Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online)

Social Justice Competencies and Career Development Practices/ Compétences Relatives À la Justice Sociale et Pratiques En Développement De Carrière

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online)

Social Justice Competencies and Career Development Practices/ Compétences Relatives À la Justice Sociale et Pratiques En Développement De Carrière

Article excerpt

Social justice has strong historical roots in vocational psychology, dating back to the work of Parsons (1909). During the early years of the last century, Parsons advocated for youth, women, and people who were poor, to help them secure employment as a means to improving their lives. More than a century later, it is important to acknowledge Parson's work as laying a foundation of social justice for theoretical and practical advances in the field of career development (Blustein, 2006; Fouad, Gerstein, &Toporek, 2006).

The topic of social justice has resurfaced in the career development literature, focused on the ways that resources are differentially distributed in society and how social, economic, and political barriers impact people's career development (Arthur, 2005; Toporek & Chope, 2006). There is a call to support people in our society who are marginalized because of poverty or other social conditions that limit their access to education or securing meaningful and sustaining employment. There are also concerns about differential access to career development services and the effectiveness of services for meeting the needs of all people who live in our local communities (Sampson, Dozier, & Colvin, 2011). Specific concerns have been expressed about the limitations of career counselling practice for supporting access and mobility in education and employment systems for people from nondominant populations (McMahon, Arthur, & Collins, 2008a), who are disproportionately represented in the ranks of early school leavers, the unemployed, and the underemployed (Bezanson et al., 2007).

Although recent literature substantiates a continued focus on social justice issues in career development, the focus is primarily conceptual in nature and only a few resources account for the challenges or successes experienced by career development practitioners (Arthur, Collins, McMahon, & Marshall, 2009; Barham & Irving, 2011; Irving, 2011). As Blustein, McWhirter, and Perry (2005) pointed out, it is time to move from a denunciation approach to an annunciation approach, in which the principles and processes for embracing social justice in career development practices are articulated.

The purpose of this article is to explore how a sample of career practitioners in Canada reported implementing social justice practices with clients from nondominant cultural groups. We will report on a subset of data from a larger study on social justice competencies, with some ties to other elements ofthat study reported elsewhere (Arthur et al., 2009; McMahon, Arthur, & Collins, 2008a, 2008b). The central aim of this component of the study was to address two research questions: (a) What competencies (attitudes, skills, and knowledge) do career practitioners use in addressing the barriers individuals from nondominant cultural groups experience in trying to access career resources? and (b) What competencies do career practitioners identify that would strengthen their capacity to offer social justice interventions?

We begin this article with a brief overview of diversity and social justice competencies to set the context for the current study. Next, key competencies identified from participants' practice examples are highlighted. Finally, we highlight the implications for the professional education of career development practitioners to translate knowledge about social justice into practice with clients who experience barriers related to their career development.

DIVERSITY AND SOCIAL JUSTICE COMPETENCIES

Career practitioners' roles in assisting individuals from nondominant groups to overcome career- related barriers have been recognized at both national and international levels. For example, the Canadian Standards and Guidelines for Career Development Practitioners (National Steering Committee for Career Development Guidelines and Standards, 2004) included competencies focusing on recognizing and responding to diversity. …

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