A Career Check Up for Mature Workers

Mature workers are remaining in the workforce or deciding to return to work after retirement. ACCELL’s doctoral researcher Jennifer Luke is investigating the post-retirement work of members of the community.  This PhD research project is an exploration of individuals’ motivations and career adaptability. How do these valuable members of society regenerate their experience and skills for a multi-generational workforce?

Mature Workers Discover More Options

Recently, Jennifer presented a workshop at the “Career Check Up Expo for Mature Workers” in Ballina, NSW.  The Expo is an initiative of the IRT Foundation in partnership with the NSW Government, and endorsed by the Australian Human Rights Commission.

The Expo included presentations and practical workshops by organisations such as the Australian Human Rights Commission, The Benevolent Society, and Centrelink. The expo was supported by The Hon Dr Kay Patterson AO (AHRC Age Discrimination Commissioner), pictured below with Jennifer.


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It was fantastic to have ACCELL represented by Jennifer who delivered a workshop on “Recognising your Value and Experience – How to Become Adaptable in Today’s Workforce”. When not presenting, Jennifer was volunteering as a member of the career advisory team which provided one-on-one career discussions with local mature-age people who attended the Expo.
“The paradox is that ageing is not about decline, it’s about growth. Ageing creates opportunities and mature workers are not burdens. They are valuable contributors with experience and knowledge to give.”

Paradoxical Psychology of Working After Retirement

The current PhD research project extends upon earlier findings that revealed career adaptability within retirees.  Jennifer interviewed retirees to explore their interest and motivations for working after retirement.  Some of the retirees were aged in their late 70s and had not worked for more than 15 years. But, they were all keen to go back to work and not for the money. Their motivations were more to do with their adaptability.  In June this year, Jennifer will share new findings of her research project at the conference of the Society of Vocational Psychology in the USA. Jennifer is planning collaborations with the Expo’s exhibitors, and other career development professionals and researchers who share common goals regarding the positive future of ageing and working.

For further information about this research project: Jennifer.Luke@usq.edu.au

A full copy of the previous research report is available online: Luke, J., McIlveen, P., & Perera, H. N. (2016). A thematic analysis of career adaptability in retirees who return to work. Frontiers in Psychology, 7. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00193


Veterinary Practitioners’ Career and Wellbeing

Working within the veterinary industry is not for the feint-hearted. Despite the perception that veterinary professionals get to play with cute puppies and kittens all day, the reality is very different.  Veterinarians endure high levels of work stress and their profession has one of the higher rates of suicide—about four times higher than the general population and twice as likely as other health professionals.  Put another way, this rate equates to roughly one every 12 weeks (Hamilton, 2016).  Despite the pressures of the profession, it can be as rewarding and personally satisfying as any other.  My research focused on developing supportive strategies for veterinary practitioners to enhance their work engagement and well-being.

Workplace Stress

Veterinary professionals are subjected to, amongst other things, abuse from clients, compassion fatigue, financial concerns, and the often difficult and emotional task of euthanizing animals (Hamilton, 2016). They are required to remain composed, client after client.  Imagine the distress of putting someone’s beloved pet to sleep in one consultation, only to step straight into another consultation with a difficult client who is abusive.  All this without so much as a five-minute break to catch a breath—they are expected to remain professional and composed without the chance to process what has just happened.

Workplace Culture

There have been many changes to the profession over the past 30 years, including gender shifts, and decreases in income levels and status (Macwhirter, 2002). Currently, there are many job vacancies advertised both within Australia and overseas, and seemingly not enough applicants to fill the places. With the demands of the job taking its toll on many practitioners, there is a need to focus on developing workplace strategies to retain them in the profession.  My research involved consulting practitioners to learn about strategies that practice owners may implement to support their staff.  Here are some of the recommendations from the research:

  • Acknowledge the “shadow side” of the profession. It is useful to have avenues for staff to openly discuss the stressors they are facing. Doing this can help to “normalise” the issues and prevent feeling ostracised or having the perception they are the only one feeling this way.
  • Provide information. Provide an EAP service or the contact details for a qualified and experienced counsellor or psychologist who is trusted to work with clients in this field.
  • Develop a culture of wellness. Make sure staff take their breaks. Taking regular breaks can be challenging due to the nature of the job, but breaks are essential for maintaining wellbeing.
  • Consider other incentives. Many veterinarians say it is not always about the money (from working overtime), and there are other things that can be more personally valuable to them (e.g., time off in lieu, a rotation system for working overtime, or small gifts that mean taking time out, such as a movie voucher).

