Providing Comprehensive Career Guidance Services through a Career Pathways Framework

Article excerpt

In 2005, the state of South Carolina enacted the Education and Economic Development Act (EEDA). The Act, commonly known as the Personal Pathways to Success initiative, was designed to improve student achievement, graduation rates, and preparedness for postsecondary education and high-skill, high-wage jobs. EEDA is intended to work through a focus on career awareness and exploration at all school levels and the creation of locally relevant programs of study (POS) in high schools. EEDA contains nearly all of the basic requirements of Perkins IV plus additional elements intended to support and sustain the implementation of POS. These include extra assistance for high-risk students, the organization of high school curricula around at least three career clusters per school, an enhanced role for school counselors, evidence-based high school reform, regional education centers charged with facilitating business-education partnerships, and greater articulation between secondary and postsecondary education.

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One of the timely aspects of this legislation is the prominent role that school counselors play in the career development of students. There is evidence to support the role of school counselors in providing lasting career guidance to students. For instance, research on school counseling and guidance services have found that students who receive career development services reported greater career awareness and higher levels of career exploration and planning. Further, long-term effects of career counseling resulted in higher levels of success in transitioning into life roles, a better sense of direction in their careers, and higher levels of overall life satisfaction (Lapan, Aoyagi, and Kayson, 2007). EEDA calls for career guidance and counseling services to be available across all grade levels and include career awareness at the elementary school level, career exploration at the middle school level, and career preparation at the high school level. Services are applied in the context of the career cluster-based curriculum which is designed to "provide students with both strong academics and real-world problem solving skills"--South Carolina Department of Education, 2006, p. 8.

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At the high school level, EEDA includes a career guidance program model that emphasizes career development and planning during students' ninth- and 10th-grade years, and provides students with a variety of work exploration experiences throughout high school. School counselors are required to work with students to aid them in identifying and defining their career cluster goals, the development of an individual graduation plan (IGP), and, during their 10th-grade year, the declaration of a major within a career cluster of study. EEDA goes on to specify that, "Throughout high school, students must be provided guidance activities and career awareness programs that combine counseling on career options and experiential learning with academic planning to assist students in fulfilling their individual graduation plans ..."--South Carolina Department of Education, 2006, p. 8.

The Act also calls for the inclusion of career specialists who hold a Career Development Facilitator training certificate. These individuals work under the supervision of school counselors providing career awareness, career development and career exploration activities to students. The Act includes a 300 to 1 student to guidance personnel ratio, for which both career specialists and school counselors are considered as guidance personnel. Another notable facet of the Act includes developing strategies for school counselors to involve students' parents or guardians in the career guidance process and to engage them in the development and annual renewal of student IGPs.

This legislation is timely for the field of school counseling. …