The North American Career Development Partnership: Experiment in International Collaboration

Article excerpt

This article describes how career development programs became the focus of an international partnership between the United States and Canada. Beginning in 1976 in the United States, the National Occupational Information Coordinating Committee (NOICC) and its State Occupational Information Coordinating Committees (SOICCs) developed training and materials that promote the use of occupational and labor market information. Similarly, in the early 1970s, Canada began to explore the feasibility of creating a computer-based career information delivery system. What follows is the story of an unusual and significant international collaboration. It concludes with identification of lessons learned.

In June 1975, Stuart Conger, then director of the Occupational and Career Analysis and Development Branch of Employment and Immigration Canada, asked a young project officer on his staff, Phil Jarvis, to explore the feasibility of creating a computer-based career information delivery system. Jarvis first established a set of desirable criteria, then visited the authors and the development teams of the leading systems at the time. All systems were, of course, mainframe-based. Two were in Canada; the balance were in the United States. None of the systems met the criteria that Jarvis proposed and none of the developers (Canadian or American) was willing to collaborate in new development. Consequently, by the spring of 1976, Jarvis established detailed specifications for an entirely new system to be developed in Canada. It was called Choices.

Choices was initially developed by Employment and Immigration Canada. The initial version was piloted coast-to-coast across Canada in 1977 and 1978, but the first large-scale adoptions of Choices occurred in Florida (1978), North Carolina (1979), and Kansas (1980). When Canadians saw a strong interest in Choices in the United States, wide-scale implementation began across Canada.

While working with the states on Choices, Canadian career professionals became increasingly impressed with, indeed envious of, the National Occupational Information Coordinating Committee (NOICC)/ State Occupational Information Coordinating Committee (SOICC) network. The first step in establishing a national network in Canada was taken in 1977 with the convening of the first National Consultation on Career Development in Ottawa. What began as regular meetings of 20 to 30 federal, provincial, and territorial career development leaders from across Canada quickly became Canada's major annual career conference, National Consultation on Career Development (NATCON), in which 1,500 or more attendees participate. An annual meeting, even of such significance as NATCON, does not, however, constitute a network.

Concrete progress toward development of a Canadian/American partnership occurred 10 years later at NATCON'88 when Juliette Lester, who became the second executive director of NOICC in 1986, joined with the late Lionel Dixon, Director General of Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC), to meet with a group of provincial and territorial officials. Dixon left the meeting determined to create a Canadian counterpart to the NOICC/SOICC network; Lester left intent on creating a support entity, modeled after the University of Toronto's role with NATCON. The results were the NOICC Training Support Center (NTSC) in the United States (1990) and the Canada Career Information Partnership (CLIP) in Canada (1990). CCIP's first project was the creation of a national career newspaper in tabloid format, Canada Prospects. This activity had been suggested to Jarvis as a good "starter project" by Walt Webb of NOICC. Just as Canada's idea of a career information system, Choices, had gone south in 1978, so did America's concept of professional tabloids come north in 1991.

In 1995, a further step was taken. Lester accepted an invitation from Jarvis, on behalf of Bill Barry, author and president of The Real Game Inc. …