Staff retention is more important than ever in the veterinary industry.  Fostering a healthy workplace culture is an integral part of organisational wellbeing. There is a need to reduce the stigma involved with practitioners speaking up and seeking help, so that they can receive the support they often need and deserve.  After all, veterinary professionals contribute a great deal to society and industries.


Hamilton, Nadine D. (2016). A psycho-educational intervention program for veterinary practitioners: learning to cope with being a veterinarian. [Thesis (PhD/Research)]

Macwhirter, P. (2002). A life course approach to veterinary science. Australian Veterinary Journal, 80(8), 454-455

About the Author:

Dr Nadine Hamilton is a psychologist who completed a Doctor of Education research degree that focused on developing strategies to enhance veterinary practitioners’ career engagement and wellbeing.

What Will You Be When You Grow Up?

Recent newspaper stories about career development learning in young children have sparked a national discussion. When is too soon? When is it too late? When is the best time for children to start learning about the world of work and their future careers?  It’s a moot point. Kids start learning about work as they watch and listen to the world around them.  Kids will be what they see.

Storybook Learning

Children’s stories, for example, are a powerful source of wonder and exploration. Stories also introduce kids to the world of work.  Consider the Dr Seuss book Who Are You, Sue Snue? The story begins:

“Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you! Yes, you, Sue Snue.  Happy birthday to you—….Now, Sue, that you are older than two, it’s time for you choose something to do.” (Rabe, 1997, pp. 1-3).

Story-telling is essentially about learning, imaginatively experiencing new perspectives, and growing.  Hearing a story and reading a story can be transformative.  Indeed, people actively think in metaphors (Lakoff & Johnson, 2008) and they experience their lives in and by their unique stories (McAdams, 1993).  There is ample evidence of metaphors in people’s stories about work and career (Creed & McIlveen, 2017).

Sue Snue’s story continues…. Sue is offered a range of exciting occupations for her grown-up self, such as a Canner of Peas and Trainer of Fleas, but in the end Sue decides:

STOP, EVERYBODY!  I know what I’ll do.  I’ll just be myself, my whole self and not you.  I’ll be true to myself.  That’s just what I’ll do.  No uncle or aunt can tell me ‘You can’t!”  No mother or pop can tell me, ‘Please stop!’ I’ll do what I want to.  That’s what I’ll do.” (Rabe, 1997, p. 36).

Play is Child’s Work

Little Sue’s words can be understood in terms of contemporary educational and career development theory. Children begin their exploration of the world-of-work early in life, as early as three years of age (Gottfredson, 1981) and their understanding and engagement in the world-of-work is influenced by exposure to stereotypical occupations.  It is during these early years that they discover–rightly or wrongly–what is and what is not possible in their futures.  Children’s early imaginings and work-related play are progressively transformed throughout the years of formal schooling, until ultimately a young adult transitions from high school to the next stage in his or her career development.

Play is the work of children.  Early childhood teachers use stereotypical occupations as part of play-based learning (e.g., dress-ups). Most of us remember the good fun of playing these games. Despite the importance of the early years in the formation of personal identity, of which occupation and work is of central concern, there is scope to closely consider how early childhood education approaches career learning.  Theories and practices of early childhood education in current university programs for this specialist field should provide for a model of play that is about learning how to engage in the world of work.  But, a reading of the Early Years Learning Framework (Department of Education Employment and Workplace Relations, 2009), for example, reveals a need to refresh how early childhood professionals are prepared to understand the psychology of identity development and career development learning.

