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) has also participated, 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.

A short video about the project, produced by the National Careers Institute, can be seen at

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 focused on investigating and publicising available career paths, as well as on the reasons for poor public perceptions among various stakeholder groups.


There were 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 experts in the industries, production of targeted documents for careers seekers, career practitioners, careers influencers, employers, and policy makers.
Project outputs

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’ in 2021.  Read the paper (pdf, 232KB)

A submission was made to the ‘Skills in ANZSCO’ options paper in 2022. Read submission.

Conference papers were presented as follows:

A compendium of ‘At a glance’ advice leaflets for five stakeholder groups has been produced from the project’s research findings. Compendium (554Kb)

Each individual leaflet is available below and may be adapted by individuals and groups for their own use, with due reference to this project.

‘At a glance' leaflet for career seekers (189Kb)

At a glance’ leaflet for career practitioners (187Kb)

‘At a glance’ leaflet for family, community and other career influencers (188Kb)

‘At a glance’ leaflet for retail and hospitality businesses (185Kb)

‘At a glance’ leaflet for policy makers (191Kb)

Project Impact

A team member attended the Tourism Jobs Summit, September 2022, in Canberra. In round table discussions, including the Minister Don Farrell, findings from the project particularly in relation to promoting careers in hospitality, retail and other visitor economy sectors were shared.

A team member co-led an invited presentation addressing workforce issues and solutions to Austrade’s Visitor Economy Workforce Capability Team, March 2023 in Canberra, where project findings particularly related to career choice and deep and persistent structural barriers to the attractiveness of tourism, hospitality and retail occupations were canvassed.

Project Progress

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.