Canada’s youth unemployment continues to be disproportionately elevated, our student summer jobless rate has hit the highest level since data has been collected and our youth underemployment rates are the second highest among OECD countries as far too many young adults are caught in precarious, non-permanent jobs that are not commensurate with their education. The Atlantic Provinces are no exception. While the Atlantic Provinces have the highest university participation rates in Canada, they also have some of the poorest attainment rates. Despite skill and labour shortages in all Atlantic Provinces, youth are turning away from vital post-secondary feeder programs and migrating out of the Atlantic region to find work.
The world of work is – simply put – not what it used to be. The relatively secure and stable career trajectories of the 20th century have been replaced with fast-changing, compound, complex and more precarious ones.
Career development is focused on understanding these labour market complexities and ensuring individuals have the critical knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to effectively navigate educational and employment choices, transitions and progression. Career education is the application of age-appropriate and career development to students in public education.
The economic and human imperative for career education is compelling. Quality career education impacts not only educational attainment, but also worker productivity, health, dependence on social assistance, criminal involvement, and capacity to contribute to tax revenues. Career education has been demonstrated to reduce high school drop-out (Kotamaraju, 2011) and increase student academic achievement, particularly in key science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) areas (SAS, 2012). According to Jarvis (2013) even if career education only produce a 1% increase in government revenues and productivity and a 1% decrease in social costs this would represent over $20 billion annually for Canadians. This amount could pay the salaries of over 250,000 educators, provide for new resources/facilities or cover the full post-secondary tuition of a million students.
Accordingly, many jurisdictions around the world are harnessing the potential of career education as a means to achieving key socio-economic targets. In a significant and positive step forward, CAMET contracted with the Canadian Career Development Foundation (CCDF) to conduct an Environmental Scan of current practice and an analysis to uncover strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT). Based on this and a review of best Canadian and international best practices, CCDF was engaged to provide recommendations to strengthen career education.
Key recommendations include the following:
- Develop and Publish an Atlantic Career Education Strategy.
This would position the Atlantic Provinces as visible leaders, provide provinces with a road map to guide implementation and define benchmarks to support quality assurance and reportable student success outcomes.
- Provide Training and Professional Learning for Educators and Administrators
Establish a tailored needs-based approach so that all teachers have basic career and labour market awareness, career educators and guidance counsellors have specialized training reflective of the Canadian Standards and Guidelines for Career Development Practitioners and administrators understand the role of career education within their broader purview.
- Integrate Career Education Early
Build a developmental approach to career education that engages students early (Grade 5) and provides age-appropriate opportunities for targeted skill development, experiential learning/exposure and career planning. It is recommended that the approach integrate both mandatory elements linked to graduation requirements and infusion of career/labour market themes across subjects.
- Follow through to Implementation
It is recommended that each Atlantic Province build from the Atlantic Career Education Strategy to create regionally-tailored implementation plans that are consistent with the Atlantic vision and meet common standards, but also reflect local priorities, needs and realities. These plans should address human resource needs (including training and time) and evaluation.
- Engage with Key Stakeholders
To increase student engagement, it is recommended that the Atlantic Provinces integrate career experience/exposure programming within career development courses. Students should have multiple opportunities for work experiences in K-12, especially at key transition years (minimally once prior to entry into secondary and 2-3 times across the secondary grades).
To reach all students with career education programming, it is recommended that educators identify barriers and eliminate them so that the faces and voices of all students and their families are seen and heard and all share equitable access to vital career education.
- Evaluate for Accountability, Quality Assurance and Continuous Improvement
It is strongly recommended that targeted evaluation be adopted as a priority and the results reviewed at least annually and used to guide and refine ongoing planning and delivery. Prior to and during the implementation of an evaluation plan, it will be critical that the Atlantic Provinces have accountability teams in place with the expertise and resources required to develop and oversee the implementation of the evaluation plan.
This report concludes by delineating suggested initial implementation steps to support a common and integrated Atlantic Career Education Strategy with tailored provincial action, building on the best from each province, strategically creating efficiencies by pooling resources and establishing the Atlantic region as world leaders in career education.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Career education in Atlantic Canada: research and recommendations