If play is taken to be the work of the child, then how should early childhood educators conceptualize work and how should they integrate career learning into the curriculum. The theories are there, ready to be used; it’s a matter of putting them to use (e.g., Skorikov & Patton, 2007).  Given the current media attention, now may be a good time to rethink how society can support early childhood teachers. Attention should be focused on the professional development and resources that they need so that they can get on with their important work of preparing the next generation for the very exciting futures. Would it be too much perhaps to be a Canner of Peas or a Trainer of Fleas?


Department of Education Employment and Workplace Relations. (2009). Belonging, being & becoming: The early years learning framework for Australians. Canberra, Australia: Australian Government.

Creed, A., & McIlveen, P. (2017). Metaphor identification as a research method for the study of career. International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance. doi:10.1007/s10775-017-9345-2

Gottfredson, L. S. (1981). Circumscription and compromise: A developmental theory of occupational aspirations. Journal of Counseling Psychology Monograph, 28, 545-579.

Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (2008). Metaphors we live by. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago press.

McAdams, D. P. (1993). The stories we live by. Personal myths and the making of the self. New York, NY: William Morrow and Company.

Rabe, T. (1997). Who are you, Sue Snue? New York, NY: Random House.

Skorikov, V., & Patton, W. (Eds.). (2007). Career development in childhood and adolescence. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers.

This article was written by ACCELL’s Dr Peter McIlveen. He expresses thanks to his colleague Dr Karen Noble who inspired his interest in children’s early learning about the world of work.

Metaphors of Higher Education: What do they reveal?

USQ by line

Find Knowledge

Figurative frame of knowledge: Knowledge is something to be discovered, or we can see where it is by searching for it.

Discover Belief

Figurative frame of belief: Belief is something you can find out that you did not know before.

Methodology: Metaphor Identification Procedure Vrije Universiteit (MIPVU) (Steen et al., 2010)

Career Guidance: Metaphors Matter.

Are you a career practitioner? Perhaps you are part of a careers counselling team in a Higher Education (HE) workplace? If you are, then every day you listen, support, and guide a multicultural and multi-generational mix of students and graduates in their decision making and planning of their education, career, and working life. You understand that their values, qualities, and varied experiences of life influence their education choices and career plans. You also recognise that people conceive, design, develop, and organise their career futures through personal stories in dialogue with themselves or others such as their career counsellor.

Listen to Lachlan’s story

Narratives are infused with metaphors

Students and graduates like Lachlan tell stories of their lived experience that are peppered with dreams and aspirations. Through these narratives they convey their self-conscious in language infused with metaphoric frames that organise and go on to dominate their perspective. Inkson (2004, 2006) categorised nine metaphors of career as inheritance, construction, a cycle, matching, a journey, encounters and relationships, roles, a resource, and a story and in later research explored boundaryless and protean careers. Such metaphors may facilitate and highlight or alternatively, bias and obscure understanding of client, practitioner, or both.

Career counselling involves vocational decision-making and this is framed by the social context and personal values of the individual; in other words, their sense of reality or world view. These background assumptions can be examined through metaphor identification. In our research of Australian and Norwegian HE students and graduates (Creed & Nacey, accepted), we examined the language students and graduates used to talk about education, career, and future working life and identified metaphors using the Metaphor Identification Procedure VU University Amsterdam.

We found many similarities, for example:


Here, Kate and Guro talk about education framed as an object/container with an inside and an outside:

  • [Kate] It is sort of exciting to think that I can go out there and change things.
  • [Guro] I tillegg til at vi har lengre perioder ute i praksis.
    In addition to our having longer periods out in practice


Fiona and Lise Helen frame education as an action of giving:

  • [Fiona] The opportunities that study is giving me and the extra skills that study is giving me, it’s opening up more doors.
  • [Lise Helen] Og det gir oss god erfaring i forhold til hva vi faktisk måtte møte i det ordentlige arbeidslivet.
  • And it (my studies) gives us good experience with respect to what we actually will meet out in the real working life.


And, Armando and Magnus talk about their HE experience in terms of building processes:

  • [Armando]I would recommend USQ because there is the support and the environment which is very great for learning.
  • [Magnus] Med bakgrunn fra 7 år i rørleggerfaget var det naturlig for meg … å bygge videre på min tidligere utdannelse.
  • With my background in plumbing, it was natural for me … to further build on my previous education.

