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From Classroom to Career: Guiding Your Teen's Journey - SE3EP16 - Sharna Dawson

From Classroom to Career: Guiding Your Teen's Journey - SE3EP16 - Sharna Dawson

Today, I'm pleased to have Sharna Dawson with us, a seasoned PDHPE teacher, careers advisor, and the founder of the innovative EDGE Workshops. With over two decades of experience in the education sector, Sharna brings a wealth of knowledge about guiding teens and their parents through the complex terrain of career choices and workforce navigation. As a mother of two teens and an advocate for equal employment opportunities, she's perfectly positioned to discuss our role as parents in supporting our children's unique career paths.

Connect with Sharna Dawson:




Sponsored by Skill Samurai - Coding, Maths and STEM Academy | www.skillsamurai.com.au

AI-generated transcript

Jamie (00:01)

Hello parents and welcome to another episode of Parenting in a Digital Age, the podcast where we delve into the unique challenges and opportunities raising children in today's fast paced tech driven world. Each episode features conversations with experts and thought leaders who provide actionable guidance and practical insights for navigating life as modern parents. Today, I'm pleased to have Sharna Dawson with us, a seasoned PDHPE teacher, careers advisor, and the founder of the Innovative Edge Workshops.

With over two decades of experience in the education sector, Sharna brings a wealth of knowledge about guiding teens and their parents through the complex terrain of career choices and workforce navigation. As a mother of two teens and an advocate for equal employment opportunities, she's perfectly positioned to discuss our role as parents in supporting our children's unique career paths. So let's dive into our conversation with Sharna, exploring how we can be effective to ICs in our children's journey towards success and career happiness.

Hello, Sharna. Welcome to the show. First of all, could you start by sharing with our listeners what it is that you do and what you're passionate about? Yeah. Firstly, thank you for having me. I'm a listener of this podcast. I was excited to come on. So I'm a business owner and I help young people enter the workforce with confidence and the employability skills to be seen, which seems to be lacking. I'm a super passionate about helping young people and parents navigate options in high school. And

Jamie (02:26.574)

school options as well, because I think what we're trying to do is have kids navigate a world in a tied system, in an education system. And so it's often overwhelming for parents and students to navigate that and help employers get the best out of young people as they move forward into the workforce. That's impactful. So what, what took you from, I mean, you, you were a teacher in the education system for how long?

20 years, right? So in, um, yeah, was that primary school, secondary school? Where did you fit in all that?


Yeah. High school, high school PE teacher. And weirdly it was one of the subjects I hated the most at school, but, um, as you do, you don't really think about options when you go into them. And I didn't. So I went into, into PE and I was, yeah, in, in PE for 20 years, most of, um, actually not that long, 10 years. And.

I created a really good rapport with kids straight up. I was just able to get on with them. I always thought it was a young person thing, but you know, over time I worked out it wasn't. And I just was fascinated by what do you want to do? These questions all the time that, you know, extended beyond a health and PE lesson. I was really interested in them as a person. So I became year advisor, sports coordinator, all the things that you do at school when you have a really good rapport with young people. And I was finding they weren't ambitious at all.

And it was frustrating. And it was, I was a teacher at my old school, a low socioeconomic high school, and they were happy to accept the status quo. And I too came from housing commission. So I was really frustrated by the kids not wanting to literally move out of the area, not wanting to go and do these amazing things. So I was really pushed from PE to move into the career space. Cause that's where I felt that I belonged the most.


Well, okay. So you said, um, in the earlier response about schools and the, partly the system being outdated, um, uh, what role do you think schools should play in career guidance? Oh, it's huge. It's, it's everything. It's the end game, right? It's the end game where we want our kids to be. It's the end game that schools talk about what their kids have achieved, their alumni, yet it's the most underfunded area in schools.

Sharna (04:48.27)

So I'll give you an example. Um, in a public school, the quota that is for the department is one careers advisor for every 1200 students. Now you go out into industry and find me someone who's a manager who's solely in charge of 1200 people. It doesn't happen. No, it doesn't. So it doesn't exist in private industry yet. That's what we're allowing in schools. So I was fortunate enough to be at a school.

One of the schools I was last at where the principal believed in it, but there was two of us for 1400 kids. So there's kids that are missed. There's kids that fall through the gap. So the bigger the school, sometimes that, you know, obviously the more issues there are, but when it's a small school, you're still looking at five, 600 kids for one person. And you become an event manager. So today in careers.

It's about attending the events. It's about doing as much as you can. And they're pulled in so many different directions. And that's what I found frustrating as a teacher. It's like, I hate, you know, 20 people would come at you at once. Um, quite often careers were seen as the, as the bludge sort of position and that you must just sit in your office and just do nothing all day. In fact, there was, you know, most careers advisors and parents, if you're listening to this, you know, we never went to the toilet. It'd be three o 'clock before I went to the toilet before the kids left, before I ate.

because kids are hanging out in your office. If you have a rapport with them, they're with you 24 seven. Yeah. You know, so it's, it's quite frustrating that we're not able to do the business of what we need to do because we're pulled in so many directions. We don't have the resources and we don't have the budgets. So if I have to get to events, I'm limited with budgets, how I get kids there. So there's so many obstacles in schools.


This is really eyeopening. This is on another note. I'm in a rotary club and, uh, we won't edit this out, but this is, I'd love for you to come and speak in our club because I think that there can be some sort of relationship or synergy in funding to get you into more schools or get, you know, schools, more support in local areas, because this is opening my eyes. This is a bigger gap than I thought there was. 

