Career development and the skills-shortage: a lesson from Charles Dickens

McIlveen, Peter ORCID: (2007) Career development and the skills-shortage: a lesson from Charles Dickens. Australian Journal of Career Development, 16 (1). pp. 13-19. ISSN 1038-4162


Download (63kB)


[Abstract]: This paper presents a critical argument to the profession of career development for the purpose of stimulating reflexive consideration on the myriad influences that impinge upon practitioners. The paper suggests that given the current skills agenda in the Australian economy, it may be timely to reflexively consider career development practice. The paper uses Charles Dickens’ novel Hard Times and the character Mr Thomas Gradgrind, who was a dedicated educator in a small industrial town set in the Victorian era, to exemplify how the influence of prevailing social philosophies and economic conditions imbue the practice of professionals. It is suggested that there are potential parallels between the practices of Mr Gradgrind and contemporary career development practitioners. Career development practitioners are asked to consider their position in and amongst high level political, economic and educational influences and to reflect upon if and how these influences manifest in their practices.Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle upon which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to the Facts, sir! (Dickens, 1854/1969, p. 47).
So said our earnest Mr Thomas Gradgrind—acolyte of proper education for Coketown, a sooty Victorian-era coal mining town; a dirty old town indeed. What educational principle was Mr Gradgrind espousing? Toward what educational objective was he aiming? What was Charles Dickens trying to say through that tirade of the extraordinary character Mr Gradgrind?
Following from Dickens’ illuminating critique of industrial society of the 19th century, this paper presents a comment on the economic, political and educational issues associated with the current “skills-shortages” and Australia’s concomitant drive to produce a sustainable labour supply for industries experiencing an impaired capacity to recruit skilled personnel now and into the future (Employment Workplace Relations and Education References Committee, 2003). This brief polemical paper raises critical questions about the position and role of career development practitioners in the confluence of their responsibilities to their clients and the broader social and economic conditions in which they operate as human services or education professionals.

Statistics for USQ ePrint 2514
Statistics for this ePrint Item
Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. This journal is available online. This article may not exactly replicate the final version published in the ACER journal. It is not a copy of the record. Final and authorised version first published in the Australian Journal of Career Development in Volume 16, Number 1, published by the Australian Council for Educational Research. Copyright 2007 Australian Council for Educational Research.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - USQ Other
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - USQ Other
Date Deposited: 11 Oct 2007 01:08
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2013 22:44
Uncontrolled Keywords: career development, skills shortage, Charles Dickens, Hard Times
Fields of Research (2008): 17 Psychology and Cognitive Sciences > 1701 Psychology > 170103 Educational Psychology
17 Psychology and Cognitive Sciences > 1701 Psychology > 170113 Social and Community Psychology
13 Education > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130399 Specialist Studies in Education not elsewhere classified
Fields of Research (2020): 52 PSYCHOLOGY > 5201 Applied and developmental psychology > 520102 Educational psychology
52 PSYCHOLOGY > 5205 Social and personality psychology > 520599 Social and personality psychology not elsewhere classified
39 EDUCATION > 3904 Specialist studies in education > 390499 Specialist studies in education not elsewhere classified

Actions (login required)

View Item Archive Repository Staff Only