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The 5 benefits of using the Career Clusters in your school careers program

Coloured wheel digram showing the Career Clusters

The Study Work Grow Career Clusters can turn difficult career conversations into possibility-filled moments of inspiration for your students. Find out more about them in this article.

Getting students to talk about potential career pathways can be a challenge.

Sometimes an “I don’t know” answer is the best you’ll get in a conversation, even with supportive, open-ended questions about what their next step is. And that’s usually because of two reasons:

  1. Students are currently in the ‘here and now’ – careers, jobs, and further study are often a thing they just don’t want to think about right now (we both know that putting it off won’t make it better though), and/or;
  2. They just don’t know where to start. Teenagers in the 2020s are exposed to an incredible range of people and situations thanks to the internet, streaming services, and social media. All of the things that we didn’t have at that age. Even though half an hour of phone scrolling will show them many different jobs and workplaces, they may feel a little overwhelmed with all of the options.

This is where the Study Work Grow Career Clusters can help.

What are the Career Clusters?

The Study Work Grow Career Clusters are Maker, Guardian, Innovator, Informer, Linker, and Coordinator, and have been designed to group common tasks, interests, motivations, skills, and strengths into an easy-to-understand format for students.

You can read more about them here.

Let’s take a quick look at the concept of ‘Career Clusters’, where it came from, and how it is used in schools.

16 Career Clusters – US Secondary School System (1996)

Search for ‘Career Clusters’ in Google and you’re likely to find many references to the 16 Career Clusters (noted as 17 Career Clusters on Wikipedia).

This 1996 model is based on 16 occupational categories, such as Finance, Manufacturing, Health Science etc., that each have programs of study or training. While helpful for students who have a keen interest in a particular field or know what their next step will be beyond secondary school, the clusters in this model aren’t designed to help a student choose a career path that’s right for them. Instead it showcases the range of careers available across the workforce.

7 Job Clusters – Foundation for Young Australians (2016)

Published in 2016, the New Work Mindset report grouped jobs into seven (7) clusters, based on the analysis of common interests, skills, and tasks across 2.7 million job advertisements.

This work introduced the concept of similar skills, with a special emphasis on skills that could be used across many different jobs. While widely known and referenced in Career Education circles in Australia, the Foundation discontinued their work on this in 2021.

Study Work Grow Career Clusters

The education team at Study Work Grow (led by CEO & Career Practitioner, Lucy Sattler) could see benefits in both modernising the concept of the Career Clusters, while also further refining the work done by the FYA.

In conjunction with psychometric testing research gathered from all over the world and the support of the FYA, Lucy settled on six (6) Career Clusters that represented an easy way for students to approach career conversations. The model was purposely designed so that students could ‘self-identify’ which cluster(s) they would fit into, with the free psychometric test available to support their choices and show how they score for the remaining clusters.

Why should you consider using them in your school practice?

Let’s look at the 5 benefits of the Study Work Grow Career Clusters:

1. They make career conversations approachable

Careers can sometimes be a topic that students find hard to think about. When you’ve never had a career, how are you supposed to choose one? The Career Clusters make it easy for students to engage with careers, because instead of an overwhelming range of job possibilities, it starts with just six options that students readily understand and affiliate themselves with.

Combined with the free psychometric test that students can take in guided setting with an educator, it gives students a way of working out where they ‘fit’.

2. It’s a powerful starting point for career conversations

Knowing which cluster(s) are best aligned with a student’s skills, interests, motivations, and strengths makes it easier for you to guide them through their career exploration process.

For instance, if they’ve realised they are good at caring for people or have an interest in health and well-being, then the next step can be to explore study, training, and career pathways associated with the Guardian Career Cluster. It also means that conversations can go beyond school.

3. They give students, families, and educators a new way of talking about careers

“What job are you going to do when you leave school?” is such an outdated way of starting career conversations with young people, as it often leads to unhelpful and misguided advice (and sometimes even limitations) being given by adults they trust.

By instead talking in terms of Clusters (and the possibilities within one or more clusters), your students, families, and educators in your school community have a common language to use when talking about jobs and pathways.

In practice, this is highly unifying and leads to possibility-filled career conversations in daily life.    

4. They are easy to implement for educators

With step-by-step teaching materials delivered in PDFs, slides, videos, and a student workbook, it’s a simple process for career advisors and career leaders in schools to run a Career Clusters session.

Because the times allocated to career education are often short, sporadic, or non-existent, the Study Work Grow Career Clusters have been designed with flexible delivery in mind.

The lessons and Student Psychometric Quiz can be done in two to three short lessons of 10-20 minutes each, or done in one block of time comprising 30-60 minutes. This means that even in the busiest of school curriculums, educators can easily integrate helpful careers lessons.

5. They’re free to use in schools

As a Social Enterprise, Study Work Grow designed and released the Career Clusters student quiz and teaching materials as a valuable tool that educators could use without affecting their career education budget.

The benefit of this is that secondary school educators and counsellors can apply to access the resources, and when approved (usually the same school day), begin to explore and use the materials straight away.

Learn more about the Career Clusters

Like to know how you can use the Study Work Grow Career Clusters in your school setting? Click here to find out more.


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Pondering Careers – Edition 43 – You need to read these reports on skills

Pondering Careers – Edition 42 – Early Entry Thoughts

Pondering Careers - Core Skills at School

Pondering Careers – Edition 41 – How do we talk about core skills at school?

How to support LGBTQIA+ young people at school

Pondering Careers – Edition 40 – An argument for basic training

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