Career Development and Public Policy

Article excerpt

The rationale for policy interest in career development services and the way in which this rationale is being strengthened by the current transformations in work and career are discussed. The potential roles of public policy in relation to career development services are explored, along with ways in which such services can influence the policy-making process. A range of policy issues related to making career development services available to all throughout life are identified. Stronger structures and processes are needed to bring together career development practitioners with policy makers and other stakeholder interests in order to address tasks of common concern.

Hitherto, remarkably little attention has been paid to policy issues in the career development field. With rare exceptions (e.g., Pryor & Watts, 1991; Watts, 1996), there has been no tradition of policy studies in the professional literature. Little consideration is given to policy matters in the training of counselors and other career development professionals. Yet the availability of career development services and their nature are strongly dependent on public policy. Most such services are funded, directly or indirectly, by governments, whether at the national, the regional, or the local level. The nature of such funding imposes constraints on the kinds of services that are offered and to whom they are made available. If the career development profession is to extend and develop its services, its relationship with policy makers is crucial. Conversely, policy makers who see career development services as a significant policy instrument need the support and understanding of practitioners to achieve their goals. If policy decisions are made without adequate consultation, they are unlikely to be implemented effectively.

Accordingly, stronger links are needed between policy makers and practitioners. Policy makers-who include both politicians and their civil-service advisers-need to develop a deeper understanding of the nature of career development work. Practitioners need to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which policy is developed and implemented. Both sides need to take responsibility for initiating and sustaining this dialogue.

In this article, I explore the relationship between public policy and career development services, drawing on the discussions at an international symposium on "Career Development and Public Policy: International Collaboration for National Action," held in Ottawa in 1999. The symposium was organized by the Canadian Career Development Foundation in association with the International Association for Educational and Vocational Guidance. The 47 participants came from 14 countries. The design was that there would be four representatives from each country, including two policy advisers (i.e., senior civil servants) and two professional leaders, although some teams deviated from this norm. Each team produced a country paper that was distributed in advance and then discussed in plenary at the symposium. In addition, there were theme papers from international experts plus small-group sessions that addressed particular issues relating to each theme. The present article is adapted from a report to be included in the symposium proceedings (Hiebert & Walz, in press). It draws substantially from discussions at the event and from the papers prepared for it (all of which will be included in revised form in the proceedings) but also represents a personal commentary on the matters discussed.

RATIONALE

The key rationale for policy interest in career development services is that they represent a public as well as a private good. They are usually of value to the individuals to whom they are addressed. But they also yield benefits to the wider society. Conventionally, these benefits have been divided into two main categories. The first is economic efficiency in the allocation and use of human resources. …