Sharna (07:07.874)

Oh, it's crazy. So I left. teaching in 2020 because I created a program where I felt we weren't doing it at schools. And to me, it's the bread and butter of what we need to do is prep them for the workforce. That's our job, right. And give them opportunities because, you know, a lot of schools focus on results and kids going to uni where quite often a small percentage of them do. And we just found recently in the news that each year the uni, you know, um,

Enrollments are dropping every year. So kids are going to the workforce, but what are we doing to prep them? And when you've got 1400 kids, that's a really difficult task. And a lot of this comes down to what happens at home as well. So parents are time poor. And this is a frustrating part. Parents are time poor. They're potentially working two jobs to get people across the line, to get their families fed. They don't have time or they're not sitting at the dinner table.

and saying these common sense conversations. So when I created this niche, because, um, and employees will say to me, how is your business like, how is this operating? This is common sense, but it's not because we're not doing it anymore. We're not doing, we're not having the conversations of going, that's not appropriate to wear to a job interview. So I was having employers call me up going, kids are burning bridges. They're not meeting the standards. They're turning up poorly.

poorly presented and I can bang on as a teacher all I want to about it in theory. But when I'm having that conversation with 1400 kids, it's Groundhog Day, right? So kids stop listening to teachers, even though they wear well -intentioned, wear white noise and they stop listening to parents. Yeah. Cause we have the best intentions, but they don't care what we say. My kids don't listen. So 100%. And you can go say the same thing 30 times in the morning.

And then some random stranger might be at McDonald's might say something to their, your kids and they'll come home and go, guess what I learned? You want to kill them. So I thought I have to create something outside of this that resonates with kids. That's relatable. That's fun. That's hands on how they learn and it's what employers want and it's not white noise. So that's why I left teaching and created these edge workshops. 

Skill Samurai (09:30.296)

That's impactful. And there's so many directions my head is going at the minute. But let's, let's start with the role of parents in helping their kids or the role of parents and working with careers advisors or the role of parents working with you. How, how do you see parents in this whole thing?


This is my new, my new mission. I, across the state with our workshops, we went and there's a lot of unhappy kids. There's a lot of unhappy kids because I said, who would, who feels they can go into what they want to do? And.

probably about five kids out of 50 would put their hand up. And I say to the other kids, why can't you go pursue what you want to do? And they said, because my parents want me to do something different to what I want to do. And we explore that and we talk about why. And it's usually because parents are hanging onto old ideals. So they're stuck in a system where you and I went to school and our options were limited and they still think that's the same. Parents don't engage with schools in high schools because it's not cool.

Right. Because it looks really bad. We knew the ins and outs of primary school. You knew what teachers were doing day to day. You were at the gate. You knew you were talking to other parents. That does not exist because kids are like, do not come into the school. You are shameful. Drop me off at the gate. I don't want to know. And we really don't engage in high schools anymore. So you see the parents at year seven, they dropped them off and you can see them hanging around.

Then after a while, a couple of weeks later that dissipates. And then because schools don't function well in high school, talking to parents, they might put out a newsletter, but parents, they don't, they wouldn't know who's reading that or not. Yeah. And schools, when you call, like, you know, you've got so many kids, you've got, you know, six classes a day. You've got, you know, between 120 kids that you're seeing per day. So it's not that one concentrated audience anymore.

where I used to look after 30 kids and that's it. Now I'm talking to 1400 kids or 500 kids. So those odds of those parents engaging in my Facebook group as a careers advisor, I had separate pages. So it was really difficult for me to get parents involved in things, to get them to turn up to events was difficult because school events are boring.

Jamie (11:52.366)

That's, that's really interesting actually. And so, so you're, you recommend that, you know, as a parent of a high school team that I should be introducing myself to a careers advisor. Is that an important thing for parents to do?


Yeah. And I want to teach you how to do it properly. I want you to be the parents, not the parent that calls every five minutes, but I want you to be the parent that emails a careers advisor. If you have a child post year nine, year nine, 10, 11, 12, where we can help them and say,

Hey, I have a child in year nine, it's no rush. He's just really interested in X. They're just interested in, Sally's interested in zoo keeping. So if something comes up, I'd love for you to be able to get, connect with them, but copy your child's email in as well. Yeah. Send your kid to go and meet them. So I want to give parents the tools to say, Hey, this is how you contact them. But I want parents.

Not to be the two I see to be the second in charge. I want the kids to drive it.


Yeah. Which is not an easy thing to do, but I need, yeah, go ahead. Sorry to jump in there. So I'll give you an exact practical example. Right? So I, uh, my daughter and I, she's, uh, she pushed, she's now just finished year 10, but she was approaching the end of year 10, uh, you know, deciding on careers or should I go to year 11 and 12? She didn't really love school.

But she came first for mathematics in the, in the grade, right? So she's got some intelligence there, right? And so we said, said about, you know, with her agreement that she did a careers assessment online, we paid for this service and she did this, you know, psych test effectively. This is maybe what you haven't considered that might be great for you. It's a really weird and wonderful jobs popped up there. And so I reached out to the careers advisor.

And it might've been the year advisor actually from memory. And they sort of, if I say what I felt, I felt though that I was blown off. It was kind of like, we'll figure it out. And they're talking her into beauty school. So this year 10 student, it's not even on her, it doesn't even come up on something she'd be passionate about. And she came up with an idea because a friend decided that's what she was doing.

Sharna (14:14.158)

And so, you know, kids are easily influenced. It's, you know, I want to be like the cool kid in school or whatever's going on there. Yep. And, uh, the school, uh, I support you that now I get the school wants to be supportive of that, but, uh, and this might be a numbers thing as well. This, this, I'm not knocking this careers advisor or year advisor specifically because I don't know the, the nuances of what's going on, how many students they had to deal with.

