Engaging Parents in Career Conversations (EPiCC) is an online resource that careers practitioners can use to engage parents in the career development of young people in schools, Learn Local and VET providers.
The term ‘parent’ is broadly used to refer to any ‘caring’ adult or influential community member in a young person’s life. In this context, ‘parent’ is not limited to biological parents, and is intended to refer to any adult wishing to play a positive role in helping a young person build their future.
The purpose of the EPiCC Framework is to give schools and other education and training providers the tools, resources, ideas and strategies that will enable them to:
- support parents to help young people prepare for the challenges ahead in the ‘new’ economies and new jobs that none of us know very well or very much about
- enhance parents’ ability to help young people develop skills and have the capability to manage their own career throughout their lives;
- help shift perceptions by assisting parents and young people to understand the career journey young people are on from an early stage
- equip parents to help young people to develop and build their preferred career futures, feel less worried about the future and build a supportive network to assist them
- aim to challenge outdated belief systems that can limit a young person’s potential
EPiCC and parental engagement
Research indicates that parents are the single greatest influence on their child’s education and career decisions. High parental engagement can have a major impact on the young person’s learning, so every opportunity should be explored to nurture family-school/organisation partnerships. EPiCC is one such way for schools and organisations to work with parents and help foster sustainable and effective relationships.
Other existing frameworks which provide advice around approaches to working effectively with families include:
Family – School Partnerships Framework
In addition to these frameworks, schools and organisations should have their own parental/families engagement strategy, incorporating the EPiCC framework. Family involvement in schools and organisations is pivotal to fostering quality education and should form part of core business.
A whole school approach should be adopted to engage parents in the learning of their children and be incorporated in appropriate governance processes such as strategic plans, school and organisation reviews and annual implementation plans.
Tips for parental engagement
- Make parents feel welcome and valued, i.e. encourage a friendly and responsive manner with parents at all times.
- Communicate with parents on a regular basis, e.g. newsletters, personal contact, emails, telephone.
- Ensure newsletters are ‘parent friendly’ i.e. relevant and easy to understand; choose vocabulary that shows consideration of the social and cultural backgrounds of parents.
- Avoid using education jargon, i.e. use every day language.
- Find out the best time parents are available to participate in activities.
- Consider using interpreters at information nights and other events.
- Capture feedback, thoughts and opinions from parents where possible, e.g. after events, surveys, newsletters etc.
- Invite parents to be guest speakers about their career.
- Encourage parents to offer job shadowing or work experience in their own place of employment.
- Consider setting up a parents’ noticeboard where you can display relevant careers information.
- Consider the different cultural backgrounds of parents and organise for parents of similar backgrounds to attend workshops.
- Display a young person’s work, e.g. art display which may encourage parents to attend the school and organisation and where information on EPiCC and other activities can be provided.
Schools and organisations should take positive steps to engage with staff and families to identify strategies that best suit their community.
EPiCC is designed to be delivered by a careers practitioner or individuals with group facilitation skills and an appropriate background in career development. To confidently and effectively deliver an EPiCC workshop, it would be advisable to have knowledge regarding:
- the influence parents, carers, the wider family and community have on young people’s aspirations and career choices;
- the policy context for the EPiCC Framework and other current research;
- career development theories; and
- adult learning principles and theories.
Members of the local community such as Indigenous elders, social workers, community agencies or school alumni including past parents and students, can be used throughout the workshop to engage participants and support activities.
Delivery to targeted cohorts
Although EPiCC has been designed for use with all parents across all student cohorts, customising the activities to suit specific parent and student cohort needs is strongly recommended. EPiCC can be tailored to suit local needs and should demonstrate the value parents bring to the career development of young people. Given the diverse backgrounds and experiences of parents, customising EPiCC to suit the needs of parent cohorts should help build their capacity to engage more effectively in career conversations with young people.
For guidelines in delivering EPiCC to specific parent groups, please see:
Key transition points
When facilitating an EPiCC workshop, it is helpful to keep in mind some of the concerns or typical questions parents may have at key transition points.
Year 6 to Year 7
Parents at this transition point may want to know if the school has a career development program and how students learn about careers. They may be curious about the following:
- Is career development offered across all year levels?
- Does the school offer workplace learning?
- How does the school assist students to identify their aspirations?
- What career planning activities do students undertake?
Year 9/Year 10 to VCE/VCAL
Parents at the Year 9/Year10 to VCE/VCAL transition point may be interested in the options available to young people as well as the different pathways. They are likely to be concerned about what their child will do for a career and what steps they need to take to get there. For example:
- What is meant by pathways?
- How is the VCE organised?
- What is the difference between VCE and VCAL?
- What are School Based Apprenticeships and Traineeships (SBATs) and VCE/VET programs?
- How can a young person work out what subjects they should do?
- How can a young person identify the course/career they want to do when they leave school?
- What happens if the young person wants to leave school early?
- How are young people supported to make informed career decisions?
- How can parents talk to young people about what they are interested in?
