Careers in everyday industries: Potential benefits of increased visibility

Funding body: The Australian Government’s National Careers Institute

Research team: Erica Smith and Andy Smith (RAVE research group, Federation University), Richard Robinson and Victor Callan (University of Queensland), Darryn Snell (RMIT University), Antonella Sterrantino (SkillsIQ Service Skills Organisation) and Silvia Munoz (Skills IQ Service Skills Organisation).

The National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NVCER) is also participating, contributing analysis of relevant LSAY (Longitudinal Survey of Australian Youth), and TVA (Total VET Activity) data on students and courses.

This project is funded by the National Careers Institute for $151,679, plus in-kind contributions from the project partners. It was one of only 13 projects awarded from 600 applications to the first round of the National Careers Institute’s Partnership Grants Program.

Rationale: Retail and hospitality industries employ around 20 per cent of the Australian workforce, operating throughout Australia, yet the industries suffer from low prestige. This historically low perception discourages people from imagining worthwhile careers in those sectors, and can contribute to poor self-image for those working in the industries. Yet the COVID-19 crisis has shown just how vital both of these sectors are for the Australian public and the national economy. They are recognised internationally as low-status occupations which have become more valued during the crisis.

Aim: The team believes that with a better understanding of available careers, young people could be better advised by schools and universities, and workers already in those industries would experience higher self esteem and would be able to advance their careers. The project focuses on investigating and publicising available career paths, as well as on the reasons for poor public perceptions among various stakeholder groups.

Method: There are four phases, as follows:

  • Preparatory phase (2021): Analysis of publicly available data sets, such as ABS and ‘On Track’, and further analysis of relevant data from three previous RAVE research projects.
  • First fieldwork phase (2021): Interviews with industry stakeholders, company case studies, academic experts and a survey of careers advisers.
  • Second fieldwork phase (2022): Focus groups with young people in schools and tertiary institutions, a survey of the general public, and an international comparison with Germany and Switzerland.
  • Meta-analysis and validation (2022): Meta-analysis of data from all phases, validation by the Wholesale and Retail and Tourism, Travel and Hospitality Industry Reference Committees, production of targeted documents for careers seekers, careers advisors, careers influencers, employers, and policy makers

This project was the main story in a webinar for National Skills Week 2021. The webinar, featuring Erica Smith the project manager, also included speakers who are national figures in the retail and hospitality industries. It can be seen at

From the preparatory phase of the project a paper on the analysis of the publicly available data sets was written: ‘Employment and training in everyday industries: What public data tell us’. This was published in the AVETRA magazine ‘Research Today’.  Read the paper (pdf, 232KB)

A progress report, produced in July 2022, on the first fieldwork phase of the project is available. Progress Report (pdf, 120kb)

We welcome enquiries about the project. Please contact Erica Smith at or 03-5327 9665.