Vocational Education

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American education has long recognized its responsibility for assisting youth in preparing to enter vocational activities. The implementation of this responsibility has varied greatly; more often than not it has been piecemeal, erratic, and ineffective. In the early decades of this century vocational programs were added to the curriculum in many high schools. In the 1940s and 1950s many schools began to employ school counselors, a practice that rapidly accelerated with the passage of the National Defense Education Act in 1958. Concurrently, ever-increasing proportions of school-age youth were remaining in school for longer periods, so that by 1975 three-fourths of the age group were graduating from high school. Generally, the secondary schools effectively prepared those students who either pursued vocational education or college preparatory programs, but in most schools these two groups combined included less than half of the graduating class. Several factors, including high youth unemployment rates, the social malaise of public attitudes toward the Vietnam War, student protest, the search for alternate lifestyles, and an increase in public demand for accountability in the educational system exacerbated the situation and encouraged efforts toward educational reform.

Marland (1971) proposed one course of action that attracted considerable attention when he stated:

All our efforts as educators must be bent on preparing students either to become properly, usefully employed immediately upon graduation from high school or to go on to further formal education. Anything else is dangerous nonsense. I propose that a universal goal of American education, starting now, be this: that every young person completing our school program at grade 12 be ready to enter higher education or to enter useful and rewarding employment.

This proposal started the development of the concept of career education, an idea that has grown and spread. No attempt was made to spec restrictively the nature and process of career education; instead, such systems and state departments of education were encouraged to interpret the concept in terms that met their needs and to create a variety of programs that reflected those local or statewide interpretations. Consequently, can education is now--and will continue to be--an evolving concept that includes very diverse programs. A few months after the above statement was made, Marland (1971) explained his position in a speech with the words:

What the term "career education" means to me is basically a point of view --a concept that says three things: first, that career education will impart of the curriculum for all students, not just some. Second, that it will continue throughout a youngster's stay in school, from the first grade through senior high and beyond, if he so elects. And third, that every student leaving school will possess the skills necessary to give him a start to making a livelihood for himself and his family, even if he leaves before completing his school.

With each state developing and following its own definition of caret education, one finds considerable variation in emphasis from one definition to another. Obviously, no one can say that this one is right and that one is wrong. But although there is diversity, there is still a good deal of consensus among the various statements. Probably Hoyt (1972) has synthesized the essence of common agreement with this definition:

Career education is the total effort of public education and the community aimed at helping all individuals to become familiar with the values of a work oriented society, to integrate these values into their personal value systems and to implement these values into their lives in such a way that work becomes possible, meaningful, and satisfying to each individual.

This statement suggests that career education involves all school personnel-teachers, counselors, administrators, and others-and all aspect! of the community-business, industry, government, labor, and individuals-in an ongoing cooperative venture that capitalizes upon opportunities in and out of school to enhance career development for all people, not just school-age youngsters. In fact, several research projects have explored successfully the viability of delivering career education services to individuals no longer in the school setting. Nevertheless, one can logically expect that the major thrust of career education will continue to be aimed toward the school-age population.

School Setting

In the school setting, career education appears to be recognizing and building upon the developmental phases of life. Most programs therefore focus upon career awareness during the elementary years, providing maximum opportunity for these youngsters to gain a wide range of general formation about as many jobs as possible, including what the worker does, the kinds of abilities, interests, and personality required by the job, and the satisfactions and rewards provided by the work. Learning about jobs is a lifelong process, and each of us is often discovering some occupation about which we previously were unaware, so it is not the intent of career education to concentrate this activity into early childhood. Instead, it intended that a deliberate effort will be made during those years to widen the range of knowledge, to encourage acquiring understanding of many jobs, and to make that inquiry as productive as possible, still recognizing that it will continue in succeeding years.

The second phase of career education is introduced during the middle or junior high school years and is the major thrust until the early high school years. During this period, usually called career exploration, the youngsters are helped to relate occupational activities, requirements, and rewards to their own characteristics, ambitions, values, and expectations. They seek answers to such questions as the following: Would I like to do what the worker does? Could I do it successfully? Would I find the rewards satisfying? Would I like to live a life like the worker lives?

During the early high school years, many youths move into the third phase: decision making. For most, this is a gradual process, with specific refinement and focus to come later. Some career education advocates suggest that students can be helped most if attention is directed toward two broad concepts: the field or area of work as represented by the cluster: concept and the general level of work as reflected by the amount of education required. In other words, rather than trying to find "the" job, the students look toward a group of jobs that fit their interests, abilities, values, and so on and that also require generally the educational level they hope and expect to attain. Thus, a desirable goal at this stage might be "a health occupation requiring a year or two of post-high school vocational training," or "a marketing occupation at the bachelor's level," or "a construction occupation where a high school diploma is sufficient." Identification of a specific choice within this framework can be completed as the individual approaches the point where specialized preparation begins.

