What help should schools provide with careers?

What schools are required to do with careers education, and who can help and support students.

What are schools required to do?

Schools are required to provide appropriate career education from Year 7 upwards. Schools also need to ensure that young people who are at risk of leaving school early have the necessary skills for work.

Students will have access to career education and guidance in their school. The ultimate goal is for young people to leave school with:

  • a developed sense of self-awareness
  • an awareness of opportunities
  • the ability to make decisions and plans
  • the ability to take action.

Who can help students?

Secondary schools receive a Career Information Grant, which is based on their decile rating (the socio-economic area the school is in) and the number of students. The lower the decile, the more funding a school receives.

Each school usually has a career adviser, and some schools have a career department. This depends on the size of the school and the school's commitment to career education.

Career advisers

A career adviser’s duties might include:

  • helping students choose subjects
  • talking to students about careers
  • working with students for specific purposes (such as CV and interview preparation or how to look for jobs)
  • ensuring career-related information is easily accessible to students
  • helping students use tools and resources to find a career
  • being involved with career-related activities in the classroom
  • organising career events (for example, career evenings or trips to career expos)
  • working with teaching and guidance staff
  • compiling student reports for other agencies (such as university hostels)
  • helping students with work experience placements.

Career advisers may be full time or this work may be part of a teacher's role.

Guidance counsellors

A guidance counsellor might help with:

  • career planning and advice
  • advice about a student's life at school
  • advice about a student's life outside of school.

Guidance counsellors may talk to students and parents.


In most schools, each year level will have a dean. A dean’s responsibilities vary from school to school, but they generally include:

  • helping meet students’ needs
  • helping students stay on track
  • assisting with subject choices
  • some guidance
  • disciplining students
  • being involved with external exam requirements.

Subject teachers

Subject teachers usually make themselves available to talk to students about their progress, what subjects to consider for the following year and how subjects relate to the world of work.


Other forms of school support for students might include:

  • a mentoring programme, where Year 13 students act as mentors for Year 9 students. The programme is aimed at assisting students with the transition to secondary school.
  • Youth Service, a government-funded organisation that aims to help young people into education, training or work-based learning.

What career-related programmes are available at schools?

At the end of August each year, students must finalise the subjects they will take next year. To help students decide on subjects, schools generally start to run career programmes from the beginning of Term 3, to allow students plenty of time to explore ideas.

Career programmes include:

Two student on work experience as engineers

Gateway, or other work placement programmes, help students experience potential careers


  • Gateway is a programme where Year 11 to 13 students study and also spend time in a workplace. 
  • Students experience a real work environment and try out a job that interests them while they study for NCEA and industry credits.
  • To get into the programme, students need to go through interviews with the school (usually the Gateway co-ordinator) as well as the employer.

Talk to the school's career adviser or Gateway co-ordinator to join this programme.

STAR progamme

The Secondary Tertiary Alignment Resource (STAR) programme gives career funding to schools.

The funding:

  • gives students the chance to try out possible careers
  • may be used to provide courses at school or with external providers
  • gives students opportunities to try out tertiary education while still at school
  • provides practical, hands-on, work-based experience
  • supports students in exploring career pathways and helps them make informed decisions.
A busy careers expo

Career expos are a good way to find out about a range of careers

Career expos and events

Schools advertise these events on their websites and through newsletters or emails. Career events include:

  • career expos
  • career evenings or days, organised by the school and often involving employers, industry training providers, the defence forces, Careers New Zealand, polytechnics and universities
  • parent–teacher evenings, where parents can meet with teachers to discuss their child's progress
  • subject choice evenings, where parents and students can talk over subject choices for the next year
  • university open days, where students are given the opportunity to visit universities (these may be two- or three-day events, depending on travel distance)
  • visits by tertiary providers.

Trade and service academies

Students at trade academies:

  • study for a trade or service at a polytechnic or workplace
  • study towards NCEA  and industry credits.

Students at service academies:

  • learn skills necessary for work such as leadership, physical fitness and goal setting
  • learn military-style discipline
  • study NCEA Level 1 numeracy and literacy credits
  • work towards NCEA Level 2 credits.

Talk to your school's career adviser, guidance counsellor or dean to get more information.

Work Inspiration

Work Inspiration is an employer-led, three-day programme where students explore careers and experience different types of jobs in the one workplace.

Work Inspiration – developing tomorrow's talent (video – 2.45 mins)


Female student: It felt great, seeing all these people, how hard working they are, how much they love their job. It inspired me more to follow what I want to.

Wendy: It’s nice to be able to send them somewhere where they can actually just widen their horizons.

Ashleigh: Back at school I had no idea what I wanted to do and all I wanted to do is actually get out and get some experience. It would have been such an awesome opportunity to be able to come in and see if it’s something I’d enjoy.

Pam: They can get out of the classroom and actually see how the real world works and I’m sure a few of them would like to actually have a go at some of these jobs.

Male student: I thought it would be a really good opportunity for me to get to know about a business like this because this is a really successful business and I wanted to know what actually makes it successful.

Wendy: They went in with very little knowledge of what a working environment was about and they’ve come out with a huge knowledge, it’s just changed their whole focus completely.

Male student: I thought it would be a good experience for me to learn what kind of departments are in a business and how it runs.

Male student: I’ll probably do servicing because I like the practical stuff.

Female student: I feel I’ve gotten a lot more confident over these last three days and I’m not afraid to ask questions.

Male student: Talking to customers and stuff like that I hadn’t really done anything outside of school towards business so that kind of built confidence up.

Dan: I think it’s really important that we don’t forget to connect the worlds of education and employment. So often schools and employers are working by themselves in their own silos so we actually need to bring those worlds together.

Michael: When they first came in they were shy and out of their comfort zone and it’s just amazing how quickly they’ve warmed up. I can talk to them quite openly now.

Jane: At the end of our celebration event we had one young girl walk up to the CEO and have a conversation about what would be the possibility of doing some work experience here and he agreed to it.

Rob: As an existing talent programme for your staff, this is a way which you can create leadership opportunities, engage them with students and create value in your existing staff and the engagement they have with the students.

Dave: If there is a need for recruitment, if there is a need for branding, if there is a need for improving your reputation, if there is a need to boost the morale of your staff, then Work Inspiration is a very good investment.

Rob: From a community perspective it’s a great thing to do, it feels good and we see the outcomes for both the students and schools as a result of the programme, so I think it hits a lot of markers.

When are the key times in the school year for career planning?

Subject choice time

Subject choice usually happens in August. Find out more about making decisions about subject choices:

NCEA results time

NCEA results usually come out in the second week of January. NCEA results may impact on career choices, for example, whether or not a student can get into a tertiary course.

Leaving school early

What if your son or daughter wants to leave school before Year 13? Are they prepared?

If you have concerns about your child’s transition from school it is a good idea to talk to the school’s career adviser. 

Updated 19 Dec 2018