Mitacs grant helps StFX, IORE look at career perceptions of Nova Scotia middle school students

A new research study from the Institute for Ocean Research Enterprise (IORE) and the StFX Faculty of Education is looking to shed light on the career perceptions and intentions of Nova Scotia junior high school students, including perceptions on several emerging regional sectors.

Dr. Sherry Scully, IORE’s Director of Learning and Organizational Development, and StFX education professor Dr. Katarin MacLeod received a $15,000 Mitacs Accelerate grant to employ StFX education PhD student Laura Stiles-Clarke to analyze and recap results from a survey conducted with Grades 6-9 students across Nova Scotia.
The grant comes under the Mitacs Accelerate Program, which connects graduate students and postdoctoral fellows with companies through short-term research projects. Mitacs is a national not-for-profit organization that facilitates collaboration between academia and industry, government and other organizations.
“It’s been a wonderful partnership, and in some ways a model, in that academia and industry can work together to accomplish something for the good of the entire province,” Dr. MacLeod says.
Having both academia and industry work together on the research lends an added layer to the results, adds Dr. Scully, who brought the idea of a partnership to StFX.
Dr. Scully says the idea for the project was born out of earlier research she had completed, and a desire to look further into career literacy, to explore what young people are thinking about in terms of general career interests, and specifically about careers in the region and in the marine industry and skilled trades.
The researchers wanted to survey younger students still enrolled in general science courses to gain insight into when and how career perceptions are formed, she says.
Drs. Scully and MacLeod worked together to launch the pilot study, and working with the StFX Research Grants Office, put together the proposal for Mitacs.
“StFX has been endeavouring to expand its working relationship with Mitacs. This Accelerate Award is an excellent opportunity for one of our doctoral students in education to gain valuable applied experience in the industry and government sectors. We are also delighted to partner with the Institute for Ocean Research Enterprise on this cutting-edge study of young science students’ perceptions of career opportunities in Nova Scotia,” says John Blackwell, Director of StFX’s Research Grants Office.
In January, in partnership with the Nova Scotia Department of Education and Early Childhood, the researchers launched the Student Intentions and Perceptions survey in all English, French, and Mi’kmaq school boards across the province. The survey received almost 14,500 responses, nearly a 40 per cent response rate.
Dr. Scully says results could provide insights into the perceptions of careers in trades and technology, engineering, ocean sciences and marine careers, and the factors that influence these perceptions as well as key times for career counselling and awareness and exposure programs.
Ms. Stiles-Clarke says it’s been a wonderful opportunity for her to work on this research.
“It’s brought a whole other dimension to my learning,” she says, noting the networking and learning opportunities created.
“It’s been hugely valuable for me to develop my research skills. It also opened up new knowledge that wouldn’t have happened without the grant,” she says.
The project has produced several reports, including an industry report that has been presented to the Nova Scotia Department of Education. Dr. MacLeod says they believe the project has the potential for multiple journal articles as well as conference presentations and a later follow-up study.

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