The next phase, career preparation, may be as brief as part of the final year of high school for the individual expecting to go to work directly, or as long as a decade for those youths contemplating professional careers. Much work remains to be completed in all levels of our educational structure before this phase can be effectively implemented. Curricular revision, when completed, will facilitate this step as well as earlier phases. Ideally, the secondary school years should prepare each youth for his or her post-secondary plans, either entrance into further education at an advanced level or entrance into work. Thus the youth whose plan is "a health occupation requiring a year or two of post-secondary vocational training" will have (1) identified the occupation and the school where the additional training can best be acquired as well as (2) completed all preparatory requirements of that training program. Further, he or she will have completed a "back-up program enabling entrance into a related occupation at a lower level if the additional anticipated preparation becomes inaccessible. In the case of illustration, this would mean that high school graduation also includes completion of requirements for immediate admission to an entry-level occupation related to the desired goal.

Job Placement

Logically, the next step after preparation for an occupation is employment. The process of job placement can occur at the end of high school (before that point for those few individuals who elect to withdraw before graduation) or at a later point when preparation has been completed. Placement programs in educational institutions vary widely; only a few can really claim to have effective plans in operation. Certainly this activity is one that requires extensive cooperation between the educational facility and the appropriate component in the larger community.

An additional step must be incorporated into the career education process if it is to serve all individuals. Perhaps "advancement" is an appropriate label for this phase, which would provide assistance in developing paths for moving forward in the selected career. Most entry-level jobs lead to higher-level positions; often there are multiple paths leading to varies opportunities and, to some extent, the earlier phases of awareness, exploration, and decision making may need to be recycled in the specific situation facing the worker. Similarly, advancement may depend upon acquisition o additional preparation, perhaps even later return to the classroom for more formal schooling, and then back to a position of greater responsibility am opportunity, where the process may start again.

There are many obvious advantages to a comprehensive career education program. The nurturance of career planning occurs over time and in step with the psychological development of the individual. Educational experiences can be coordinated with career goals to provide realistic opportunities for awareness, exploration, tryout, revision, and so on. Exposure to a vast array of school and community resources and personnel provides an enriching experience that enhances self-understanding as well as occupational understanding, and leads to more appropriate career choices. Realistically, however, one must recognize that effective implementation of career education across the nation lies far in the future. Such implementation requires (1) retraining of all classroom teachers in the infusion process of incorporating career materials into regular classroom materials, (2) revision of the curriculum to provide more useful structure and organization, (3) revision of the daily schedule and yearly calendar to permit greater flexibility and accessibility to school offerings, (4) development of liaison contacts with community resources and personnel so that they may be incorporated into the program, and (5) modification of regulations controlling working hours of school attenders, insurance requirements for transporting students, and permitting participation in work assignments. All of these changes, and many others, require both time and money to accomplish. At best, one can hope for a gradual transition culminating eventually in a nationwide, comprehensive program.

We have considered career education in some detail because it reflects the continuing concern of professional educators and the general public for the expansion of services to assist youth in career development. As we have been, this concern has been recognized for nearly three-quarters of a century. During that time, many innovations have been tried: some have been retained, others modified, still others abandoned. Some of the earliest efforts focused on offering classes in occupations; for example, Brewer (1942) suggests that the first known class was taught in 1908 at Westport, Connecticut. As counselors were introduced into high schools and colleges, their major, perhaps even sole, function originally was vocational guidance. Recognizing that most students also had needs and concerns that were not entirely vocationally related, counselors soon extended their activities into these other areas, thereby diluting the time available for career matters. Even if counselors had not extended their roles to deal with these other crucial topics, we probably would never have reached the point where extensive, one-to-one career counseling would have been available to all individuals.

Labor-saving Short Cuts

Much effort has gone into creating activities, programs, and devices that supplement or replace counselor endeavor. As a nation highly conscious of technological modernization that is cost and energy efficient, we have become accustomed to searching for labor-saving shortcuts. We have consequently often adopted ideas that looked good in the short run but that failed to hold up over time. These often have been replaced by a later fad, similarly untried, that we will again subsequently replace or modify. Our professional behavior has also followed this pattern on occasion. Brandt (1977) has recognized this tendency with these words:

Today we observe a lavish display of what are termed "innovative career development programs" for the college student, involving a new world of cultish group experiences, exciting multimedia productions, sophisticated computer software, and copyrighted workbooks. This proliferation of new techniques and approaches seems to be vaguely similar to the encounter group movement of the 1960s. The only difference seems to be that the 1960s encounter group emphasized "letting it all hang out," and the new career development experiences emphasizing "getting it all together."