But we also found some differences, for example:


Here, Stephen takes his education for a particular purpose whereas Daniel takes education more or less as a means in itself; both involving physical action:

  • [Stephen] In my future, I’d like to take what I’ve learnt from anthropology and combine it with my law career.
  • [Daniel]Du kan med denne utdanningen her ta mange forskjellige jobber.
    You can take many different jobs with this education.


And, in this example, Sam talks about his HE relationships and encounters that could include networking as an active process in contrast to Kristian whose language more passive receipt:

  • [Sam]I’ve just learnt so much here and have made lots of good friends
  • [Kristian] Det er derfor …lett å nye studievenner
    It is therefore easy to ‘receive’ new study friends

And there were surprises, for example:

Interestingly, although we did find the metaphor of A JOURNEY was used to talk about career and working life, it was not a frequent feature of the student and graduate narratives.  For instance, here Damien considers his graduation and Kari reflects on her career:


  • …today is the final part of the journey [and] I think it signifies the next part of the journey [Damien]
  • Min karrierevei har vært preget av utfordringer [Kari]
  • My career path has been characterized [lit: stamped] by challenges

Implications for practice.

An awareness of metaphorical language has practical implications for career practitioners in their everyday communication and interactions with clients because metaphors provide a window to background assumptions and conventions. I should point out that this is not a one-way street; an understanding of metaphor provides practitioners with insight about their own theoretical frames of education, career, and working life. Therefore, when we talk about education in terms of physical motion (i.e.., EDUCATION IS AN ACTION), learning and teaching can be understood as involving a human action of providing someone with something that is taken and becomes EDUCATION IS A POSSESSION.

In our examples, a human action served as the frame of a metaphorical giving and taking scenario. Here, the entity of a university and/or the even more abstract entity of education is ‘performing’ the action of giving EDUCATION AS A RESOURCE. The ‘resource’ being provided to the student for their ‘possession’ is an opportunity and experience that they will be able to apply to their future career development and working life. As a career counsellor, consider the different entailment’s of EDUCATION IS AN ACTION (i.e., A POSSESSION or A RESOURCE). It it is important to be aware that metaphors may be expressed, reflected, or reinforced by those in positions of power or authority. This has implications for our own career guidance communication.  For instance, explicitly highlighting such a difference may prove beneficial in situations involving career guidance, as a student could be prompted to consciously reflect upon their reasons for enrolling in a particular program and the future utility of their degree.

Given the internationalisation of higher education, we propose that metaphor identification and conceptual analysis should be introduced to career counselling and guidance literature to help practitioners explore and understand the student and graduate narrative (and their own) leading from education to career development and working life.

Forthcoming publication: Creed, A., & Nacey, S. L. (accepted). An investigation of metaphor usage in career and working life: Introducing the MIPVU methodology. In P. McIlveen (Ed.), Radical social constructionism. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Sense.


An innovative industry needs an innovative workforce.  With its reputation for advanced technology and continuous innovation, the Australian cotton industry draws on the expertise of a range of workers, including on-farm workers and contractors, agronomists and consultants, and research scientists, to name a few.  Yet, there is the very real potential for disruptive new technologies to demand changes to workforce profiles of the industry. This challenge raises the question, what is the expertise—the personal strengths, knowledge, skills—that the future workforce needs to maintain and improve the cotton industry’s strong production outputs in a competitive market?

ACCELL and CRDC postdoctoral research fellow, Dr Nicole McDonald, is researching and developing practical strategies to support the cotton industry to attract and develop the next generation of expert workers.  Your input to this R&D is valuable. Please take 5 minutes to register your interest via the link below:



The first phase of Dr McDonald’s applied R&D project will identify:

  1. the career motivations of the next generation of workers,
  2. the workers who are set to innovate and capitalise on new technology, and
  3. the support and training needed to maximise the potential of these workers.

The findings of the R&D will inform evidence-based strategies for workforce management and development for cotton production businesses and, more broadly, the cotton industry.