Year 12 and beyond
With so many options available to young people, parents at this key transition point may be interested in the following:
- What courses are available to young people?
- How do they apply to do a course?
- What is the difference between university and TAFE?
- What if the young person hasn’t decided what they would like to do?
- What is a gap year and how is a gap year viewed by tertiary institutions and employers?
- Can a young person defer their tertiary studies?
- Are scholarships available at tertiary institutions?
- What happens if a young person does not get into their preferred course?
To build on their knowledge acquired in the workshop, parents should also be referred to additional resources, e.g. Job Guide and myfuture.
You may wish to make some of the resources available to parents during the workshop or provide them with any relevant handouts.
- Choose an appropriate venue with tables seating 3 or 4 participants, spread evenly around the room. A semi-formal or round table set up is encouraged. Consider using external venues if appropriate.
- Arrange refreshments which can be served at an appropriate time.
- Ensure equipment, e.g. data projector, screen are available and work.
- If distributing handouts or other resources, ensure these are ready prior to the workshop.
Length of workshop/timing
- Two hours should be allocated to deliver the workshop. This will allow sufficient time for discussion and the completion of activities.
- Consider when the parents are most likely available to attend. This is best determined by the school or organisation, taking into account local needs. Think of start and finishing times – when are the participants most likely to be free? Will people be required to travel long distances? Whatever the timing, make sure you give parents appropriate notice.
- The time of year should also be considered. If delivering to parents of students in Years 10, 11 and 12, consider offering the workshop in the early part of the year to allow the opportunity for career conversations to take place as the year progresses, rather than just prior to subject/VTAC selection. If delivering the workshop to Year 7 parents, consider the early part of the year, providing the school with an ideal opportunity to engage with parents early on. Year 8, 9 and 10 students tend to do subject selections in Term 3, so consider delivering workshops in Term 1 or 2.
All parents should be encouraged to participate in EPiCC workshops, however, the school or organisation can determine who to invite. To enable interaction among the participants and facilitator, a maximum of 20-25 participants is recommended. Additional suggestions include:
- Targeting the workshop to particular groups of parents, e.g. parents of students who are disengaged or might be at risk of disengaging.
- Inviting parents from specific year levels, e.g. Year 7. Consider offering it to this year level as an opportunity to engage parents in the education of their children in the early years.
- Inviting a combination of parents from different year levels.
- Targeting parents from EAL backgrounds, parents with students with a disability, Koorie families, families from low SES communities etc.
While the workshop may touch on some of the concerns below, it is important not to get too caught up in providing information per se, as opposed to equipping parents to engage in more effective career conversations with young people. In other words, be prepared for questions that may arise, without losing sight of the purpose of the workshop.
There are many opportunities to promote EPiCC and a variety of methods can be used. Be creative about how EPiCC is promoted, ensuring the message is simple and clear. Some ideas include:
- Word of mouth – this is a powerful form of communication among the school community.
- Newsletter – use it to promote participation in the workshop.
- School or organisation website – include details of EPiCC on the website, including dates of workshops and other relevant information. Consider providing a form that parents can download to register.
- Use the recorded message on the school or organisation telephone to promote EPiCC – consider inviting a parent to record a message.
- Invitation to parents – insert an invitation into the school newsletter or send an invitation via email to parents.
- Link EPiCC to the curriculum – invite parents to attend events showcasing student work and include EPiCC materials in the agenda.
Your school or organisation may have other strategies for communicating with parents that can also be tapped into.
The following resources have been designed to support the delivery of EPiCC.
The use of these PowerPoints and other resources is only limited by imagination. Schools and organisations can decide how best to use the resources and are encouraged to come up with other creative ways in which to use EPiCC.
Please note that only the slides with activities from the EPiCC Master PowerPoint are referenced in the table above.
The EPiCC Framework is an important component of the suite of Career and Transition resources available to schools, VET providers and the Learn Local providers. It is an additional resource for use by career practitioners and complements the work undertaken in schools and organisations by practitioners to implement the Victorian Careers Curriculum Framework and Career Action Plans.
Background to the program
Evidence indicates that parents are the single greatest influence on their child’s education and career decisions. The Face-to-Face report produced in 2010 by the National Youth Agency in England identified parents and carers as the most common first point of call for career development information, advice and guidance for young people. Other research similarly points to the important role of parents in the career development of their children, especially in the early stages rather than in the later stages of their education (Watson and McMahon, 2003).
Generally, parental engagement in career development occurs around subject and course selections and at crunch times in the later years of education, with a focus on information provision. Given the rapid changes in the world of work through globalisation and technology and the subsequent paradigm shift in career development, this is no longer sufficient. There is also mounting evidence that links improved student motivation, retention, achievement and career outcomes with parental involvement in young people’s learning. Career development now needs to focus not on job acquisition, but on the acquisition of skills, knowledge, attitudes, behaviours and competencies for continuous learning and improvement. The role of parents cannot be underestimated and is vital in supporting the career development of young people.