Recognizing the same developments, and perhaps also accepting them more readily, Holland (1974) has written:

If all goes well, vocational counseling will eventually be used only for a few unusual clients and a variety of printed and audiovisual materials, workbooks, books, and a few group activities arranged in some systematic way will dominate.

Probably the truth lies somewhere between the extremes of rejecting all new techniques and materials automatically and unquestioningly acquiring each proposal for change that surfaces. Of course, new ideas and approaches will develop that are worthy of adoption, but not every suggestion warrants such reaction.

All persons who survive to adulthood are involved in the career development process, just as they are also involved in physical growth, personality development, and the educational process. Similarly, the development process continues through adulthood just as physical growth and change, personality development, and the learning process also continue as lifelong aspects of the human condition. We can extend the analogy by considering the roles of the physician and the teacher. We can contact a physician who checks to be sure we grow at a reasonable rate (a developmental function), who may prescribe medicines, diet, exercise, or other treatments to eliminate a future potential problem (a preventive function), who may intercede surgically or otherwise: when a serious problem does develop (a therapeutic function), and who will assist us with prosthetic devices or new living procedures when a physic problem forces major readjustments (a rehabilitative function). Similarly, the teacher provides a challenging, developmentally appropriate learning experience; anticipates and prevents potential problems by properly sequencing learning experiences and assuring skill acquisition before the skills needed, supplying make-up sessions, individual help, or other corrective measures; and furnishes specialized procedures for learning-disabled individuals or others whose particular problems preclude progress in the usual manner. In both physical and educational development, continuous individual attention by the physician or teacher is rarely needed. However, complete lack of contact is unwise. In other words, both professionals should be involved in general monitoring of progress, accessible when possible problems might be anticipated, and definitely available when problems do occur and when change cannot be handled by the individual alone.

Satisfying Decision

Correspondingly, the career counselor serves comparable functions in the career development process. One responsibility of the elementary school counselor should be to monitor the school's career awareness program to assure that each youngster is receiving a nutritious, well-balanced diet of career-related materials with which the individual is developing a sturdy, healthy body of information and attitudes toward work and its place in our society. Throughout the school years--elementary, secondary, post-secondary--the counselor should be assisting the individual to recognize approaching decision points where the student, parent, and others will be selecting among various options that have a continuing impact on the individual's life, and helping the individual acquire the information and understanding needed to increase the likelihood of a wise and satisfying decision, or clients in late adolescence and beyond, the career counselor should be available for help with career choice decisions, adjustment or revision of previously made decisions, and planning preparatory and entry programs as needed and desired by the individual. Counselors in community agencies such as rehabilitation programs, employment services, and adult counseling enters should be available to assist adults who face career change either for voluntary reasons such as a desire for midcareer change, or involuntary reasons such as physical disability, technological obsolescence of the career, or geographic relocation of the employer.

A recent document adopted by the Board of Directors of the National /occupational Guidance Association (NVGA) (published in the NVGA Newsletter in June 1982) provides a definitive statement of current professional thinking about career counseling. The document includes a definition, a description of competency areas, and a listing of the competencies needed by a career counselor. Because the statement relates directly to the professional preparation of those who aspire to become career counselors, it warrants careful consideration at this point. Although the document is lengthy, it must be viewed in its entirety. It states:

Definition: Vocational/Career Counseling consists of those activities performed or coordinated by individuals who have the professional credentials to work with and counsel other individuals or groups of individuals about occupations, careers, life/career, career decision making, career planning, career pathing, or other career development related questions or conflicts. Designated Vocational/Career Competency Areas: In order to work as a professional engaged in Vocational/Career Counseling, the individual must demonstrate minimum competencies in six designated areas. These six areas are: General Counseling, Information, Individual/ Group Assessment, Management/Administration, Implementation, and Consultation. General Counseling--Counseling competencies considered essential to effective vocational/career counseling. Information--Information base and knowledge essential for professionals engaging in vocational/career counseling. Individual/Group Assessment--Individual/Group Assessment skills considered essential for professionals engaging in vocational/ career counseling.

Knowledge and Skills

Management/Administration--Management/Administration skills necessary to develop, plan, implement, and manage comprehensive career development programs. Implementation--Knowledge and skills essential to the adoption career development programs and strategies in a variety of settings. Consultation--Knowledge and skills essential in relating to individuals and organizations that impact the career development process, general counseling as Vocational/Career. Counseling Competencies--Counseling competencies considered essential to effective vocational/career counseling.

Demonstration of
  1. Knowledge of general counseling theories and techniques.

  2. Skills in building a productive relationship between counsel and client.

  3. Ability to use appropriate counseling techniques in effective assisting individuals with career choice and life/career development concerns.

