A Very Special Issue: Critically Reflecting on Australia's National Career Development Strategy
McIlveen, Peter, Australian Journal of Career Development
The Commonwealth Government's Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relation's (2012) National Career Development Strategy Green Paper is a major milestone in the evolution of the career development industry in Australia. Just as the previous Coalition Government should be acknowledged for the impetus it gave to formulate and implement the Professional Standards for Australian Career Development Practitioners under the aegis of the Career Industry Council of Australia (2009), the current government should be acknowledged for taking the next step in the industry's development by publishing the Green Paper and supporting its development with four major consultation reports. Indeed, in different ways, the Australian career development industry has enjoyed the support of both sides of government. This is a fact to be celebrated, as not all nations in the OECD receive such support from their respective governments.
The exigencies of budgets and Cabinet priorities will no doubt influence how the department proceeds. To be sure, what will transpire in response to the Green Paper is unknown at this stage but there is a constant in all of this hurly-burly and it is we who constitute the field of career development: counsellors, teachers, guidance officers, researchers, employment officers, human resource consultants, coaches, psychologists and many more. How we read the Green Paper is a topic worthy of consideration. Accordingly, I invite you to take a moment to reflect upon your perspective and the implications of the Green Paper.
The Green Paper's media release is interesting and provides a useful stimulus for consideration. The Minister for School Education, and for Early Childhood and Youth, the Honourable Mr Peter Garrett (2012) 'said the nation's future prosperity relies on matching the skills and career aspirations of Australians with the needs of businesses' and that the Green Paper 'outlines how a National Career Development Strategy will help in the provision of quality and equitable access to career support for all Australians'. The wording of these two extracts is quite significant.
The first extract may be interpreted as a call to traditional career development theories and practices that emphasise person--environment correspondence, those that operationalise matching interests, skills, abilities and values to occupations and work environments. Recent research demonstrates that the RIASEC model of vocational interests, often criticised for its reductionist vision of career, may form the conceptual and empirical basis of a holistic psychology of individuals (Armstrong, Day, McVay & Rounds, 2008). Furthermore, if educational outcomes are to feature in the National Career Development Strategy--recall the Commonwealth Government's aim to achieve bachelor qualifications among 40% of Australian 25-34 year olds by 2025--then the strategy's authors would do well to consider the evidence that congruence between interests and studies or work or both is a useful predictor of academic performance and work performance (Nye, Su, Rounds & Drasgow, 2012; Tracey & Robbins, 2006). Indeed, after 100 years, the traditional matching model has much to claim in terms of its capacity to contribute to the formulation of a strategy that matches skills and aspirations of individuals with the needs of industry.
From another perspective, read through the eyes of a critical perspective (Stead & Bakker, 2010; cf. special issue of Journal of Career Development, Stead & Perry, 2012), the words 'the needs of business' and notions such as 'skills shortages' can take on a different meaning (McIlveen, 2007). A critical perspective demands analysis beyond mere words and their denotative meanings towards an analysis of their connotative meanings in discourse (Stead & Bakker, 2010). Consider what is implied in the Minister's words 'the nation's prosperity'. In broad terms, it could refer to the general good, the utilitarian happiness of the majority. …