But you know, the same way I would challenge my daughter in a gentle, supportive way, I would expect the school just to push back a bit. Beauty school? Why? Tell me about that. I'm curious. A hundred percent. Right. And so anyway, that's, but, but we've got to at least try and make those connections as pair.


Well, give me, what's your advice? How would you set about making a connection as a parent with a year advisor in a constructive way?


Yeah, I'd be definitely, I'd be definitely questioning that. So, you know, the fact that, um,

teachers straight up should question, why do you want to fail? What do you want to copy your friend? And we have these lessons and some careers advisors have these in classes, especially year 10 leading to year 11, year 11 subject choices. We talk about your strengths, what you're good at. And I'd highlight to your daughter going, you're great at maths and you know, kids are really easy to follow their friends, but we need to bring them back to what their strengths are and go, how do you think you could apply? You know, where's this beauty school interest coming from?

And what I want kids to do is try work experience in it because what kids are doing, they're having the idea, the friend, let's use the beauty example as an example. They're using the beauty school and they're going, I want to leave and do this. And I go, that's great. Let's go do work experience. And in order for kids to go and have a concept about what they like and what they don't like instead of following their friends is to try it because the studies.

On average today, a child between the age of 15 to 25 will have 17 employers over five different careers. So the job for 30 years doesn't exist anymore in the one employer, which was seen as loyalty in our era. It's now as seen as why did you stay? So kids need to try before they buy. So I would suggest to your daughter and the year advisor and the careers advisor, go, that's great. She wants to explore it.

Sharna (16:33.774)

let's go put her in a work experience scenario. And so that way they spend a week there and it may be Tuesday that she turns around and goes, I don't like it. This is not what I want. I go, that's great, but you need to stick the week out. Yeah. Because that's what we do. We follow things through, but she might see it and see the business side of it and see, because there's a lot of money in the beauty industry.

And I can, if people are getting their eyebrows done every 30 minutes at $53 for a basic eyebrow treatment, there's a lot of money in that. So your daughter might see it from a business point of view. So it may not be a lost cause. However, it eliminates that possibility of, Oh, I'm actually here because my friend, I really don't have the passion for it. So that's my problem with kids is that they're not trying these things and they're not going to the careers advisor and saying, I need to do work experience.

And parents, you need to be an advocate for your child as well. And email and say, look, it's great. They came home. I'm really excited. They're starting to explore options, but let's try some work experience. I really want parents to start to advocate for their kids. Yeah, that's a practical advice. It seems common sense, but it's not always straight up. It's not always in your, in your field of vision or your peripheral vision is apparent either. And it's okay for a kid to take a week out of school to do work experience. Is it not? Oh,

please, the more they can do the better. They're going to learn more at work experience than they will sitting in a classroom, which sounds horrible coming from a career teacher. But it's accurate. You know, the workplace will teach you so much. It'll teach you what you're good at and what you're not. And, you know, the more work experiences that 17, you know, on average 17 employers over five different careers, it's going to highlight what they're great at and what they want to run towards.

rather than doing at the end of year 12, it's too late.


Yeah. Yeah. Spot on. Yeah. Well said. Now I think, I think parents are changing. Like certainly my view on parenting has changed over the years. Uh, you know, it's less about saying, you know, you must go to university and you must get this sort of role because that's more about how I look and how I'm perceived and about what makes you happy. You know, as a parent, all I said to all my kids is that,

Jamie (18:49.134)

I just want you to find something you're passionate about, then let's double down and figure out how you can find a career in that, whatever that may be. But that's challenging still. That's that's easier said than done as well. But what advice do you have for parents who are dealing with their own expectations versus their children's career choices where there may be a big disconnect? You know, this kid wants to be a YouTube influencer and dad says you must be an engineer. You know, what advice do you have to those parents?


It's really hard. It is really hard because I think when we grow up with ideals around that uni was the pinnacle and uni was where it's at and it's not now, it's hard to change. But I think it comes down to our ego as well. What are we willing? Are we with, you know, when our parents were talking to us, did we choose the pathway that they wanted? And if we did, were you happy doing that or did you have regrets about that? And do you want.

You want your child to be independent, successful and happy. So we need to start making those choices a lot early because it's not about you. And as harsh as that is there, that's a lot of the conversations and Jamie, you're if I had parents like you, I wouldn't be in a job. I wish I had parents like you. It's, it's exciting when you come into the office because you talk to me, you go, let's find what they're passionate about. I'm like, yes, we can do this. When I do have the dad that goes,

No, they're going into engineering. It's going to fail because you're forcing kids into something they don't want to be in. So whether you're forcing them in the work experience, I'll give you an example. I had a parent doing, you can do a school -based trainees and apprenticeships for parents that are listening. They can do work while they're in year 11, year 12 and starting industry, which is amazing. So this parent was an electrician, therefore son had to be an electrician. It's a high level of maths to be an electrician and.

This kid just didn't have what it takes. So try to talk to the parent about, let's do the work experience first. See if he likes it. The kids didn't like it, but still the parent forced him into it. He failed was failing every unit at TAFE and TAFE pulled the pin. And I'm like, guys, we need to have a look at this. And it wasn't until everything had failed, this kid felt miserable. And was this dad had pushed him so far. It's just like, not only have you pushed your kid.