  4. Ability to assist the client to recognize the relationship between self-understanding and effective life/career decisions.

  5. Ability to assist the client in the identification of internal personal factors related to life/career decision making including personality, values, interests, aptitudes, and motives.

  6. Skills in recognizing and modifying stereotypes held by client related to career choice.

  7. Ability to assist the client in the identification of contextual factors in career decision making including family, friends, educational opportunities, and finances.

  8. Ability to understand and help clarify the client's decision making processes.
Information-- Information base and knowledge essential for professionals engaging in vocational/career counseling.

Demonstration of
  1. Knowledge of education, training, employment trends, labor market, and career resources that provide information about job tasks, functions, salaries, requirements, and future outlooks related to broad occupational fields.

  2. Knowledge of basic concepts related to vocational/career counseling including career development, career pathing, and career patterns.

  3. Knowledge of career development and decision making theories.

  4. Knowledge of the changing roles of women and men and the linkage of work, family, and leisure.

  5. Knowledge of resources and techniques designed for use with special groups.

  6. Knowledge of strategies to store, retrieve, and disseminate vocational/career information.
Individual group assessment-Individual Group Assessment skills considered essential for professionals engaging in vocational/career counseling.

Demonstration of
  1. Knowledge of appraisal techniques and measures of aptitude, achievement, interest, values, and personality.

  2. Knowledge of strategies used in the evaluation of job performance, individual effectiveness, and program effectiveness.

  3. Ability to identify appraisal resources appropriate for specified situations and populations.

  4. Ability to evaluate appraisal resources and techniques in terms of their validity, reliability, and relationships to race, sex, age, and ethnicity.

  5. Ability to demonstrate the proper administration of appraisal techniques.

  6. Ability to interpret appraisal data to clients and other appropriate individuals or groups of people.

  7. Ability to assist clients in appraising quality of life and working environments.
Management/administration-Management Administration skills necessary to develop, plan, implement, and manage comprehensive career development programs.

Demonstration of
  1. Knowledge of program designs that can be used in the organization of career development services.

  2. Knowledge of needs assessment techniques and practices.

  3. Knowledge of performance objectives used in organizing career development programs, and setting goals and comprehensive career development programs.

  4. Knowledge of management concepts and leadership styles used in relation to career development programs.

  5. Ability to adjust management and administration methods to reflect identified career development program problems, or specified situational needs.

  6. Ability to prepare budgets and time lines for career development programs.

  7. Ability to design, compile, and report an evaluation of care development activities and programs.
Implementation-- Knowledge and skills essential to the adoption of career development programs and strategies in a variety of settings

Demonstration of
  1. Knowledge of program adoption and planned change strategies

  2. Knowledge of personal and environmental barriers affecting the implementation of career development programs.

  3. Ability to implement individual and group programs in career development for specified populations.

  4. Ability to implement a public relations effort in behalf of career development activities and services.

  5. Ability to devise and implement a comprehensive career re source center.

  6. Ability to implement pilot programs in a variety of career development areas including: appraisal, decision-making, information giving, and general career counseling.
Consultation Knowledge and skills considered essential in relating to individuals and organizations that impact the career development process.

Demonstration of
  1. Knowledge of consultation strategies and consultation models.

  2. Ability to provide effective career consultation to influential individuals such as parents, teachers, employers, community groups, and the general public.

  3. Ability to provide career development consultation to Business and Professional groups.

  4. Ability to convey program goals and achievements to key personnel in positions of authority: legislators, executives, and others.

  5. Ability to provide data on the cost-effectiveness of career counseling and career development activities.
The first three competencies--general counseling skills, information, individual/group assessment-- are concerned with the one-to-one counselor-lent relationship that we will call career counseling. The remaining competencies encompass managerial and program planning tasks and consultative efforts with people other than the client.

At many points, the career counselor may have only indirect contact with the individual client. Certainly, as career education programs are incorporated into schools, many career development activities will be conducted by teachers and community resource people, with the counselor serving primarily as coordinator, organizer, and monitor. This function of the career counselor, primarily developmental and preventive, is already well developed and described in many excellent books to which the reader is referred for more detail.

General references for all age levels include Healy (1982) and Herr and Cramer (1984). At the elementary and middle school level, useful books include Evans, Hoyt, and Mangum (1974), Gysbers, Miller, and Moore (1973), and Hoyt, Pinson, Laramore, and Mangum 1973). For the secondary school level, one might consult Hoyt, Evans, Bowen, and Gale (1977), Mangum, Becker, Coombs, and Marshall (1975), Shertzer and Stone (1981), or Tolbert (1980). For post-secondary-level assistance, consider Reardon and Burck (1975).
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