CF - Cotton on_

Courtesy of Cotton Australia

Many cotton growers are advocates for attracting and developing new talent in the industry.  Excellent initiatives such as the Cotton Gap Year are proving very useful. There are obvious benefits to recruiting new talent and investing in training.  But, employing a relatively inexperienced recruit can be risky. And, transferring what is learned in training to enhance on-the-job performance can be challenging, particularly when new skills learned in training may be lost within a year if not put to good use. These are just some of the reasons why this R&D project is so important.

We want to support growers and other professionals in the cotton industry to ensure their future workforce is the best they can be, and that the cotton industry is the first choice for talented and capable young people making career decisions.


  • Do you work in a cotton industry profession either on-farm, or related to farm production (e.g., growers, farm hands, agronomists, consultants, scientists, researchers, extension officers, contractors)?
  • Are you someone who has been working in the cotton industry for 5 years or less?
  • Do you currently employ someone who has been working in the cotton industry for 5 years or less?

If  you answered “yes” to any one of these questions then we want to hear from you.  It takes only 5 minutes to register your interest via the link below:



This project is supported by the Cotton Research Development Corporation (CRDC).

What’s your employability factor?

Employability key

The Round 2 A-GRADES questionnaire is now live and awaiting student and graduate participants from any degree or discipline both domestic or international. Access to the online A-GRADES questionnaire can be found here. It takes no more than 10 minutes to complete. Your participation is vital for the construction, validation, and production of this personal employability measure.

Project Aim

The project A-GRADES (Australian Graduates Employability Scale) aims to create a career development tool specific to the Australian higher education context. Now under construction by the R&D team at ACCELL, A-GRADES is designed for students and graduates, university personnel (e.g., career practitioners, work-integrated learning specialists), and researchers across academic fields. The project is funded by Graduate Careers Australia as part of GCA’s Graduate Research Program.

A-GRADES Data Collection-Round 2: Validation of the measure

Cross area, pan-university collaboration is vital for the three sequential stages–Round 1, 2, and 3–of national data collection. In Round 1 questionnaire, almost 700 domestic and international students and graduates from around Australia participated. We are now conducting the Round 2 questionnaire where data collection concerns the validation of the measure. The national breadth of the study will ensure that sampling accounts for age, discipline, gender, and other data that may be used to test for measurement invariance and assure normative representation where practicable.

The project has received ethical clearance from the host institution, University of Southern Queensland. We thank you in advance for your support of this important project and facilitation of participation by students, graduates, and other interested persons. We will provide regular updates on the ACCELL website about the project A-GRADES and professional development opportunities.

Teachers Teach for the Futures of Australian Students

School of Teacher Education and Early Childhood - University of Southern Queensland

Beginning in the early years of childhood education though to senior years in high school, students are learning about the world of work and careers.  And teachers are leading students’ learning about their futures.  When it comes to career development learning in schools, teachers provide crucial learning experiences that expand their students’ imaginations and possibilities. Despite their obvious importance, teachers’ expertise in career development learning is pretty much unknown.  ACCELL doctoral researcher, Greg Souvan, is exploring teacher’s interest and knowledge of career development learning that occurs in mainstream subject classes.

Career Learning in Mainstream Subjects

The primary focus of the research is to investigate mainstream teachers’ beliefs about teaching career development concepts within their classes in secondary schools. The findings of this research should heighten education departments’ awareness of career development learning in schools.  Also, the findings will inform professional development for teachers in the future.

Teachers may have high self-efficacy beliefs when teaching in their specialist subject area.  However, many secondary school teachers without qualifications or professional development in career development studies are asked to take a career education class.  This research project is exploring teachers’ beliefs about their pedagogical expertise and their perspective on career development activities in subject classes.

The participants involved in this research are secondary school teachers.  It does not matter if they have taught or have not taught a specific career education class. The research is exploring a mix of perspectives from different teachers.

