At a recent Careers Road Show a young learner stood for a very long time staring at the banner advertising the new Xela College of Design Interior Design course which launches in 2016, which is also when our Stellenbosch campus opens. Finally I asked if I could help her. She turned her gaze to me. “If I study this, what kinds of careers can I expect to go into?” The million dollar question! It was then that I realized how many of our learners are just not aware of what careers are available to them when they leave the school yard and head out into the wild blue yonder. Even those studying fashion design with us focus on starting their own business, designing clothes for celebrities! An international fashion diploma can open many doors – if you know where to find those doors. At all the Careers Road Shows we participate in each year, it’s mostly the tertiary education institutions that are represented. Which is fantastic, as it gives the learners an idea of what’s available. Yet the hard reality is that many learners either cannot afford tertiary studies or simply do not have the ability/personality to study further. So my question is, where are the Municipalities, medical companies, construction companies, IT companies, automotive sector and the big corporations, desperately in need of technicians and young people willing to undergo internships and training directly with them? Why are we not seeing them at the Careers Road Shows? What about plumbers, electricians, mechanics? These are highly profitable own businesses. But they are “not cool”. Everyone seems focused on being brain surgeons, doctors, engineers and lawyers. We don’t need a country filled with brain surgeons, lawyers and engineers. We also need the clerks, the receptionists, the switchboard operators and yes, the shelf packers. Employees and business owners who take pride in the work they do and their place in society.

In fashion we need people who can do detailed, minute hand sewn beading that can take hours. Illustrators, shoe and hat makers, stylists and bloggers – the career options are endless. Our students soon find out that the foundation work of their first year of study is anything but glamorous! It can seem boring and repetitive and yet it’s crucial. It’s the same with most chosen careers – there are years of hard slog before one can reap the rewards.

With the Internet and Google there is no excuse not to cast the net wider and explore all options in a chosen field of interest. There are more young people job-hunting clutching a sheaf of diplomas and certificates than ever before. Maybe the time has come to look at this differently, to seek ways to give our learners wider career choices and options; help them develop a “Plan B” if that glittering “Plan A” doesn’t come to fruition. Work with parents to help their children – the future of our country – choose the path and the career that is best suited to them as individuals.

At Xela, we regularly see students struggling because their expectations of what a fashion design career is all about is so very different to the reality of achieving it, and what’s involved. Having a love of drawing fashion designs does not a designer make. We would rather see learners making informed choices before their parents start investing thousands of Rands of their hard earned money, or going into debt with loans, only to end in disappointment and heartache as their child fails to make the grade.

Maybe it’s time to start rethinking the way we do things?

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