Careers Clusters and Industry Clusters – what’s the difference?

Want to know what separates Career Clusters from regular Industry Clusters? Read this article for all the details

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If all this talk about clusters is getting you a bit confused, we have the answers. The term ‘Cluster’ is often used to refer to a group of related people who naturally gravitate towards each other – they ‘cluster’ together. But a cluster on it’s own doesn’t tell us much – we need to know what type of cluster it is and how the people within that cluster are linked.

What is a Cluster?

I should start out by saying that these aren’t necessarily formal terms. There are classification systems for occupations, and these tend to use more formal language like ‘Occupational Groups’, which can make them easier to use for government and policy, but harder for young people to understand.

Clusters are more porous – people can move in and out of them, there may be some crossover between clusters, and they have less rigid boundaries, which makes them useful when we’re talking about large concepts like ways of working that have millions of variables.

Career Clusters vs. Industry Clusters

We’ve identified six common Career Clusters that group people together based around the types of tasks they do, skills they share, and values they hold. These are designed for career development purposes, to help people work out where they fit and see how their skills and strengths could be applied in similar settings.

Industry Clusters are groups of industry bodies, organisations, and businesses which deliver a shared outcome, which is normally a good or service, and they make it easier for governments and other bodies to do things like regulate working conditions and monitor outputs. Because we need lots of different types of people in every industry but not all of these are visible from the outside, it can make it difficult for young people to see beyond the core types of jobs in each industry.

They’re not the same, and they should be used for different purposes, but they each have their place.

There are also skill or job clusters

The Foundation for Young Australians developed Job Clusters in 2016 based on research that analysed job descriptions and grouped technical and transferable skillsets. The Job Clusters are also sometimes referred to as Skill Clusters, but they’re essentially the same thing – groups of jobs that use the same sets of technical and transferable skills.

As much of the focus for these Clusters is based around the technical skills required, they tend to fall back within a formal industry structure, which can make it more tricky for someone on the outside to identify if the job or cluster is right for them. One positive is that these clusters highlight how skills gained in one job could be applied into other jobs, which means that a mid-career individual who is struggling to find work in their current job role could use these clusters to find work that utilises their current skills and experience.

Does it really matter?

Yes and no. We need to use the right type of Cluster for the right purpose, but all of them help us think about and categorise ways of working. Career Clusters help people understand their options and manage their career, Industry Clusters help governments and stakeholders regulate and monitor performance, and Job Clusters help people use their skills in other roles.