Career Development: A Project for the 21st Century

Article excerpt

The International Symposium 2006, titled shaping the future: Connecting career development and workforce development, was the third international forum of senior government policy makers, experts in the field of career development and employers. Attended by teams of delegates representing 22 countries and six international organisations, the International Symposium 2006 focused on the interface between career development and workforce The participation of development. delegations from so many different countries demonstrated the growing global recognition of the value of career development for citizens,

In a paper presented to the first symposium that explored links between career development and public policy held in 1999, Saviekas (2000) described career development practitioners' attempts to find ways to 'strengthen national strategies for workforce development and career guidance as well as to forge an international vision for career service delivery' as a 'new project' for them (p. 52). Since that time, the need to move forward on the project envisioned by Saviekas has become more pressing as issues such as lifelong learning, ageing workforces and skills shortages have emerged as major workforce development challenges and, in turn, policy makers have increasingly looked to career development as a strategy to assist in the achievement of their public policy goals.

The International Symposium 2006 provided an opportunity to move the project forward by considering career development in relation to the workforce development issues of human capital, labour supply, employability skills and older workers. In addition to these specific issues, it examined the broader issues of how career development services might contribute to workforce development and the career development information base needed to support public policy making. By way of background to this special issue on the International Symposium 2006, this paper will briefly examine the context and the reasons behind career development's rise to a more prominent position on the public policy arena. Following this, the process of the International Symposium 2006 that resulted in the writing of the documents contained in the special issue will be briefly outlined.


For much of their history, career development services have been viewed as marginal services in terms of public policy and, equally, public policy has not been of intrinsic interest to career development practitioners (Watts, 2005). For example, career development services have not traditionally been made widely available to all citizens, but rather they have been provided to specific groups such as school leavers and the unemployed. Thus, career development services have been viewed as remedial, preventive and reactive (Watts & Fretwell, 2004). The inadequacy of this view of career development services has now been recognised, as has the need to embed career development into the 'mainstream of policy formation' (Watts, 2005, p. 75). More than at any other dine in history, career development is being viewed as a 'key component of education, training and employability strategies' (Council of the European Union, 2004) and as a pro-active policy tool (Watts & Fretwell, 2004), whereby all citizens will have lifelong access that will aid them in the process of life-career management. For example, the International Labour Organization (2004) has recommended to its members that they assure and Facilitate participation in and access to vocational and career information and guidance, job placement services and job search techniques, and training support services for individuals throughout their lives.

Essentially, there is growing international interest in the relationship between career development and public policy, because it is now recognised that career development services provide both a private good (which means that they benefit individuals) and a public good (which means that they benefit society and government) (Watts, 1999). …