Tell Us What You Believe

We want to support teachers who are doing great work in their classrooms and schools.  If you are a teacher, please complete an online survey that should take about 5-10 minutes. Click on the link here to access the anonymous survey: http://www.createsurvey.com/s/lFjVMl/

If you know a teacher then please share this article. You can use the share buttons to spread the word through twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

By completing or sharing the survey, you will help us to discover more about what teachers want to learn to do their important work to inspire students. Please accept our thanks for your support of the project.
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Philosophical Considerations on Employability: That Matrix of Person, Context, and Relationships in the World of Work.

Employability is Not…

  • a shopping list of knowledge, and cognitive and behavioural skills; or
  • the probability of getting a job; or
  • owned by government or industry.

Employability is…

  • person-centred; and
  • context-sensitive; and
  • relational.

Employability is Person-Centred

Employability is a psychological construct comprising a mixture of dispositional traits, characteristic adaptations, and personally definitive life stories that are meaningful to identity construction, among social relationships, and within economic contexts related to work.  As a construct, employability is an intangible notion that is reflected in a person’s behaviour.  One cannot observe employability directly but one can observe its personalized expression in traits, adaptations, and stories in context.

  • Dispositional traits are relatively stable feature of a person are associated with specific behaviours.  Conscientiousness, for example, is a dispositional trait that is observed as a person’s active dedication to tasks and high levels of productivity in work.
  • Characteristic adaptations are relatively flexible and can be learned and developed over time and with experience.  Self-efficacy, for example, is an adaptation that comprises a person’s beliefs about ability to perform a certain task.  Self-efficacy can be learned by quality experiential learning, observational learning, persuasion, and positive emotional experiences.
  • Life stories are the definitive quality of an individual.  No one person has the same life stories; these are the quintessential narratives that make a person a truly indivisible individual.  A person’s life stories engage their past, present, and future, and, moreover, these stories are created in relation to past, present, and future with other people. The themes within a person’s stories make meaning from traits, adaptations, and experiences in the world.  Dispositional traits, characteristic adaptations, and life stories underpin an individual’s employment-related contemplation, decision-making, and actions toward attaining and maintaining a desired volume and type of work.

Employability is Context Sensitive

Employability is context-sensitive and can be understood within a turbulent confluence of factors that influence any given individual’s chances of working. An individual may enjoy great opportunities in one context but very few in another context, at another time, or another place. For example, a person who is qualified to practice a profession or trade in one country may not be in another.  Employability affects a person’s volition to engage with the new context.  In the context of a manufacturing plant redesign and restructure, a person trained in the mechanical operation of one machine requires the conscientiousness, self-efficacy, and meaningful reasons to actively engage in learning activities that enable the transfer of present expertise to another machine requiring additional expertise.

Employability may motivate an individual to acquire certain items on the shopping list of knowledge and skills that are in demand and, thereby, increase the probability of employment.  Thus, employability is reflected in an individual’s contemplation, decision, and actions to evolve as a person by acquiring additional knowledge and skills.  Employability is not the knowledge and skills per se; it is the propensity to understand their personal value and act toward their acquisition for deployment in a specific context.

Context and access to resources in context (e.g., knowledge, finances) may foster or inhibit a person’s employability.  For example, knowing how to acquire and critically appraise information about the world of work (e.g., job market requirements) is dependent on knowledge of context.  Furthermore, discovering information about affordable training and being able to afford it may be attractive to one person who recognizes the potential to personally benefit from the training; but, the same training may be inappropriate to the aspirations and volition of another person.

Employability is reflected in an individual’ characteristic adaptations and narratives that inform knowing the difference between what is appropriate and inappropriate training and, if choice is available, making an informed and meaningful decision and taking actions that benefit the individual. Inappropriate training is that which is irrelevant to an individual’s aspirations and goals that distinguish personal narratives.  Consider, for example, those workplaces in which staff are directed to take mandatory training in some particular topic that is essentially irrelevant to the person’s aspirations and goals, and failure to complete the training results in penalties such as withholding salary increments.  Also consider those governments which direct unemployed people to take on training with little relevance to their aspirations and goals, and instead merely soaks up precious time and resources needed for pursuing relevant opportunities, and then these governments impose financial restrains on the person for not completing the training. In these situations, there is no choice.  Being compelled to training by force of withholding salary increments or unemployment allowance is not a choice—it is conscription—and does little to enhance an individual’s sense of employability.

