OZJAC – Matching Career Aspirations With Reality

By Keith Gove, Martin Murley

When students left school in the late 1960s, Eric Clapton's 'Cream' had just reinterpreted the old blues song 'Crossroads'. In those days, the end of school was like a 'crossroad': a few went on to tertiary study, a few went to trade school (the forerunner to TAFE, then offering mostly apprenticeships), a few 'dropped out' of society altogether and the majority got a job. The decisions had a smell of finality.

As Midnight Oil started to transfer their frenetic live performances to vinyl in the late 1970s, Year 12 retention rates were less than 50%, and the majority of those students completing secondary school were not going on to tertiary study. Those that were had no consolidated guide to show them the university and TAPE courses that were available, careers teachers in schools were still somewhat rare, and the perception of TAFE was tainted in the minds of students (and the majority of teachers) by notions of oily overalls and 'ex-tradies who couldn't teach'.

Not so now.

Life after the post-compulsory years at school has become much more complex". Schools are taking up vocational options, there is an increasing convergence between general and vocational education (or between education and training), the range of pathways is expanding, workplaces are changing, and the continual renewal and up-skilling required for the workforce of the next century requires people to take a 'lifelong learning' approach to their careers.

Students and advisers now talk more in terms of pathways rather than crossroads.

Not only have all of these changes made the task of making career decisions more complex, but the role of the career adviser, whether this be in the school or non-school context, also has to encompass a broader understanding of the employment and training sectors.

That the role of providing advice and counsel to students leaving secondary education is conducted in an environment of ever increasing complexity was recognised in the recent Career Education Taskforce advice to MCEETYA (Ministerial Council of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs):

The continual demands for retraining, skill development, work restructuring and continuous improvement mean that individuals' need for ongoing opportunities for career information, counselling and advice is no longer limited to their initial years of education.

How can all Australians be supported to take up and continue education and training that is personally relevant and appropriate to Australia's future needs?

The birth of JAC

In 1985, the seed for a computerised directory of TAPE and Higher Education courses was sown. Bemoaning the fact that prospective students had no facility to broadly investigate post-school study options, a computer information system that allowed students to sift through tertiary course information in a systematic and comprehensive fashion was mooted.

In a parallel development, an information system that provided details on vocational opportunities, including occupational information and the links to training, was also proposed.

It was the bringing together of these two themes that led to a system that could provide information about work and study and show the links between the two, and provide both the capacity to search for specific information as well as explore options when no vocational outcome was predetermined.

In short, a system was conceived that could assist both people who had a career goal, and people who were still trying to formulate one; a program that was designed to help people making career decisions, and those who advise in this process.

With the mission to broaden people's vocational options and awareness, the Job and Course explorer (JAC) was born.

Developed by the Victorian Department of Education, JAC was gradually licensed to all other States and Territories, so that by 1993 there was a version of JAC in each one. As at December 1995, there were over 3,000 JAC subscribers nationally.

The growth of an increasingly complex educational system, the changing status of and regard for TAPE courses, the impetus of the national training reform agenda and the ever present need for accurate and up-to-date course information in the midst of this change ensured JAC's continued evolution.

OZJAC-the Australian courses and careers database

Throughout 1994 and 1995 JAC Units in each State and Territory worked on the integration of the separate JAC systems into one national system. Following this and related work by DEET, the next step in this evolution was proposed.

In May 1995 all relevant State, Territory and federal ministers, through MCEETYA, approved the establishment of a national course and careers information system, to be managed by Curriculum Corporation.

The new system, called OZJAC, is designed around the notion of assisting those making career decisions, and those who advise in this process. It aims to match each individual's career aspirations with reality, both in terms of required training and occupational and related information.

OZJAC details national information in the following modules:

  • Course - includes details on all accredited TAPE and university courses in Australia. This information is accessed via a number of search and exploration paths.
  • Provider - provides basic information on each education and training provider, including location details and student services available.
  • Jobs - occupational data provided by DEET. Subject to satisfactory agreement, DEET will use the OZJAC database as the repository for its occupational information, from where DEET will produce its occupational information products such as the Job Guide.
  • Industry-  data collected from national and State sources, including industry and professional associations.
  • Careers - provides advice and a conceptual framework for users to help them think about and make career decisions.
  • General information - acts as a glossary for concepts and topics that require explanation, such as open learning, A VTS, etc. This will be a powerful communication tool for any national or State initiatives in education, training and the labour market. Appropriate State and national peak bodies will be approached for regular contributions.

