Testing the Waters of Career Choice

Article excerpt

New technology for testing and assessment helps move students toward successful careers.

Innovative products and online technology has made it easier than ever to test students' aptitudes and steer them to the right career pathways. The revamped art and science of career testing and assessment aligns the process with school-to-work and employer requirements.

At the Rapides Parish Career Center in Alexandria, Louisiana, counselor Elaine Morace still has the option of paper-and-pencil career assessment but also has embraced the new online Compute-A-Match System, SAGE, from Pesco. The center serves youth and adult populations. It assists those with little work experience or vocational training, displaced homemakers, high school dropouts, the homeless and other special needs groups. Morace says SAGE helps clients identify "who they are, their aptitudes, personal traits. A lot of people are simply unaware of these things." By assessing students and adults Morace can help find an occupational area that fits their interests and aptitudes. SAGE results match a personal profile with potential jobs and show what training is necessary to qualify.

Consider the case of a 20-year female health care worker, whose lifelong dream had been to drive a tractor trailer. Through career testing, Morace was able to justify why this woman was eligible for training. She showed the temperament, aptitudes and interest for the field. After completing a training program, the woman was hired by a trucking company.

In another example, a high school senior wanted to go into physical therapy-a career choice that required postsecondary education. His mother, a single parent with a limited income, wanted to be certain that her son had the ability and interest before she invested the money. SAGE results showed he had the general verbal and numerical aptitudes, so Morace placed him in an unpaid internship where he could get real work experience. This series of events helped the mother feel more comfortable and the son more confident and motivated about this career goals.

Morace especially likes that the system measures clients' aptitudes against job skills specified by the Department of Labor. And Pesco Vice President Charles Kass says the new SAGE version relates specifically to school-to-work efforts.

"We designed our test in line with DOL-defined skills to give counselors a way to measure the skills individuals need when they leave school and enter the workplace."

Pesco's system is unique because it offers multiple choice and pictorial questions in addition to manipulative devices that measure finger dexterity, manual dexterity, eye/hand/foot coordination and motor skills. The devices interface with a computer monitor and are connected to a game or sound card, so a CDROM is not necessary. Kass says another advantage is the bookmark feature, which permits the test taker to stop the test and resume later at the same point with the correct amount of time left. Updates are included in Pesco's online testing package and are available on disk, via e-mail or by downloading from the Internet.

Better choices

Larry Miele, project coordinator at the Downriver Career Center and principal of an alternative high school in Brownstown, Michigan, also is upgrading his career testing and assessment technology. The high school, which serves disadvantaged and at-risk students, was among the first group of schools to use CareerScope, the new Windows- and Macintosh-based interest and aptitude assessment from Vocational Research Institute (VRI), a nonprofit group based in Philadelphia.

A longtime user of VRI's APTICOM system, Miele was eager to make the switch to a completely self-administered assessment program that runs on a personal computer and is easily transported to the nine schools the career center serves. CareerScope also allows Miele to store each student's assessment results in a central database she can access and from which she can print reports for students and counselors. …