By Skills

Schools play a pivotal role in the career development of students. We influence their values, attitudes and career choices. We work collaboratively with parents, community members and employers to prepare them for the multiple roles that they will have throughout their lives.

Regardless of the purpose of schooling that one embraces – from Plato’s lofty view of creating a more just and harmonious society to the more instrumentalist view of preparing students for work, one has to recognize that all those views converge on the notion that we all want our students to become engaged and productive citizens capable of replicating our democracy. All these purposes include the need to assist students with decision-making and other skills necessary to plan and select from the array of options available to them. Schools must also help remove the barriers that truncate the life chances of students and develop a culture of high expectations for learning and achievement. They must promote equitable outcomes, ensuring that factors such as poverty do not determine a child’s destiny. Providing equity of outcomes is an imperative that schools must uphold.
It is important for all those who work with students and their parents to understand the theories of career development and the strategies that work in assisting students navigate a rich array of information that students today have at their disposal. These theories of career development, are often categorized under broad headings of “trait and factor,” “needs,” “cognitive-developmental,” “social learning,” “sociological” and “developmental” approaches. Those involved in career guidance often subscribe to one of more of these theories. Others adopt an eclectic approach, borrowing from these theories to suit individual needs and circumstances.

Career development must become an educational imperative.

The developmental approach offers a practical approach for career counselling. One of these theories (Kennedy, 1974) divides career education into five phases:

1. The awareness phase is emphasized primarily in Kindergarten to Grade 6 and helps children become aware of the values of a work-oriented society.
2. The orientation phase provides educational experiences which helps students to become familiar with the economic system. This is emphasized in Grades 7 and 8.
3. The exploration phase enables students to explore various occupational clusters, obtain initial work experience and integrate work values into their personal value systems. This is applicable in the Grade 7-10 range.
4. The preparation phase focusses on a narrower choice of careers and prepares students to either enter the labour force or continue their education (Grade 10 post-secondary or post-graduate phase).
5. The adult and continuing education phase enables individual advancement and aids in the discovery, analysis and preparation for new careers.
All of these phases have accompanying developmental tasks to assist students with career decision-making in an age-appropriate manner.

When working with students, there are other issues that one must consider:

1. The issues related to the career decision making of young women. Although we have come a far way in terms of sex role ideology and the sex typing of occupations, one has to be aware that, in some cases, we have fallen behind. These issues must be kept at the forefront as both boys and girls can still be influenced negatively. In my own research, I found that some of the factors that can influence girls’ career decisions include:
– Sex-role ideology
– Role models
– Socio-economic status
– Family characteristics such as parental education
– Personal characteristics such as ethnicity, place of birth and number of years in Canada, position in the family, religion, self-knowledge and exposure to women’s studies courses.
2. Boys also need systematic programs in career development to ensure that they choose occupations consistent with their needs and aspirations.
3. Special attention must be given to young people from diverse backgrounds and children in special education programs. I am often pleased to see many young people with special education needs working in supermarkets and other organizations. Employers deserve special commendations for the support they have provided to schools to assist in the career development of students.

Career education is an equity issue. We don’t want students’ career aspirations or expectations to be limited by socio-economic or other socio-cultural factors. Career education has the potential to enhance the roles and life chances of students and to improve educational outcomes for students in general, and particularly for those at risk of dropping out of school.

Teachers, parents and the community-at-large have a pivotal role to play in helping students discover their interests, aptitudes and dispositions and to provide role models.

Teachers are in a good position to relate what they teach to the world of work and occupational choices. In this regard, every teacher could be described as a career educator. The focus in the early grades is on career awareness and exploration – not career choice. In the later grades, when teachers relate the content of the curriculum to occupations, it also helps students see the relationship between learning and earning.
Much is being said today about 21st century skills, social and emotional learning, the development of the “soft skills,” grit, resilience and character. All of these skills that are essential for career development. Teaching these skills require a cross-curricular, interdisciplinary approach – one that encourages all teachers, regardless of area of specialization, to help students develop and see the relevance of these skills in their career and life roles. Teachers, parents and the community-at-large have a pivotal role to play in helping students discover their interests, aptitudes and dispositions and to provide role models. They must also work with the business community to find opportunities for students to “try out” their career interests. Cooperative education, apprenticeship and other work experience programs have been very helpful in this regard.
Throughout our lives, we play many roles. We are students, employees, consumers, citizens and parents, to name a few. The fulfillment of these life roles is dependent on education generally and career education specifically. Career education can help shape our prospects of leading productive, self-sustaining and satisfying lives. It has motivated some students to dream and visualize their role and place in society. Through increased self-awareness, students can also recognize that they have the potential to develop the skills necessary to realize their full potential. Ultimately, everyone benefits – the individuals and society as a whole.
Career development must become an educational imperative.


Kennedy, K. (1974). Career preparation: Suggestion for teachers. Lexington, Kentucky Curriculum Development Center, University of Kentucky.
Wagner, T. (2008). The global achievement gap. Why even our best schools don’t teach the new survival skills our children need – and what we can do about it. New York: Basic Books

This post was written by Avis Glaze for LearnTeachLead.

This content was originally published here.

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