Introduction to the Special Issue: Career Issues in Education

Article excerpt

Career issues have long been an integral component of the educational process. Career or vocational development in the schools was advocated, at the onset of the industrial revolution, as far back as the late 1800s. This concept of including career preparation in our schools was supported by one of the basic principles set forth by John Dewey (1859, 1952, 1995); that the most powerful learning comes from combining the practical with the intellectual.

This concept of the importance of career exploration and the facilitation of the career development process in our schools was the precursor to the more expansive theme of this special issue. As manuscripts were solicited under the rubric of career issues, the editor began to develop an understanding of the interrelatedness and interdependency of topics under such a broad category. Although some of the articles included in this special issue do not specifically address the career issues of students in our schools, they each address some vital component related to the larger theme of Career Issues in Education.

The origination of this special issue began in a conversation between the guest editor and Drs. Russell N. Cassel and Phil Feldman during the 1999 World Conference of the American Counseling Association in San Diego. Dr. Cassel indicated several concerns related to the condition of career issues in our schools. Dr. Cassel's concerns included: (a) A student in high school without a tentative job career plan is "like a ship in the water without a rudder"; (b) It is not unrealistic to infer cause and effect between students without career goals/plans/motivation, and some of the behavioral ills of society; (c) Goals and motivation are intimately related phenomenon, and you can't have one without the other; (d) Many of the concerns related to the A Nation at Risk report (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983) are related to an absence of job-career plans; and (e) When students fail to know their career interest areas, the schools have failed. These concerns developed into an invitation from Dr. Cassel to spotlight the faculty of the College of Education at the University of South Alabama and their work related to Career Issues in Education in a Special Issue of Education.

The lead article, by Lane, provided the seed for the development of the special issue. In collaboration with Dr. Cassel, Lane has addressed the need for a scientific method for the development and testing of job-career plans in our schools. Lane's article addresses several of the concerns that provided the basis for the special issue and served as a foundation for the expanded concept of Career Issues in Education.

Another concept that developed from the concerns addressed by Dr. Cassel related to a comprehensive federal program for the transition of students from school to work. The second article in the issue includes an examination of the School-to-Work (STW) programs that were established by the School-to-Work Opportunities Act (1994). STW programs represent a grouping of very diverse attempts at connecting education to job skills so that students may successfully transition from school to work. In this article, the guest editor of the issue offers a review of the literature related to STW and provides recommendations for the future.

The next article, by Smith, addresses career exploration opportunities for middle school students. Smith provides a specific examination of the academic and personal benefits arising from appropriate career exploration opportunities in grades 6-8. Additionally, this article includes examples of creative collaborative efforts in several different schools and emphasizes the importance of school counselors and teachers. The author, now on the University faculty, worked in public schools in South Carolina, Louisiana, and Alabama for 26 years and provides a review of the issues based on this extensive experience.

Gray's article explores the changes in curricula and in government programs that have lead to an improved workforce in the new millennium. …