Choosing a career by Trevor Waller and Debbie Nafte
(Awarness Publishing) R1 495
Choosing a Career is a collection of 10 books that discuss various career options for young people who may not want to attend university or acquire a university degree. The books appear to be targeted at learners from grade 10 upwards, as they begin choosing subjects at school that will prepare them for life after they receive their senior certificates.
These easy-to-read, colourfully illustrated books have been written to provide learners with information on careers that are not traditionally discussed at length in many forums.
It makes reference to the real-life experiences of ordinary people, who the reader can relate to. Topics include, but are not limited to, photography, tour guiding, hairdressing, sales and graphic design.
The books cover different aspects of each career, from individual profiles to what subjects to pursue at secondary-school level; where to receive appropriate training and the duration of the training. Each book also introduces the reader to an occupation that can be enjoyable and rewarding and includes a brief history of the particular career.
The background sketch traces the professions growth and shows its relevance to present-day society. The journey one has to take to become successful in a chosen field is carefully illustrated and the reader gets a glimpse of the different qualities and abilities a person needs to select the career. There are discussions of the opportunities available to go the entrepreneurial route. Each work includes a suitable glossary of terms of key concepts to enhance their understanding.
The following titles appear in this collection:
- computer programmer
- flight attendant
- estate agent
- graphic designer
- office assistant
- retail salesperson
- tour guide
Although the subject matter is directed at learners on the threshold of making important career decisions, the simplistic language makes it seem that the target group could be learners in primary grades. The language lacks the sophistication and maturity appropriate for the 16-to-18-year age group. The books are written in a style that will appeal to younger readers and appear to be written with the assumption that key concepts such as property, pilot, dye and ambitious are not understood by secondary school learners.
While the idea of providing general information about less popular career options is essential, the tone in these books is rather patronising. The examples used of real people in different careers also seem to perpetuate the stereotype that these jobs are reserved for a certain category of society who may either belong to a particular race group or intellectual ability. This is rather presumptuous as some people do not enter higher education and decide to follow a particular career path, for example hairdressing, out of choice. This does not imply that such individuals do not have the intellectual capacity to obtain a university degree. Talking down to learners simply because they may not follow the formal tertiary route is demeaning and unacceptable.
South Africa’s skills development initiatives are an indication of great deficits in workplace capacity. These books do nothing to enhance interest in or encourage young school leavers to pursue careers that would close this gap. Professional qualifications have always received elevated status and the time is right to direct people to careers that do not require university degrees. This will, however, not be achieved if such condescending attitudes, as displayed in this collection, exist.
Nita Lawton-Misra is a psychologist and is the head of the University of the Witwatersrand unit for disabled students