Careers Work in Schools: Integrating Theory, Research and Practice

26/06/19

Catherine Hughes is the founder and career development consultant of Grow Careers. She has designed, written and maintained a career information website for Australian school communities. Catherine will be running a workshop at the 2019 CDAA National Conference.

A day in the life of a school career development practitioner may involve career education classes, career counselling, career event management, career information and resource management, work experience, liaising with education and training providers, subject teaching, planning, assessment, co-curricular commitments, yard duty and staff meetings. It is not surprising that some school-based career development practitioners wonder how they are going to meet the career development needs of every student.

The Cognitive Information Processing career theory model of delivering career services is a triage system that allocates students to one of three levels of career service delivery based on career development need. Research into the effectiveness of different types of career interventions informs the career development interventions that are best suited to each level of career service delivery.

The intensity of career development practitioner support is different for each of the three levels of career service delivery:

  • The individual case-managed level of career service involves a career development practitioner working one-to-one with students in an individual career counselling setting or by providing intensive career support in a group setting.
  • Brief staff-assisted career services involve a career development practitioner supporting several students at a time, such as a career development workshop, career education class or a drop-in service.
  • Self-help career services involve a career development practitioner being available as required to support students in accessing career development resources and information.

This model involves allocating students to an initial level of career service delivery based on their assessed level of readiness for career problem solving and decision making in combination with any other relevant student information. Readiness for career decision-making can be measured using one of a number of freely available tools that are well researched and quick to administer, score and interpret.

Students who are low in readiness for career problem solving and decision making usually need intensive one-to-one career development practitioner support, such as individual career counselling. Students who are high in readiness for career problem solving and decision making usually need the least amount of career development support. These students are often able to source the career resources and information they need independently or with minimal guidance from a career development practitioner, for example, accessing relevant career resources in a careers library. The middle group, with a moderate level of career problem solving and decision making readiness typically benefit from group interventions, such as dropping into a career resource room during recess time or lunch time where a career development practitioner can provide brief support or in a career education class, career information session or career development workshop.

Students are not restricted to the initial level of career service delivery to which they were allocated. In the event of a change in readiness, for example wanting to get a part-time job, becoming uncertain about a career preference, getting an interview for an apprenticeship or traineeship, or simply changing career ideas, students can self-refer or be referred by parents, teachers or a career development practitioner for a different level of career service delivery.

What career development practitioners do in different levels of career service can be guided by what the research says about the effectiveness of different career interventions in making a positive difference to career development outcomes. Examples of career development outcomes include career adaptability, vocational identity, career certainty, satisfaction and clarity in relation to career goals and aspirations, improved career self-management competencies and more.

Not surprisingly, career counselling has been found to be the most effective career intervention in the shortest amount of time, so it makes sense to offer individual career counselling to students with highest level of career development need, i.e., students with a low level of career problem solving and decision making readiness. Career education classes have also been found to be effective in producing positive career development gains, while workshops and group career counselling are have been found to be moderately effective in improving career development outcomes. Group interventions such as these are more appropriate for students with a moderate level of career need and moderate level of career problem solving and decision making readiness. Career interventions that have a positive, but smaller effect on career development outcomes are more appropriate for students with the lowest level of career development need, or highest level of readiness for career problem solving and decision making. These interventions involve minimal career development practitioner support such as students independently accessing career development websites or reading career information materials.

This differentiated career service delivery model enables schools to meet the career development needs of every student in a cost-effective way by aligning the intensity of career development practitioner support to student career development need. This model also frees up time for career development practitioners to focus on activities such as other school and subject teaching duties as well as allowing more time for career development activities such as work experience, compulsory subject selection interviews with students and parents, career development support for different groups such as refugees, students with a disability or programs to increase female participation in STEM.

This cost-effective model of delivering career services in schools will be explained and demonstrated in a workshop at the 2019 CDAA National Conference.

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