Skill Samurai (21:08.878)

to something that I want to do that I don't even like you anymore. Yeah. And they work together, which was even worse. So it's about protecting a relationship and stepping back. And it's not about you. Check your ego. Yeah, it is. And I think, you know, parents need to just realize that they're going to have, as you said, five careers or whatever the stat is.

Whatever they pick now isn't going to be forever. It might only be for two years. If it's anything like some of my kids, it's going to be six months, right? So let's just let them fail because that failure is knowledge, that failure is learning. And, you know, in doing that, perhaps they're just on a journey to figure out what it's about. And sometimes we have this expectation. I mean, I was married with a house at 21, you know, my kid would be lucky to be anywhere near that by the time he's 40.


That's right. It's just a different, there's a different world we're in now. And so I think we need to adjust our expectations slightly, but also kids need to come to the table and also get a little bit more serious about things as well in my view. Yeah. And when you're talking about reality and like, when you're talking about the YouTube, every kid wants to be an influencer and be on YouTube, but they don't understand what it takes. Right. Yeah. Even to content create, they've got no concept of that. So when they're talking about, I want to be a streamer.


Get them to start early because failure is everything. And if they suck at it, that's amazing. I want them to suck at stuff. And you had a, you had a great guy on Jeff Nelligan, um, talking about resilient kids and it builds that resilience to go, okay, I tried that when I was 10 and I wasn't great at it. I might have liked the editing part of it. So therefore I found a strength out of it. So even we want them to fail. They may fail,

find something good out of it. Even these work experiences, I hate it. I hate electrical work, but what I did like is when someone else come on and on the site and I'd love the surveyor. Yeah, that would, that looked really cool. Let me go try that. So it's only through failing and having a go at things earlier rather than later, um, that we find our kids more prepared for the workforce. 

Skill Samurai (23:14.674)

Yeah, that's brilliant. And those jobs give you skills like you know when you say finding something good out of it working in a retail job that you sucked at gave you empathy maybe help you build social skills and EQ like it's there are so many benefits like there's there's no failure it's only learning it's certainly in my view. So what then let's stay on parents for one more question what are some effective ways to communicate so you know as a parent who's you know struggling with their kid they're there and I think there's a lot of

dads and sons, like, I'll just speak from my experience, do this where they then just stop communicating. Like, well, you're not listening to me and all I want is what's best for you. And that's, that's true. That is true of a father. I just want what's best for him. What I think is best is engineering. Yes. Right. And then this kid's saying, well, I want to be a YouTuber. I want to be something else. And they stopped communicating. What advice do you have for parents to, you know, keep, keep the doors open? The conversations.


So when it usually gets to that point of frustration. It's usually because the way that they're communicating has all come at once and it seems too much for the kid and they back out straight away. They're like, I'm done. Where if you have these conversations a lot earlier, start at the dinner table, start when they're year eight, year nine. And if they talk about something and they go, I did this really good thing in woodwork today. And they keep talking about a subject, go, you know what? You'd actually be really good at that. Why don't you consider that and don't always force it down a lecture because kids

will switch off to you, but if you have conversation pieces, then it won't blow up to the point where of going, this is what I want you to do because you've had this idea years before of what they're good at and you need to steer those conversations. But the conversations also need to happen, not just in a conference, a confrontation setting, do it when they're learning to drive. If when they're going to sport, when they're going to activities that you need to involve them in.

You've got them captive in the car, right? That's when you have these conversations and it's not, if you take it out about you and make it about them just going, what if like, what if you could do something that would make you happy? What would it be? And if that's not engineering, then stop pushing it because it's not about you. And when you have these conversations, the kids are more likely to open up. So that's why kids will say, it's easier to talk to mom, not to dad.

Sharna (25:39.662)

because it's quite typical that you have these ideals, but you've left the conversation so late. So start them earlier. That's my biggest advice to parents. Start them earlier and open up these conversations. If you could, what would be really cool that you could do forever? Yep. And I call them curious questions. You know, when you're at the dinner table or, you know, in the car, when that, when your son or daughter says, I did this great thing in woodwork.

I'm curious, what is it that you liked about that particular project? And then sort of just let them articulate it and see if they can articulate it. You're helping them improve their social skills, their conversational skills, their thinking ability, and then say, you know, what would a career look like? You know, what careers, you know, could be in that field? And just get them to think. They might not know all the answers, but they might go away and just ponder that and think, oh, well, that could be a career that could relate to something I love. And...

Just be curious parents, just ask open -ended questions. And I always say this, the quality of question determines the quality of your outcome. You ask great questions, you're gonna get great results, you're get great conversations and life's good.


So let's change topic for a minute. You work with kids in low socioeconomic areas.

And I've got an example in my mind there. There are two kids, both about 18 years of age that I know very well. One's a young student from, or just finished year 10 from Lithgow High School, low socioeconomic area. And then another friend of mine is just finished at King School, which is probably one of the most expensive schools in Australia. Both neat kids, both bright future ahead of them. But arguably there are...

just there's a massive gap in opportunities for these two kids. So I don't know, like, what advice do you have for maybe kids in that low socioeconomic or even that middle tier who maybe don't have access to those resources or those social circles or whatever, because, you know, this one kid from Lithgow sort of saying, yeah, look, I'm going to go into metalworking, you know, I like it. And that could be the best career choice even, mate, I don't know. But this other kid in...

Skill Samurai (27:52.558)

Kings is working in an investment broking firm. He's passionate about that too. It's something he wanted to do and that he likes, but you can see there's a massive gap in opportunity here. So what advice do you have to these kids in low socio -economic to help them level the playing field perhaps, or to get access to resources or access to jobs that may not otherwise be on the table for these kids?


