Research finds it’s not too early to think about career development for young children

Every child dreams about what they will be when they grow up, but career development in childhood is often downplayed. A new set of CERIC-funded resources seeks to address this. The Early Years: Career Development for Young Children – a Guide for Educators and a Guide for Parents/Guardians – are the result of Memorial University research examining the influence that teachers and parents have on the career development process of young children, aged 3 to 8.

The research outlines how through play young children explore their environment, learn to problem solve, make decisions and adjust to change. Research findings show that from a young age, children envision themselves in possible roles for their future. They talk about and try on their hopes and dreams. During these formative years, young children are influenced by family, school and media – and need to be supported in their career development, say Memorial University researchers Dr Mildred Cahill and Dr Edith Furey.

In the research project which took place between 2014 and 2016, 1,194 parents and 136 educators completed surveys. Focus groups were held with 436 children from pre-school to grade 3 and with parents and educators of children of that same age range. During focus groups, young children were provided with opportunities to express knowledge of themselves and attitudes towards work using art and storytelling. Clear evidence emerged that the seeds of career development are present at an early age for children, and that educators and parents have a significant role.

Findings include:

  • 96.3% of educators strongly or somewhat agreed that young children learn skills very early in life that will help them manage their lifelong learning, careers and work.
  • 96.2% of educators strongly or somewhat agreed that play can influence career choices.
  • 97% of educators strongly or somewhat agreed that self-confidence and self-esteem influence career choices.
  • 77.7% of parents believed that children should learn about the world of work at pre-school and primary school.
  • 70.4% of parents believed that children learn early what they are good at and not so good at.

The guides empower educators and parents to become more aware of children’s career development during this critical period of fun and fantasy. Real-world and easy-to-use, these resources include Vignettes, What If and Something to Think About scenarios. The Guide for Educators provides dynamic career education strategies, including tips, activities and examples that educators can use to help children develop a healthy sense of self in the early years, and enable them to reach their full potential. The importance of age-appropriate activities and sustained programs is emphasized. The Guide for Parents provides practical advice and actions that parents can take to help children develop positive beliefs about themselves, and enable them to imagine and achieve their aspirations.

Both guides are now available for free download at ceric.ca/early_educators and ceric.ca/early_parents. They will also be available for purchase in print for $14.95/copy on Amazon.ca and Chapters.Indigo.ca. Contact sales@ceric.ca for bulk purchases of 10 or more copies at 30% off.