Career Development and Guidance Programs across Cultures: The Gap between Policies and Practices

Article excerpt

The authors summarize the presentations and discussions contributed to the symposium International Perspectives on Career Development by members of Group 5, who considered the topic of the structure and organization of career development programs in different nations. A capsule picture of the national setting, primary goals, components, objectives, and implementation strategies is presented. Papers fell largely into 4 categories: national programs with several components; large, but more specific programs, serving a national population; smaller programs serving diverse populations; and focused programs. One theme emerged strongly from virtually every presentation: There is a gap, often profound, between policy or vision and reality. Although every nation about which participants heard had laudable policies and had made genuine attempts to assist its people with life career development, many individuals do not have access to quality, or even any, services.

Group 5's focus in the symposium organized by the International Association for Educational and Vocational Guidance and the National Career Development Association was the structure and organization of career development programs in different nations. The planning committee described the group's focus in this way:

There are large differences in the way in which career development provisions are made available among countries and regions. These structures have considerable influence on what the guidance practitioners can do and how it has to be done. The impact on the efficiency and outcome of certain techniques and methodologies is related to these structures and the policies, legislation, or other factors that shape such structures. Developing a comprehensive view of the structures in which programs of career development function may increase international understanding of why guidance methodology IS often different across settings and nations.

The group's chairperson pointed out that it is difficult to discuss the structure and organization of career guidance programs without saying something about the context in which programs are being developed. With this in mind, participants were asked to provide a capsule picture of the national setting, along with the definition of career guidance being used in each country. They also were asked to describe the primary goals, components, objectives, and implementation strategies. Additional information about context included describing primary populations, a brief history of career guidance in their country, and the theoretical framework used, if any. They were also invited to share information about program funding; involvement of government, business, and industry; and the training available to career service providers.

Questions were raised about programs for specific populations, such as ethnic minorities, girls and women, persons with disabilities, and others. Another important question was on the effectiveness of programs and the methods used to evaluate them. Presenters were asked to describe how programs have changed over time. Because of time limitations and the differences in the stage of career development and guidance across countries, the speakers were not able to address all questions.

The papers presented fell largely into four categories: national programs with several components by country (e.g., Australia and the United States); large, but more specific programs, serving a national population (e.g., United Kingdom and Slovenia); smaller programs serving diverse populations (e.g., Torres Strait Islanders, Colombians, African Americans, and Finns); and focused programs such as career centers in China, lack of career counselor training programs in Japan, and adult programs that address gender issues of women and men in the United States.

Because of the nature of the group's topic, which was to learn about how the wide range of ways that nations are approaching the challenge of helping their citizens prepare for, find, and manage the transitions and decisions necessary in today's global world of work, the members of the group did not invest time in coming to conclusions. …


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