This is exactly why I created the workshops I did because it's not an even playing field. I wanted the same information for a low socioeconomic student like Lithgow High as the same connections that they would in Kings. So I have a lot of employers come to our workshops and employers will say, it doesn't matter. We don't care where you come from. We don't care. But it comes down to networks. I want these kids to start early. And so the year 10 kid from Lithgow, if they want to go into sheet metal and they're not sure, I want them to do work experience a lot earlier. So my...

Public school kids, I would put you through a lot of things through year nine. And then I would start networking, creating student LinkedIn profiles is a great way to do it. Follow companies, reach out to companies and say, Hey, I would just love to come and shadow you in the school holidays. I would come and love to work for free. Now employers. Why don't look at what school they go to. They care about the quality of the person and who's reaching out to them.

So I want kids to go out there and pound the pavement and door knock, turn up to places. Don't sit on Facebook and wait for things to happen. Now the king, the kid from Kings obviously is highly connected, but it doesn't mean they have the social skills in order to succeed. And it all comes down to how do you deal with people? I also want the low socioeconomic school kid to go get a job. Even the high one.

But quite often the high ones are like, why do I need to work? Because they're probably getting money. Maybe potentially that's not always the case because sometimes parents from higher income want their kids to learn amazing values as well. I want kids to work because they earn, they learn so much when they work. So you gain the people skills because it doesn't matter if you end up investment brokering. If you can't deal with people, you're not going to be successful.

Skill Samurai (30:13.678)

So it's about networking and how you treat people because that sheet metal worker may be your boss in the end. And it's all about people skills. I can't highlight that enough. Help out at home. Because if an employer finds out, for example, if you go get a casual job and they'll say, what do you do at home? And the kid does nothing at home. The employer will say to me, they can't even use a broom.

I don't want them. They can't use a step ladder. Do stuff at home. Get a casual job. Network like crazy. And when you're at the, at the break table, don't be on your phone. Talk to people. Find out what their weekend was like. Hey them out about find out what football team they like. And if they lost have banter about it because it's about relationships. Because when you move places, people will remember how you treated them at that workplace.

They go, I remember that kid. He wanted to know everything. Ask questions, ask how they started. Ask, stay behind. Can I help you? What else can I do? All of these things will help you move up the ladder. And it's not about where you come from. It's about what type of work you are and what type of person you are and how did you treat me while you were at the workforce, no matter what your position was.


Some of that's a bit easier said than done. Isn't it like, you know,

Yeah. I'm saying to expect like my 19 year old son's not going to come and do things around the house because he's more focused on sitting upstairs on a gaming console. Um, you know, it's like picking up a broom. Like you've got to damn near force him to, you know, unplug the electricity in the house for him to, you know, come and do something and be contributive.


Um, so I want, I want parents to do that. And this is the problem, right? I have parents who will allow.

When you're early, you're allowing things to happen in your household. So you're allowing to have devices in a room, which is crazy to me because so many parents that come in and I'm only speaking from experience and my 16 year old is a gamer and hates me for it. I don't allow him to have his computer in his room. We have a separate room that he's in and I stop him. He's just finished year 10 and he's just started a full -time job in the construction industry. They need sleep.

Sharna (32:38.2)

He needs sleep and he had to get a job at McDonald's. And I said to him, if you don't do stuff at home, they're not going to want you because I know the manager, the managers come into my workshop and they talk about what type of kids they take. And my son got the job at McDonald's and came home and he said three weeks into it and he said, I hate, I'm going to tell you this, but I'm so glad you've made me do stuff at home because there's kids at Maccas that can't empty bins. Yeah.

There's kids that can't do that. And I have parents who go, they're still gaming at two, three in the morning. It's just like, why are you allowing that computer in the room? So there's so many things that you can do as a parent. And if you have to shut off the wifi, shut off the wifi. Do you know what I mean? Like there's things that you need to do that help them because they have to have all these employability skills because I would rather take a kid in year 10 who has, who's keen and willing rather than a year 12.

You know, 19, 20 year old that hasn't contributed and not doing anything. Yeah. Yeah. So let's talk about those skills then what, what in your experience, you work with a lot of employers. Um, what are the top skills or behaviors that these employers are looking for? So this will help parents prepare their kids. Right. Yeah, a hundred percent. So they want kids that a, that are sociable. So they want, so at home, get them.

Off devices when you can. I have a box, which obviously parents might like these kids don't lock up their stuff. They need to talk to you. So after eight o 'clock, no devices in the house. So when they can talk at school, they can socialize. And so now phones are banned in majority of New South Wales schools. They brought that in last term, which is great. So kids need those social skills. So talk to them at home, talk to them constantly at home.

Encourage small talk. That's what employers like. They like kids who when we'd say take initiative, not all kids are going to show initiative. But if you wired into your kids enough that they have to look for the next thing, that's what they want. They want kids who have done research on the company. They want kids who have done a sport or a hobby. Now coding that you do, Jamie, is absolutely brilliant through skill samurai.

Sharna (35:05.006)

Give them a skill or a quality that an employer wants. So if you put them into sport, sport is going to help them have teamwork resilience. When they fail, they understand that they've got next week to get it back, to get their goal back. So put them into a hobby or something that's going to make them employable or make them happy because therefore they get social skills. So you're improving all aspects for them. Find out what they're good at.

So find their strengths through these conversations we're talking about before. Employers want someone who's good at what they do. So if a kid has already worked out, I'm really good hands on. And through my work experience that I've already tried at school, I was great at business admin. I was great at doing lashes. I was great at that. Employers want a kid who's already tried it. And employers want kids who are self -sufficient.