The information OZJAC provides, and its flexibility of operation, will be relevant to those working in the career education, personnel, rehabilitation, training, employment counselling, career counselling, community education, library and education research and policy fields.

In particular, OZJAC is designed to assist advisers and professionals who

  • help others exrlore career options;
  • assist others to identify training for particular occupations;
  • provide training information in your organisation;
  • advise people who are returning to study or to the workforce;
  • promote professional development;
  • advise current or prospective students;
  • are involved in education and training research.

It is intended that by the middle of 1996, OZJAC will be taken up by the existing JAC subscribers base of nearly 3,000 organisations across the nation. This number consists of most secondary schools and tertiary institutions, many DEET sites, some training providers and industry bodies, and a wide range of community access sites such as public libraries, neighbourhood houses and community education providers. All existing JAC subscribers were forwarded OZJAC subscription packages in February this year.

In addition, given the impetus of the national training reform agenda and linking of accredited training to award restructuring and enterprise agreements, there is clearly potential for the use of OZJAC in business and industry. To this end, the marketing of OZJAC will have a substantial focus on these potential markets througI:iout 1996.

OZJAC has a commitment to bring career information within the reach of every Australian. To this end, planning is underway to provide OZJAC to such diverse markets as private training providers, industry and overseas students, and to consider the development of a smaller product that could be made available directly to paren ts and students.

Other areas for future OZJAC product development include:

  • support materials for career intermediaries, to help them keep abreast of the rapid and complex developments in education and training, and industry restructuring. There are strong links with national initiatives such as vocational. education and enterprise education, and possibilities for development of materials related to MCEETYA's current Career Education Taskforce work. The draft JAC Curriculum Resources developed in 1995 are an example of this.
  • a multi-media product, with audio-visual material on jobs and industries in particular, some aspects of the central database being provided via the EdNA initiative. Significant work is needed to determine exactly what is appropriate to provide through this medium.

In schools in particular there is an opportunity to use OZJAC as a tool to assist in the integration of a number of current education and training initiatives, including repositioning career education, responding to the challenges of enterprise education and continuing the implementation of a range of vocational education and training reform issues.

Considerable information is currently provided through national initiatives such as the Australian Vocational Training System (AVTS), the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF), and materials on industry-specific career pathways. There is potential for making more effective use of this material on a national basis. The volatile nature of the material suggests that regularly updated electronic delivery would be most effective. The information needs, above all, to be easy to use. Each of these three factors-national provision of data, regular updating and ease of use-reflect key characteristics of OZJAC.

As the solution, OZJAC maintains a valuable public resource (that is, course and career information) within an easily managed public environment. Key clients and stakeholders have a formal voice in the control of the service through a Committee of Management, which can respond effectively to developments such as international marketing and industry and training developments. Membership includes representatives of DEET, ANfA and AVCC.

Further details

The OZJAC database is produced twice a year, with updates in July and December, and is available by annual subscription from the OZJAC Unit at Curriculum Corporation. The database will initially be available in two forms: the national product on CD-ROM, and State-and-Territory specific products on high density (HD) floppy disk. Subscribers will be able to selectively load more than one or more States from the national CD-ROM, creating an attractive option for those in State or Territory border areas, or those subscribers in the smaller States.

A standard OZJAC subscription covers the two updates produced within the twelve-month financial year period, and concessional rates are available for educational and community organisations. Subscriptions confirmed by 30 April 1996 will attract a discount subscription rate for the first year. For a subscription package or an information brochure, please contact the OZJAC Help Desk on 1800 809 678. Inquiries by e-mail are also welcome: [email protected]

Keith Gove

Manager OZJAC Unit


Martin Murley

Client Relations and Quality Assurance Project Officer