February 7, 2020

Hosted by: DET and Raising Expectations (CFECFW)

Date: 21 and 23 October 2019  Location: Melbourne and Ballarat


Raising Expectations and the Department of Education and Training held two workshops in October last year for professionals working with young people in care with visiting Canadian careers expert, Gray Poehnell.  The workshops focused on young people in Out of Home Care: their learning and the power of possibility.

Gray is of Metis descent (an Indigenous people of Canada) and is a world-renowned expert, writer and speaker on the topic of working with young people who face multiple barriers to careers engagement.

His approach is holistic, grounded in trust and centred on the young person’s context, interests and hope for the future. Gray is widely recognised for his dynamic training of careers practitioners both nationally and internationally and has over 20 years’ experience approaching career with methods that cultivate hope, practical spirituality, creativity, imagination, and career integrity. Gray has worked with diverse client groups including young people, social assistance recipients, Aboriginal people, and multi-barriered clients, older adults, immigrants and professionals.

Workshop Overview

Gray’s workshops assist professionals working with young people facing multiple barriers to engagement to understand and apply a person-centred, solution-focused, strengths-focused approach to improve support of young people in their learning and education.

They help us to identify and apply strategies, tools and approaches to motivate and engage students in their learning and career education, including working with young people who have or are disconnecting from their learning, by starting with topics of interest and relevance to them, identifying their connections to community, support networks and more. They ask us to shift the language we use to engage multi-barriered young people to be more inclusive and accessible.

Key to Gray’s approach to engaging young, multi-barriered people with careers development is:

  • The assertion that careers development should be built on connection and engagement with the whole young person.
  • That practitioners should meet young people where they’re at, and not expect a disengaged young person to adapt to a mainstream corporate careers model.
  • The importance of supporting young people to cultivate hope and “craft better stories” for themselves, to move away from internal and external narratives of hopelessness and futility.
  • Combating feelings of disconnection by helping young person locate themselves at the centre of a network of connections and building resiliency by encouraging young people to see that what they do and who they are matters.

Participant Reflections from this Session

  • The mainstream career model is not suitable for everyone. It becomes a barrier, just like stairs for a person who uses a wheelchair.
  • Positive self-reflection is very useful for people facing multi-barriers because it helps them to embrace the support they do have around them, instead of focusing on what they don’t have.
  • Breaking down conversations and using tools to support a client to find value in themselves and promoting hope for the future is central to positive careers engagement.
  • Skill is what people do and should be matched with jobs that require that level of skill. Skill is not about being “great” at everything.

Resources for Review

  • Slides from Gray’s three presentations: A Better Story, Connections and Mattering
  • Favourite Things activity – This activity encourages young people to simply reflect on things they like, not necessarily things they are good at or activities with a strong careers focus or pathway. This helps the young person with the practitioner to open up stories and reflection about favourite things, activities, people, and draw out useful stories and experiences that demonstrate skill, character, connection and competency.
  • Connections activity – This activity can be used to open up conversations about a young person’s place in the world and encourage them to see themselves as one part of a connected network of support. If a young person doesn’t have strong connections in “Family”, they may be led to see that they do have connections elsewhere – perhaps via a connection to nature, culture, or a particular worker or friend.

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