So stop doing things for them at home as hard as that is. And I'm a mom, I'm a mom of a teenage boy who is lazy. They are lazy, but I need him to do stuff himself. And recently we've, you know, he started in early Jan and say, I, if he didn't get up his alarm, I, my instinct was to go wake him up. And I did that for like three days in a row. And I was like, what am I doing? I've got to stop doing it for him. So there was one night he thought.

I had prepared his lunch the night before and my husband had prepared his work clothes and I deliberately didn't. And I was stressing the whole time. I even woke up early in the morning because it's just our default is to my brain goes, Oh my God, I need to help them. He woke up at six o 'clock and he's like, Oh, bro. As he talks to me, where's my stuff? And I'm like, what do you mean? Where's your stuff? Did you do it the night before? And he goes, didn't you? And I said, I was doing it, but you know,

He was gaming and wanted to keep gaming. And I kept saying to him, you need to get off and he's like, Oh chill. So that's when I thought that's you're on your own, mate. You need to learn. And so he learned two early mornings that that wasn't fun. And so now he's there for got himself in gear. It doesn't take them much to get in gear. So there's so many things that you can help them. That's going to make them employable and an employer will love your kids. If they can do have a hobby, get involved in sport, be more confident and talk at a table rather than be on their phone 24 seven.

Jamie (37:32.43)

 Great advice. And I think as an employee myself, I think one of the most underrated skills is problem solving. You know, being able to figure stuff out is one of the biggest things that employees are looking for over the next decade, because those kids that can solve problems are the innovators.

They're the guys that are going to create stuff, build stuff, solve organizational challenges, solve governmental challenges. And that's why part of the reason I got into this coding and STEM learning academy in the first place. I had done, I wasn't even from this sector, but I saw the same gaps that you see in kids and their employability and.

just the Australian education system, no fault of our wonderful teachers, by the way, I've got to keep saying that we've got some of the most incredible teachers on the planet. It's the system that's letting us down. So it's letting parents down, kids down and teachers down. And, you know, coding, while we do coding and math tuition in our centers, you know, parents come in for that and kids come in for that. But for me, that's probably only about 20 % of what it's about. You know, the rest of it is about.

you know, getting kids to work together to solve engineering challenges, building those teamwork, you know, conflict resolution, you know, these young kids are fighting over who's this and who's that and who's going to build a tour and we're going to build this way. They need to know how to handle conflict, you know, and this process of coding is actually building these computational thinking pathways. Coding, in my view, is the best activity a child can do.

to build problem solving skills. Now I've been an employer. My last corporate role, I had a team of 500 employees, you know, and many of those were the sorts of people that came in and couldn't empty a bin. You had to teach them step by step. Now we hire our educators, the university students and graduates in computer science. And they're some of the best goddamn problem solvers I've ever seen. I don't get phone calls. Like if there's a problem in the center, like they're figuring it out. They're just, you know, moving through it.

Skill Samurai (39:49.166)

You know, and so I think, uh, I'm not saying coding is the only thing that builds problem solving skills, but it's, it's a great one, but find things that help your child figure stuff out. You know, the early, yeah. Look, look from a parent point of view and a teacher point of view, the early you put them in STEM to get their brain thinking, because as sad as it is, our school system, like you said, is old. It's still what we were going to. We're going, we're listening to bells. We're waiting for.

You know, we're sitting in classrooms, we're bored and it's got nothing to do with the teachers. The teachers are trying their best. These teachers are burnout because you've got so many different kids that are watching that have attention, you know, short, a short attention span because they're what they're watching is 15 seconds is 15. How long do you sit on a video for? I don't sit on a video for long. If you have a look at the analytics on your video, sometimes people are only tuning in for three seconds because they're constantly.

So they're taking that brain into education and they're expected to sit there for 50 minutes for somebody potentially who's burnout and they're given up because the system's not supporting them. So the earlier you put your kids into STEM to get them to think laterally is, it's going to benefit your kids so much. In fact, that's how my son got his job through a STEM Academy because he is an outside the box thinker. School wasn't working for him super bright.

Just because they're academic doesn't mean they need to stay in that system. So there's so many things that I need to teach parents. They'll want to go wake up guys. There's so many different ways things to do things and advance your child. And it may not be the school system and coding and getting into STEM is one of those things. Yeah. And a lot of like the stats are scary. I mean, it's something like 40 % of kids are disengaged at the minute in school. And that's for a couple of different reasons. Right. So there's, there are some kids in one end of the spectrum that are.

disengaged because the pace of the class is too fast for them. They learn differently. They're not keeping up. It's not necessarily, as you said, because they're not bright. It's just that they learn differently. And so, you know, these kids who start falling behind in primary school tend to fall behind their whole academic career and therefore start believing they're not good enough. Right. And that's a big problem. And that's part of the reason I was banging on the table saying I need to do something. And why I went all in with skill samurai. But then you've got these other kids at the other end of the spectrum that have

Jamie (42:16.846)

totally disengaged because they're freaking bored, right? The pace of the class is too slow. And some parents kind of go, oh, my kid's bright and this is a win. But you've got to find activities, whether it's after school or Saturday mornings, or I don't know what it is, but you've got to find other activities that stimulate them. Otherwise, you know, we're almost dumbing these kids down to a degree because of our school system. And I have this interesting conversation with parents, this...

They talk about, they walk into our academy and they say, Oh, is your curriculum standards aligned to the education system? I'm going, why do you want that? The whole curriculum is designed to get a massive population, it's designed by government firstly, to get a population to a minimum standard. So you want me, you want to bring your kid to us and pay us to get your kid to a minimum standard? Like we're up here. We're playing up here.

