Rural pathways advising and social justice: Challenges and influences on advisors

Year: 2019

Author: Fuqua, Melyssa

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In a time when many rural communities are facing economic uncertainty and the world of work is rapidly changing, careers education and pathways advising is becoming increasingly important. Pathways advisors are meant to assist students in successfully transitioning from school to work. In a rural school, this role becomes a potentially influential and powerful position as their advice may affect not only their students’ futures, but that of the local workforce and so the community’s sustainability. However, there is relatively little known about the work these advisors do in schools such as the support they may receive, their preparation and ongoing professional learning, and the various tasks and responsibilities of the role. With renewed calls for rural students to be better prepared for their transition to work (see Independent Review of Regional, Rural and Remote Education- Final Report,2018) and the ongoing restructuring of rural Australian communities, it seems timely to explore the role of these advisors.

This paper is based on the findings of a PhD study using narrative inquiry into the experiences of six rural Victorian careers advisors. Participants reflected on the various aspects of their role and their narratives were explored through a conceptual framework using Reid et al.’s (2010) rural social space model and Cuervo’s (2016) pluralised conceptualisation of social justice in rural schools. A number of issues of social justice were highlighted that affected the work of the advisors which may impact how careers advising is understood, enacted, and supported in rural communities. Some of these issues included lack of sufficient/relevant resources for rural students and their advisors; the frequent need for students to relocate to cities or larger towns for work or study and the impact of this on rural communities; and a lack of respect and understanding of advisors’ work. Implications of this research include the need for more professional learning opportunities for pathways advisors that are tailored to suit their community. There is also a need for greater communication between pathway advisors, families, and their wider local community about the changing nature of work facing their youth.


Cuervo, H. (2016). Understanding social justice in rural education. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Reid, J., Green, B., Cooper, M., Hastings, W., Lock, G., & White, S. (2010). Regenerating rural social space? Teacher education for rural-regional sustainability. Australian Journal of Education, 54(3), 262-276.