Educators Use Career "Games" to Teach Lifelong Career Management Skills

Article excerpt

In half the schools in Canada and in over 25,000 classrooms across the United States students from grade 3 to grade 12 are being introduced to careers through an innovative new game-based process called The Real Game Series. Originated in Canada, these programs have been developed and tested through a not-for-profit international partnership involving the Governments of Canada and the U.S., State and Provincial Departments of Education and professional associations across both countries.

Most youth aren't sure how to make informed, intentional career decisions. Just prior to graduation many are not clear what they want to do when they enter the workforce. The majority of students do not proceed directly from secondary to postsecondary, in spite of projections that most work in coming years will require some postsecondary qualification. Of those youth who go directly to college or university programs, not to mention apprenticeship or trades training, nearly half change programs or drop out by the end of their first year. Not unlike U.S. statistics, of those Canadian students who graduate, 50 percent will be in jobs not directly related to their programs of study two years after they graduate (Statistics Canada and Human Resources Development Canada biannual School Leavers Survey).

Traditional Guidance Paradigm

The traditional vocational guidance paradigm expects students, with help from career counselors or teachers, to make an informed, long-term career choice before graduating from high school. Yet, when groups of adults are asked if they are now doing what they expected to be doing when they graduated, less than 10 percent (educators and nurses excepted) raise their hands. The evidence suggests only a small minority of people is able to identify a "calling" at a young age, despite the pressures to which we continue to subject youth, and their advisors, to do so.

The traditional vocational guidance model was primarily about helping people make an informed occupational choice, and went as follows:

1. Explore one's interests, aptitudes, values, etc. (often with tests and professional help).

2. Explore the world of work (occupations).

3. Determine a "best fit" occupation by matching personal traits to occupational factors.

4. Develop a plan to obtain the prerequisite education and training.

5. Graduate, obtain secure employment, work hard, climb the ladder.

6. Retire as young as possible on full pension to enjoy the rewards of years of hard work.

Steps 1 through 4 still apply to the new career management paradigm, although the terms work role, cluster or industry sector may be substituted for occupation. Contemporary workplace realities, however, now make these steps recurrent and dramatically increase the need for ready access to career and labor market information and support services. Step 5 is no longer assured, and step 6 will only occur for those who learn career management skills, including financial planning, responsibility and self-discipline. Moreover, more and more people who enjoy their work don't want to stop at a fixed date.

New Career Management Paradigm

The new career management paradigm is not so much about making the right occupational choice as it is about equipping people with the skills to make the myriad choices necessary throughout their lives to become healthy, self-reliant citizens, able to cope with constant change in rapidly changing labor markets, connect with work they enjoy, and maintain balance between life and work roles. The cornerstones of the career management paradigm are the "high five" principles:

1. Know yourself, believe in yourself and follow your heart.

2. Focus on the journey, not the destination. Become a good traveler.

3. You're not alone. Access your allies, and be a good ally.

4. Change is constant, and brings with it new opportunities. …