A Whole-of-Rural-Community Approach to Supporting Education and Career Pathway Choice





Careers advice, post secondary education, rural community education


Rural communities and partnerships are critical in career education, promoting pathways into work and further education and training. Families, teachers, and employers all may influence young people and adults who are considering pathway choices. This research aimed to equip these ‘key influencers’ with the knowledge and confidence to have supportive pathway conversations with rural young people and adults. The focus was not on those needing help with education/career choices, but rather those who influence their decisions. We used a Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) approach in three communities to address the question: How can a whole of community approach best equip key influencers to inform and support rural student post school pathways?

Community working parties were established to work alongside researchers to select, trial and evaluate of whole community, place-based, coordinated career education interventions, which targeted communities’ individual geographic, demographic and employment context. Communities were resourced with a local pathway broker and small budget for interventions. Individual interventions and the overall project approach were evaluated.

Findings suggest that rural community-researcher partnerships can be effective in equipping key influencers with confidence and knowledge to inform and support education/career pathway choices. Community partnerships can take account of community assets and allow for interventions that address community contexts. Partnerships should foster community ownership to deliver education/career pathway information interventions that are flexible, accessible, sustainable, place-based, and authentic. This paper sets out a model for partnerships that effectively equips key influencers in rural communities to support education/career pathway choices.

Author Biographies

Sarah Fischer, Faculty of Education, Univeristy of Tasmania

Sarah Fischer has over 20 years of experience in policy research and project management in Australia and the United States. Her recent research interests have been focused on higher education policy and equity, including success and retention of students with disability in higher education, equipping low SES parents to support their children’s higher education aspirations and the governance and processes of the internationalisation of higher education. She has expertise in conducting literature reviews, qualitative data analysis and policy analysis. Sarah has a PhD in Education from the University of Tasmania, an MA degree in International Environmental Policy Studies from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies and a BA degree in Spanish from Middlebury College.

Jessica Woodroffe, Peter Underwood Centre, University of Tasmania

Jess Woodroffe is a Senior Lecturer and Program Coordinator at the University of Tasmania.  Jess has more than 15 years research and evaluation experience, particularly with community based participatory projects that address social determinants of health and wellbeing, and which contribute to evidence policy, practice and engagement. Her current role is focussed on maintaining and developing formal programs and partnerships that support widening participation and equity in education, and which contribute to positive and sustained change in outcomes for young people.

Nicoli Barnes, Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture, University of Tasmania

Nicoli Barnes is currently a Social Researcher with the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture at University of Tasmania where her research focuses on the social aspects of agriculture, climate extremes, sustainability, the environment and agricultural production. She also has over 30 years of experience in education where her research focused on young people living in disadvantaged circumstances and teaching in the area of educational sociology, inclusion, social justice and educational research. Her research and work has included researching with disadvantage people in the US, across Indonesia and in remote Northern Territory communities. She has broad theoretical interests with a focus on Foucaultian discourse analysis.

Olivia Groves, Curtin University

Dr Olivia Groves is Project Manager, National Careers Institute Partnership project 2021-2023 ‘National Career Development Learning Hub for students with disability’ at Curtin University.

Kylie Austin, University of Wollongong

Dr Kylie Austin is Associate Director, Student Services, University of Wollongong and President, Equity Practitioners in Higher Education Australasia (EPHEA).




How to Cite

Kilpatrick, S., Fischer, S., Woodroffe, J., Barnes, N. ., Groves, O. ., & Austin, K. (2023). A Whole-of-Rural-Community Approach to Supporting Education and Career Pathway Choice. Australian and International Journal of Rural Education, 33(3), 82–102. https://doi.org/10.47381/aijre.v33i3.697