This is where our curriculum is designed to push people outside of the envelope. It's tailored learning. Each kid comes in. We're not teaching the same lesson to 35 kids. That's a problem, right? Because schools are one size fits all. And as parents, we think the schools are doing the best, you know, has their best interests at heart and majority of the time they do. But the system that they produce out, I go into your 12th classes, Jamie, and you go talk to these kids. They are dead inside. The education system has killed them.

And if you have a bright kid and they're not engaged, they will find something that is that excites them. And for guys, I'm not crapping on gaming, but it is, it is exciting. I don't know if you've sat down with your kids and watched it, but my son plays cod of all things. I hate and didn't let him play till he was older and he sits there, but they are so they're not anti -social. They are chatting to people across the world. They are, you know, interactive. The graphics are incredible. So.

You're having these guys that are engaged completely on these systems and then going into education system, watching a teacher ride on a board. How boring. There's so many different ways to learn. There are a tremendous amount of ways. And for those parents listening, cod isn't a fish. It's a call of duty. It's a game. And for those other parents, sorry, I should have said STEM, science, tech, engineering, and maths. If you missed that acronym earlier, it's science, tech, engineering, and maths. So it's the.

Sharna (44:38.03)

Uh, the combination or the integration of those subject areas is what we're talking about on the show. Um, on your, in your courses and your workshops, you talk a lot about parents acting as two ICs to their children's career pathways. What does that mean? Stop taking over. Look, we took over when they're in primary school and that was fine because we needed to be, because, you know, we're their parent and they're only young, but when it comes to career choices and.

And high schools, I want you to be there too. I see their second in command because as a two, I see you're there to prop up the main person. You're there to help my help influence the decisions. But at the, at the end of the day, they've got the ultimate decision. So don't go into parent subjects or go into subject selection and change their subjects. I've had teachers come and do it on their own kids. No, this is what they're going to do. We're not going to do that. It's going to backfire. We've learned that kids, we want them to be happy.

So they need to choose what they want to do, but we need to be in the background and we need to go, Hey, what I want you to do is potentially have a look at this for work experience. Here's an email you could potentially write to your teacher. We're in their ear constantly. We're helping them, but we're not making decisions for them. So we're engaging in the background, what's happening in the school, but then we're having conversations in the car. Hey, did you know that someone went to the Navy base?

Last year, did you know that that was like that might be coming up for your year 10? Maybe you should ask about that. You got to plant the seeds. You've got to be the two I see. Get them to do stuff at home. Get them to be better people. Stop doing things for them. Find them a hobby. All these type of things that you can do and be in the background. And that's what I want teachers parents to do is to work with teachers that are burnout to go, hey, you know,

I'm here, I'm here, happy to support, but I want my child to do the majority of it. You'll see them, but you won't see me. And I think another great thing that parents can encourage their kids to do, and I have a tough time at this, if I'm being honest, is contribution. You know, getting out into the community and serving those in the community that are, you know, challenged in some way, shape or form. You know,

Jamie (46:57.326)

You know, we went out on Christmas morning to the hospital and with a group of people and gave out little gifts to people who were in hospital on Christmas day who didn't deserve to be there or, you know, shouldn't have been there, right? Or didn't have families visiting them. I'm not saying that to impress anyone. I'm saying that, well, it's hard to get my kids doing that. We're at least trying to lead by example so that one day they can grow up to become those sorts of people that contribute to society and that are.

for, you know, the passionate about something. I just, I said this earlier, I just, all I want is my kids to be happy and passionate about something and just figure out a way to turn that into a career and you'll have a great life. Yeah. You know, cause so many kids and so many adults and parents, you can see them even walking into learning center. They're miserable. Like, you know, they're in a career that their parents chose for them, not, not a career that they chose for them. You know, you can change. There's plenty of plenty of time to change. So let's come back to maybe digital age for a minute. Um,

What's your perspective on how career paths have changed in the digital age and what does this mean for the future career opportunities?


Look, I don't see it as a negative thing. I think it's amazing. Like so many people on this point go, look, AI is taking over thing. It's scary. No, it's not. I think it's amazing. And I think because it's emerging and it's something that's new now, it's something to jump on board off. So I want your kids. And I say my workshops, who he knows about AI.

who here can work AI and kids know about it, but they don't action it. They're great on Snapchat. They're great on Instagram, but that's in TikTok, but that's not what really employers want. AI is where it's at for employers at the moment. They want people who can manage emails. They want them to, you know, there's amazing things that you can do. And I want kids to be on top of that and they can do it from their phone. They can do it instead of sitting there.

and just literally doom scrolling, they could hop online and go, how do I, you know, what's agent GPT? Now this is a new thing that I've been hopping on and it's incredible. And if I was, I said to a work experience student that was going for a business and I said, what if you could, you know, manage a campaign for them? They're like, dude, I'm 15, how would I do that? And I said, look at this. Now there's a website called agent GPT.

Skill Samurai (49:18.158)

And it literally acts as a business agent, a publicist, can run a campaign, can write emails, and you can ask it to suggest things. And it comes up with all these different options. So it might be that your, you know, your child is going to a work experience place that is a charity and they're struggling to get people on board. Your child could literally go to this agent GPT and say, imagine you're a charity of a local.

