Last week I had the honor of being a keynote speaker at the Career Development Association of Australia conference held in Canberra, Australia to speak on the integration of career related learning in classrooms in the Cajon Valley Union School District. What a pleasure it was to engage with more than 250 career counselors, independent practitioners, educators, consultants and researchers who are serving people across the life span, across industries and settings, and committed to applying research to bring career well-being to their clients.
The conference highlighted a wide spectrum of career development focus areas, demonstrating the depth and breadth of this important and exciting profession and the knowledge practitioners benefit from when they serve clients in varied areas such as: youth and veteran employment, career transition, retirement, education, life planning, and career sectors such as STEM and agriculture. The complexity of this work was evident as we explored areas that affect career development such as: workplace values, mental health, neuroscience, social media, gender, skills gaps, dignified work, identity, and more. It was compelling to see such a comprehensive focus and the engagement of counselors eager to deploy research and tools to support high quality career related coaching, counseling and learning.
As the lead practitioner of the World of Work™ initiative (WoW), the focus of my talk and accompanying workshop was on the integration of career development in our schools. This was my first opportunity to speak to a large group of experienced counselors about our model, one that incorporates career theory to equip teachers to integrate career related learning in their classrooms. Aside from our development phase, it was the first time I was exposing our framework to a professional community that understands career theory in practice and could make natural connections as to why the resources were created in the manner they were created. The response was very positive and led to many points of validation of our K-12 practice.
As I reflect on this experience, I’m left with several takeaways based on the feedback from delegates and the interest in our work. First, I’m convinced that Holland is the right choice for a foundational career framework. The simple language allows us to frame our supporting tools in a way that is simple, elegant, and useful for scaffolding teachers’ knowledge as they work to integrate career development. Second, I’m reassured that our work should continue to focus on developing students’ meta cognitive skills, rather than prescribing career matching, to support their career-decision making self-efficacy and best prepare them to make informed choices and navigate the future world of work. Thirdly, as I interacted with professional career counselors, it reinforced the early decision to anchor WoW in respected career theories, like the RIASEC, SCCT, The Work Adjustment Theory and Theory of Circumscription and Compromise, that are well known and applied by these practitioners. And finally, when answering questions about our practice, I was excited to notice a piqued desire by many to begin exploring the idea of starting this work in the early grades to create a common language between student, teacher and parents.
Across many points in peoples’ lives, they will face indecision about their education and career. The world is changing so rapidly it will be impossible to have complete confidence in one path or another throughout their lifetime. Helping students develop self-awareness and having exposure to academic and career opportunities during their earliest years, contextualized through career related learning, will prepare them to navigate this uncertain future. Our students will face indecision, but if we do our work well, when the time comes to make choices, they will possess the knowledge and skills to participate in a rich dialogue, where their knowledge of self, their experiences, and their ability to share their story, will help the counselor, teacher, coach and parent to co-construct a vision and path for the individual’s future possible self. Together, we can all play a role in helping people develop their path to gainful employment.
I’d like to thank CDAA leaders Peter Mansfield and Wanda Hayes for inviting me to represent the Cajon Valley Union School District to share about our work. I’d also like to thank Dr. Peter McIlveen and the team at ACCELL Research for their encouragement and support. I look forward to exploring ways to collaborate in the future.