The American workplace has become increasingly tumultuous and complex. Technological changes in society, economic recession, hiring and promotion practices of companies, and the demographic characteristics of new entrants into the work force, are but a few of the changes that will continue to affect the workplace beyond the year 2000 (Johnston & Packer, 1987; National Occupational Information Coordinating Committee [NOICC], 1986). These and other developments have brought about important shifts in the meaning of career counseling and guidance in school settings. One aspect of these shifts is a return to competency-based career guidance and counseling.
What are the career development tasks appropriate for elementary, middle, and high school students? How might these tasks be transformed into outcomes and competencies? The National Career Development Guidelines, four sets of descriptions of career development tasks, were developed to answer these questions. The guidelines include 12 competencies for each level-three related to self-knowledge, five related to educational and occupational exploration, and four related to career planning--with indicators (specific identifiers) related to each competency (NOICC, 1989). Under the sponsorship of the NOICC, the guidelines were initially developed by a small group of counselors and career development specialists in 1987. The guidelines then underwent an extensive review process, curriculum and training materials were developed, and eventually NOICC funds assisted 27 states in implementing the guidelines or adaptations of the guidelines. The guidelines are endorsed by the National Career Development Association (NCDA), the American Counseling Association (ACA), the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), and other counseling and career development organizations.
Although there is little doubt that the National Career Development Guidelines have influenced the work of career development specialists in many states, there is at least one critical question which remains unanswered. How important are each of the competencies, from the viewpoint of school counselors? As the local specialists on the development of students, the opinions of school counselors are of crucial importance. The State of Wyoming awarded Carl Perkins funds for the purpose of investigating the following research question: In light of the development of typical elementary, junior high/middle, and high school students, how important are the National Career Development Guidelines Competencies from the standpoint of practicing school counselors?
A survey was developed using the 36 guidelines competencies, 12 for each of three levels--elementary school level, middle or junior high school level, and high school level. Permission to use the guidelines was received through personal communication with the NOICC office (J. Lester, personal communication, April, 1991). The order of the competency items on the survey follows the order of the published guidelines, with the first three competencies in each of the groups related to self-knowledge, the next five related to occupation exploration, and the last four related to career planning. The participants were asked to "rate the importance of each competency for the development of a typical student at this level" on a 1 to 7 Likert scale, with 7 representing very important and 1 representing not important. The participants were instructed to complete only the section(s) of the survey which related to the student population they were currently serving. Also included in the survey were four demographic questions that dealt with age, race, sex, and years of experience as a school counselor.
The population addressed in this study was practicing school counselors who are members of ASCA. Although not all school counselors belong to ASCA, it is the largest national professional organization for school counselors. The participants in this study were 2,790 randomly selected ASCA members who indicated on their AACD (currently ACA) membership applications that they were practicing school counselors. …