Career-Ready Students: A Goal of Comprehensive School Counseling Programs

Article excerpt

This article opens with a rationale for and a definition of student career readiness. Next is a presentation of the qualities and attributes of career-ready students. Then discussion follows about what students need to become career ready. Following this is a presentation of how comprehensive school counseling programs help students become career ready, including discussion of the delivery system for school counseling programs that provide the activities and services that contribute to student career readiness. The article closes with the critical point that helping all students become career ready requires a whole school-community approach.

During this 2nd decade of the 21st century, the United States continues to undergo vast and far-reaching changes economically and socially, resulting in a rapidly changing workplace (Carey & Herr, 2012; Dutkowsky, 2013). These changes are "requiring higher levels of achievement and preparation for the emerging workforce" (Association for Career and Technical Education, 2006, p. 1). This means that the students of today and tomorrow will require an education that provides them with the academic, career and technical, and guidance and counseling knowledge, skills, and dispositions to be career ready upon graduation from high school.

What Is Career Ready?

Contrary to current popular literature, this article proposes to use the term career ready instead of career and college ready. Why? The word career is used because, when defined broadly, it includes the life roles, settings, and events of individuals' lives that are constantly being influenced by such factors as gender, ethnic origin, race, spirituality, social class, and sexual orientation (Gysbers, Heppner, & Johnston, 2009). As a result, the word career includes going directly to work after high school as well as attending a 2-year or 4-year college or university. However, the word career means much more than that because it emphasizes the total person, all of his or her life roles, all the settings in which he or she is involved, and the many events (planned and unplanned) that affect him or her. The focus is on the human career. The word ready is used in career ready because it means "completely prepared for immediate action" ( Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, 2001, p. 1606). When the words career and ready are put together, they convey a holistic picture of resilient individuals who are active and involved in shaping and directing their lives now and in the future.

Who Are CareerWho

are career-ready students? Career-ready students have "a proactive, resilient, and adaptive style of interacting in the present and use that style to assertively move towards self-defined career futures that add meaning, purpose, and satisfaction to their lives" (Gysbers & Lapan, 2009, p. 23). They have the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to visualize and plan their futures.

Career-ready students know how to engage in various current and potential life roles, including being a learner and worker. This means that they know the importance of succeeding in school and graduating. This means that they know how to take advantage of the current and possible future opportunities available to them, such as going directly into the labor force; obtaining an apprenticeship; selecting a certificate program; attending a 2-year technical school, community college, or 4-year college or university; or enlisting in the military.

Career-ready students also understand that their lives unfold and evolve in various life settings, including school and the workplace. This means that they have work readiness behaviors and the interpersonal relationship skills needed to prosper in the workplace. On the basis of the work of Lapan (2004), Gysbers and Lapan (2009) identified the following behaviors and skills for career readiness: "(a) social competence, (b) diversity skills, (c) positive work habits, (d) personal qualities, (e) personality and emotional states, and (f) entrepreneurship" (p. …