An empirical analysis of factors impacting career decisions in South African construction industry: Male and female high school students' perspectives

Nicholas Chileshe, Theodore C. Haupt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to investigate the perception of high school students on the factors impacting their career decisions and whether gender and grade have an influence on the decision-making process. Design/methodology/approach: Literature review was used to identify relevant factors which were incorporated into the design of the survey instrument. The questionnaire was administered via a postal survey and information collected from 599 male and 491 female high school students in the Western Cape Province. Survey response data were subjected to descriptive statistics and subsequently parametric tests. Findings: Salary, working conditions, opportunities for promotion and lifelong learning were reported by both male and female students as the most important factors, whereas family tradition and peers were the least important factors according to the male and female high school students, respectively. Grade had a significant impact on the process with students in Grade 11 scoring higher on salary, working conditions and lifelong learning opportunities whereas Grades 12 and 10 scored higher on skills shortage and family tradition, respectively. Research limitations/implications: The cross-sectional data made it difficult to generalise the findings. Practical implications: The findings are of particular importance to high school teachers and guidance counsellors who influence career choices amongst high school students. It is likely that teachers and counsellors themselves have been negatively influenced by the poor image of the construction industry. The identification of factors enables the development of viable strategies and balances the social dynamics of the male dominated environment. Originality/value: There are few studies which try to investigate the career decision-making process of high school students in an African environment. These results challenge the factors impacting career decision making among South African high school students and provide information rarely examined. Conclusively, the paper finds that control variables such as grade and gender are significant in the career decision-making process of high school students. This paper contributes to bridging that gap.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-239
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Engineering, Design and Technology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Careers
  • Construction industry
  • Decision making
  • Gender
  • Secondary education
  • South Africa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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