Career Development Association of New Zealand


Te Mōhiotanga

Careers Development's contribution to System Thinking. Rebels with a cause.


Date: 23 Nov 2019

Category: Article reviews

Tags: system thinking, design, northland

Careers Development's contribution to System Thinking. Rebels with a cause.

In government departments, the word ‘System’ has been widely used. System appears in the Review of Vocational Education, Education Review and, of course, the Careers System Strategy. Unfortunately, the word System has no universally understood meaning, many people do not see the direct benefits of a System to themselves and career practitioners, generally, have not been actively involved in system discussions.

For us, at Work Ready, System means ‘all the services that operate within a geographical area and how they relate to each other to benefit the client who use them’.

System became an essential concept in Northland due to the amount of economic activity and service provision occurring. Northland is currently considered a growth region and has had significant population growth. It has become so busy that many who work with people seeking education, training and employment opportunities do not know what was available in their own community. That’s not helpful!

Work Ready, with others in our community, believe that ‘system complexity’ was a problem worth tackling. It is also a problem that career practitioners can make a significant contribution too. The daring question we asked ourselves is

 ‘how could we make the system (all the economic, education, training and economic opportunities) transparent to the people of Northland?’

No Pressure!

The solution that we have identified is to produce an education to employment website that cuts across digital silos that exist in our community and try and put them in one place in a user-friendly visual way.

We did not have the resources to cover the whole of Northland, so we started with Whangarei as the pilot area and produced a website that would target parents, students, case managers, business and government who were interested and used the education to employment system.

So what is so unique about this website? The unique feature is how we display the system information, view here. By using a visual program, we can show all the service providers who provide some service to our community. Giving the user a bird’s eye view of the whole education to employment system.


Once you have found a service that is relevant, then all you have to do is click on the visual bubble to obtain further information on what the service provider provides (fig 2). We are not trying to replicate information instead offer information in the form so that everyone knows what is available within their community.

The website does have other differences in that it comes from an all-age all stage perspective. The website contains information that is not just for those in schools but all people who are experiencing any form of career transition. The site has local images that visitors can relate too. The initiative is multi-owned and not driven by one agency (with agency bias). If you want to know more about this collective initiative read here.

What do the people of Whangarei think? Throughout the whole process of the website development we asked our end users of the type of information that they would like to see and how they would like it displayed. User feedback helped us produce our first iteration (wire diagram) of what form the website could look like and then got further users feedback. 

Once we developed a minimal viable product, we took the brave step of taking it to our community to see what they think. We launched the website on May the 30th this year, at teachers only day where 200 teachers were present. We then took it to Northland Economic Agency and their working groups and other groups involved in education to employment. The overarching feedback received back is ‘Yes’ we like it and keep building.

We aspire to keep building the website. We want to expand the project to include the whole of the Northland region, link it to provincial growth projects that have occurred in our area. We also wish to embed digital courses that connects to community activity within the website and socialise the site with people of Northland. We are at the stage of seeking financial support for this to occur.

For the practitioners who are interested in doing similar projects, there are eight learnings Work Ready would like to share:

  1. Be acutely aware of the problem that you’re trying to solve. Does everyone agree that’s the problem to solve?
  2. Talk is cheap – have a tangible minimal viable product to show
  3. Test, be agile, iterate - then test again.
  4. Business and personal resilience is vital when embarking on a digital initiative
  5. Embrace risk, failure and learning
  6. Find your allies/tribe to support you on your journey
  7. Use project methodology
  8. Ask early – how will the idea will be monetised?

To conclude, the word System is dominant within government thinking. Work Ready believes that the System word is helpful and have designed, with others’ support, a community education to employment website. The website embraces System and Developmental Thinking. We have designed very visual ways that allow users to see the players in the whole system. We hope some of our learnings are helpful to career practitioners who also want to make a system contribution. If you want to know more about the project, contact