“If I can do something to save the planet, then I can find a way. I am not good in biology so I can’t be a scientist, but I can learn. I just don’t know where to start but I know that I want to be a go-green businesswoman.”
In 2019, Kelantan, Negeri Sembilan, Pulau Pinang, Sabah, Sarawak and Kuala Lumpur joined the FINCO Mentor programme. Each state has an Activator implementing the programme. With huge support from the state education department, the activators were able to support a two-day Career Guidance Counsellor (CGC) Training while also successfully carrying out Life Aspiration Workshops for students.
The FINCO Mentor Life Aspiration Workshops are centred around modules that encourage students to think about their aspirations and the current and potential challenges that lie ahead. In Negeri Sembilan, Activator Laxmi Murugan uses the Tree of Aspiration methodology, students are compelled to explore and discover beyond their preferred career option(s) but to also dig deeper and find out why this is what they would like to do. They are also encouraged to share their thoughts and ideas with the rest of the class, as a way to build confidence and interpersonal communication skills.
In SMK Pedas, Rembau, 15-year old student Mohd. Fakri shared his aspiration to be an engineer, specifically with interest to work in green technology. He also specified his desire to work in countries that are advanced in the field as he would be able to learn from them. He received a round of applause from his classmates and his sharing was met with admiration, which illustrates that the students are no longer just selecting their career options and life aspirations but that they are developing specific interests in new and upcoming areas of work. In the case of Mohd. Fakri, his interest to learn and contribute to clean energy production could easily stem from a logical realisation that there lies a need for expertise in the area in response to rising fears of climate change.
In SMK Batu Maung, Penang, this was a similar case when student Thanuja shared her aspiration to operate a business with strong ethical policies after listening to the speech of 17-year Swedish activist, Greta Thunberg. She admitted to not knowing enough about what these policies might entail but has expressed concern and commitment to the cause. “If I can do something to save the planet, then I can find a way. I am not good in biology so I can’t be a scientist, but I can learn. I just don’t know where to start but I know that I want to be a go-green businesswoman.”
Mohd. Fakri’s unconventional sharing is met with a similar yet common challenge to that of Thanuja’s: “I don’t know where to start and how to start. I don’t have enough information.” Even with access to information on the Internet, identifying the right pieces of information to digest and delve deeper into, is not as easy as it sounds. This requires digital proficiency and experience, areas in which students could use a lot more guidance to navigate.
Laxmi believes that this challenge is not only common, but it indicates two possibilities that students are experiencing:
(a) they’ve gone further from hearsay and surface level information to actual secondary research, where they’ve read about the job, a bit of industry information and some news on current affairs. The problem that they face is strategic – that they are stuck when it comes to their next steps. How do they get from point A to point B successfully?
(b) students are sharing aspirations based on hearsay from family, friends, community or on social media from their favourite influencers, but they don’t actually know anything past the fact that it’s a sensationalised job or that it “sounds” great. The problem that they face is existential, and harder to tackle as it is not easy to prove whether or not this is a fact.
These challenges are relevant across all FINCO Mentor states (e.g. Sabah, Pulau Pinang, Selangor, Sarawak) as students are having more and more access to a wide range of information. This can be a positive thing for student development but can also be detrimental if students are engaging with unreliable sources of information that may lead them further away from their life trajectory. By working with CGCs, FINCO hopes to be able to support the building of a comprehensive and connected ecosystem that would benefit students in their personal and professional development. If students are able to receive effective and useful support from their CGCs, this could potentially bridge the gap of information between students, CGCs, and the outside world, which would make a world of a difference to the lives and prospects of these hopeful students in schools across the country.