Um, you know, clothing pool, who could I write to and what could I write as a campaign to get people on board bang. And it comes up with all these suggestions. So we don't, kids don't need to reinvent the wheel. They just need to adopt AI and get on board because there's really cool things that it is changing the workforce, but employers don't have the time to sort of sit down and do it at the moment. But if kids are taking this on board themselves,

combining it with coding and STEM practices, it's, it's an employer dream. Yeah. Yep. So I see you reckon kids should get their resume and run it through chat, GPT and resume. Oh, see I've got an online resume course. I'm going to say no to that because the chat GPT versions of the resumes I've had kids come to me as coaching and they're like, I've got a resume. I go, that's cool. Who wrote it? And if it's parents, I want to cringe. So parents stop writing their resumes.

And two, if it's chat GPT, I go send it to me. I actually want to see it. They're presenting these resumes to an employer. They're getting an interview. I'll give them that. They'll might get an interview, but when they open their mouth, they sound like a 16 and 17 year old and employers sniff them out. The recruiters know straight away. They even that before chat GPT, they were scanning them for word for word. So you actually have to match up the words on seek.

There's, there's, they put them through profiles and it pulls up keywords to see if you've actually read, you know, if you haven't copied and pasted, but they want you to be you. So you still get to be you, but have the ability if you need to fix the grammar on things or you need to spell check things first, or you need an outline. I think chat GPT for, you know, assignments. Don't kill me. Parents is genius. Like if kids need a good start.

Jamie (51:38.51)

Hop on there. This is a great outline, but kids are smart enough now not to copy it because they get busted. It's one of those things to go, here's a great outline as a parent and go, let's structure it around this. Don't be scared of it. Embrace it. Yeah. And really the, we've been working with AI like chat, chat, chat BT. It's your output is only as good as your prompt. And that's why I think kids should work with it because it helps kids articulate problems.

And in the workforce, that's exactly what you need to do. How to articulate a problem, how to articulate a solution to that problem. And AI can actually help our kids do that. So very, very good. Now we need to wrap up soon. So let's go to, tell us a bit about your Edge workshops, your career coaching initiatives online. How can parents get in touch with you? How can they work with you? How can kids work with you? What does that look like?


Yeah. So, um, shanadawson .com is where you'll find me. I have free resources there. So for example, what we just talked about how to make your team employable is one of the downloads I've got on there. Um, I'm going to run a parent program soon. That's going to be literally about lives, about how to be there too. I see. And I'm going to give them everything, email templates, um, everything that comes up, all the taster courses, how to navigate subject selection.

All the acronyms, so you don't have to go to boring meetings because trust me, they're boring for teachers as well. And we're going to do them in fun, different environments. So that's for parents. Schools, we have our edge workshops. We were funded by the New South Wales Department of Education until term one, 2023. We went across for three years, went across the state and I created them to fill the gap. So education, deportment, grooming and employability skills. They're hands on days where students work.

with industry professionals, they get their own haircuts, they get free haircuts, they work with hairdressers, makeup artists, we're supported by McoBeauty who help us with products so the kids can take them home as well. They work with a stylist, they get to try clothes on, so they get to work hands -on to present the best version of themselves to an employer. Then they network with employers, with local employers, and it's a filter -free environment. Employers get to say, this is what I actually want.

Sharna (53:52.206)

Don't be on your phone, you know, being on time is late. All these things that they want to say that they're frustrated about, they get to say in our workshops and kids get jobs out of them, which is amazing. So that's our edge workshops. We are looking for support and people to fund them because the department decided to put it to open tender, my unique workshop and gave it to Ernst and Young, the accountants. And now it's gone from a practical workshop to a six hour theory workshops for.

government schools, unfortunately. So we're a fee for service and we're trying to move into the non -for -profit space to get funding for that. So that's our edge workshops and schools. We have those booked. We're going out to Broken Hill. We're going across the state with those this year, which is amazing. And if kids want to find me, I'm also on TikTok as the people's, sounds a bit lame, the people's careers advisor.

So it's just helping kids that have questions when they can't reach their own careers advisor. And I have stuff about, you know, do I go to uni? What's TAFE? You know, what do I need? What understand uni? What subject selections? Everything that they may not be able to approach their careers advisor about it's on there as well. So I'm on Instagram as at Sharna underscore Dawson. Yeah. But otherwise, if you just Google Sharna Dawson, you'll find me.

Good. And head on over to that website because there are some great free resources you can get. You know, I encourage parents because this is so important and there's a massive gap here. Just sign up to Sharna's. You must have a mailing list or something where you can. Yeah. Yeah. If you sign up, you can hop down the bottom. If you take one of the free resources, I can contact you. And if you're interested in anything, I do coaching as well. So I have three coaching sessions. I help kids and we talk about, instead of, you know, you're talking about your daughter having to.

download and pay for them. I have so many parents that go, we paid for it. And then we have, we have these really cool things, but they'll never use it again. I have things that are tangible and let's get you where you need to be. So I have coaching sessions. I have the whole lot on there, but message me happy to help.


Super, super fun question. We like to ask everyone as we close off the podcast, if Sharna Dawson had a time machine could go back to you. Let's say you're 12 year old younger self. What would the current Sharna say to the young Sharna?

Sharna (56:13.358)

Have a go at everything, do everything and don't listen to anybody. That's what I do. Because too often, um, from a low socioeconomic background, I thought there were limitations and I thought I could only do stuff because that's where I came from. And that's just, no one cares. No one cares where you come from, what your ATAR is. No, it's just about who you are as a human and experience everything. Yeah. Well said.

Sharna, thanks for your time, generosity and information. So many valuable takeaways for parents. I know I learned a lot. Thanks again and hope we cross paths again soon. Cheers. Me too. Thanks guys. Thanks for listening. You're welcome. Cheers.