Employability is Relational

Work is done by people, with people, and for people. At every transaction of work there is a relational moment.  People do work in organizations, small and global, and an organization is a relational matrix. People work to provide for their families and their communities.  The ostensibly lonely solo consultant tapping away at a keyboard is producing something for someone. Thus, work and employability cannot be conceived of meaningfully without understanding the relational context.  An individual’s personally meaningful narratives about work are inevitably about oneself and another.

As an intrinsically relational activity, the meaningfulness of work is embedded in distal, broad spectrum cultures and discourses (e.g., at the level of a nation) and proximal, micro-cultures and discourses (e.g., within organizations, families).  Employment and employability–two ostensibly simple concepts–take on vastly different meanings and actions in different discourses.  The economist who is embedded in political institutions, endowed with power to create policies that affect the lives of individuals, cannot understand and talk about employment and employability in any other discourse than that which empowers him: economics.  This langauge of economics extends into the realm of human resources practitioners whose recruitment mechanisms reify the items typical on the  employability skills shopping list: communication, teamwork, problem solving, etc.  Educational institutions propagate this discourse in their own terms (e.g., graduate attributes) with synonymous meanings and equivalent intents.

An individual has little choice but to learn this discourse and perform with alacrity.  She must engage with the discourse; to do otherwise would cast her as an unrecognizable outsider unable to relate to others.  Unable to imbue herself in a given organizational culture by relational means (e.g., networking), her fettered attempts to secure employment will leave her inexorably dispirited. To this endeavour, “employability”, an individual must bring all her psychological resources: dispositional traits, characteristic adaptations, and definitive narratives.  Knowledge and skills alone will not suffice.


Blustein, D. L. (2006). The psychology of working: A new perspective for career development, counseling, and public policy. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Foucault, M. (1972). The archaeology of knowledge (A. M. S. Smith, Trans.). London, UK: Routledge.

Fugate, M., Kinicki, A. J., & Ashforth, B. E. (2004). Employability: A psycho-social construct, its dimensions, and applications. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 65(1), 14-38. doi:DOI: 10.1016/j.jvb.2003.10.005

McAdams, D. P. (1995). What do we know when we know a person? Journal of Personality, 63(3), 366-396. doi:10.1111/j.1467-6494.1995.tb00500.x

This article is the first in a series of philosophical musings about employability. The present article is by ACCELL’s Research Director, Dr Peter McIlveen. McIlveen argues that employability is about self-determination in context. Some scholars suggest that his perspective is too individualistic, that it does not sufficiently account for context, and that leads to a “blame the victim” perspective.  What is your perspective?

Employability Research Teams United

Flag 2

ACCELL has joined forces with the International Research and Intervention Laboratory: Psychology for Vocational Guidance and Career Counseling and Talents (LabOProCCareer&T), under the leadership of Professor Annamaria di Fabio, at the University of Florence, Italy.

ACCELL’s Research Director, Peter McIlveen (USQ) and Research Fellow, Allison Creed (USQ), presented an Australian flag to LabOProCCareer&T’s Research Director,  Annamaria di Fabio. The ceremony symbolizes the partnership between the two research teams. Professor di Fabio was honoured to receive the flag brought from the Toowoomba office of Dr John McVeigh, Member for the Seat of Groom in the Australian House of Representatives.

ACCELL and LabOProCCareer&T are conducting research that spans Italy, USA, and Australia.  The two teams are focused on the psychological qualities of employability that enable a person to best use their knowledge and skills in the labour market.

Like ACCELL, the LabOProCCareer&T research team focuses on vocational guidance, career counselling, career development and career management, with the particular goals of identifying and promoting individual resources and developing an evidence-base for effective, innovative interventions.  LabOProCCareer&T finds answers to questions that are important for education and workforce development:  Which factors play a role in career decision-making? Which factors promote adaptive career outcomes? Which factors contribute to the development of intrapreneurship for the 21st century? Which interventions are effective in promoting career and life management in the 21st century? Which are effective and efficient processes of recognition and enhancement of the talents and skills in a lifelong perspective?