. It questions the propensity for policy regarding mature sections of society to focus on short term training, reduced hours and lifestyle which would circumscribe their involvement. The research points to value from educators, professions, policy makers and employers working in synchrony to facilitate successful work transitions, and points to areas for further research.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Education)
Additional Information: Requests for information can be e-mailed to
Divisions: Fac of Humanities & Social Sci > School of Education
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 13 Dec 2019 09:45
Last Modified: 09 Jan 2021 04:41
DOI: 10.17638/03027298
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