Mapping A Way Forward
How The University of Melbourne used Lightcast Data to Help Students Guide Their Careers
The University of Melbourne is a world-renowned institution with a rich history of making a global impact. It's the leading university in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region, and among the best in the world. With a student body of nearly 60,000 and seven campuses throughout the state of Victoria, the University is known for its strong research focus.
Built into the academic enrollment process at The University of Melbourne is a “career census” that asks students about their career readiness. From there, University staff can help track career progression trends for the student population, design interventions, target resources and guide students with relevant career support.
For this to work well, the Careers and Employability team needs to know the skills being taught in classrooms, which jobs require which skills, and how demand for those skills is taking shape—in Australia and around the world.
How could Careers and Employability find a solution that met rigorous standards—while also being accessible to students?
Students don’t always know what they need from career guidance, so any help from the Careers and Employability team needs to come at a level that’s, initially, broadly accessible.
“From our research, we know that the concept of a career is a bit nebulous for most students, it’s something they’ll do later,” said Meg Dench, Manager of Careers and Employability at the University. “So, we spend a lot of our energy and effort in making it relevant for ‘now’, wherever they individually see themselves.”
As an institution steeped in values that lift learning and research, students and staff have high expectations of data and supporting evidence in any decision-making process. This means that any solution presented by Careers and Employability had to meet those high standards.
Easy-to-read reports using Lightcast data
The University of Melbourne uses Labour Insight to analyse over 100 of its undergraduate majors and postgraduate degrees; showing students skills in demand, who's hiring, and the top job titles based on what students learn in that major or course.
To help students find and prepare for the best careers possible using insight that was both trustworthy and accessible, The University of Melbourne turned to Lightcast.
“Lightcast enables us to access a data source that supports the work that we do, and furthers it,” Dench said. “It’s really important, when building relationships within a research-based community, to have the evidence base to initiate conversations and credibly support them.”
The partnership between Lightcast and The University of Melbourne began in 2017. In Australia and throughout the Asia-Pacific region, Labour Insight is the primary software tool for delivering Lightcast data (similar to Analyst in the US), and the Careers and Employability service in Melbourne uses it to produce custom reports on specific skills and occupations.
“I've been familiar with the company and with its tools for a long time,” said Murray Dixon, who had worked in consulting before joining the Careers and Employability team.
“When I joined as a Careers Specialist at The University of Melbourne, and heard that we had a Lightcast license, I was very excited. And so I took the bull by the horns and developed what we call Study Area Reports.”
For most undergraduate majors and postgraduate degrees at the University, Labour Insight can show which jobs are out there for graduates, which employers are hiring, skills required, and trends in job count numbers. Every January, Dixon runs new reports based on the preceding year’s data—and since using the reports, his team has seen increased engagement from students thinking about career planning throughout their time studying.
“I've put together 115 of these reports for different majors and degrees at The University of Melbourne, and they're housed on our employment-integrated platform for students to access at any time,” Dixon said. “They've proved to be wonderful conversation starters in career and other future-focussed appointments…Students love knowing that they can access a resource that is more or less tailored to them, so that's what we try to do with these reports.”
Besides being used in individual conversations and guidance, the reports are also valuable in providing a broader outlook to a cohort of students—which also provides quantifiable results. One example is a series of workshops with undergraduates pursuing Bachelor of Arts degrees. Because the University’s broad undergraduate curriculum fosters critical thinking skills and an enquiring mindset it can present students with many and varied options, not always vocationally explicit, and students can be unsure or take longer to set their goals and align to their studies.
When the workshops began, 36% of the students in the workshop group reported being in the ‘Discover’ phase of career readiness—where they don’t really know what they’re going to do and haven’t started yet. But over the course of the program, University staff introduced them to the Study Area Reports to help spark and focus their career goals. After the workshop series, 14% of those students had progressed their career readiness to the next phase.
“It’s about finding information and presenting insights that make sense to students,” Dench said. “It opens up opportunities for students to think a bit further about their choices in detail, what they want to achieve, and where they want to go.”
At a time when career services are under pressure to provide results amid a fast-changing world of work, Lightcast insight allows The University of Melbourne to utilise best-in-class, defensible data so that the Careers and Employability team shows quantifiable value.
Most importantly, findings in the data help connect students to their right careers, and shows them how to get there.
“When a student wants to meet with me to discuss, ‘I really want to do this job, but I need to know more about it. How can I get there? What does the future look like?’ that's when those snapshots have been really valuable,” Dixon said. “I share my screen and show them: ‘Okay, let's look it up. Here are the insights.’ They are typically delighted, because it’s exactly what they’re looking for.”
"Lightcast makes it easy for students to understand and identify some immediate steps, or narrow their fit and goals. It also helps us target, design, and personalise our communications and our interventions for students."
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