Center for American Progress

: A National Approach to Career Navigation for Working Learners
Past Event

A National Approach to Career Navigation for Working Learners

9:00 - 11:00 AM EST

We need a "new vision for career development that is as much a service to be delivered as a mindset to be cultivated," said Louis Soares, Director of the Postsecondary Education Program at the Center for American Progress at an event on career navigation last Thursday. Soares moderated a panel of experts that included Phil Jarvis, senior vice president for the National Centre for Work/Life; Vickie Choitz, senior policy analyst at the Center for Law and Social Policy; Craig Herndon, director of career and educational resources in the Virginia Community College System; Elliott Brown, founder and executive director at Springboard Forward; and Mal Caravatti, associate research director at the American Federation of Teachers. The event featured the release of a new CAP report on why the United States needs a national approach to career navigation and what that approach would look like.

The American economy is evolving from an industrial to a knowledge-based one, and this is changing the labor market for workers and employers. Many jobs now require technical knowledge and skills instead of physical strength. And many people do not follow in the footsteps of family members anymore. These problems are compounded by the fact that the United States lacks a coherent career navigation system, and many workers find it difficult to reach wise career decisions on their own.

Some groups are struggling more than others. The roughly 75 million working learners, for example, are often parents who must work and attend school at the same time. They do not have a postsecondary credential, but they cannot afford to drop out of the labor market and pursue education full time because of their family responsibilities. Without a detailed plan they cannot advance into family sustaining careers.

Employers lose out, too. Even in a period of high unemployment they canít find the workers they need because many unemployed workers donít have the right set of skills for the job. Employers need efficient ways to develop and access a highly skilled workforce to stay competitive, and both these needs are increasing as the economy evolves.

Americans grow up without any consistent career guidance. There is a "myth that career development, career counseling is happening at schools," said Jarvis. But "students are not getting anything like what they need in terms of help." This is not necessarily school counselorsí fault since most are too busy with immediate student problems. Teachers donít think itís their responsibility, and senior administrators play no role in career development.

Choitz, one of the reportís authors, said most people donít even know what career programs or models are available. "There are a myriad of resources" that are not organized or coordinated for easy individual access.

The CAP report details what an effective career navigation system would look like. This system should:

  • Provide continuous and lifelong access to career navigation
  • Increase capacity to meet national demand
  • Provide high-quality service that conforms to appropriate common minimum standards
  • Integrate multiple service providers, with each offering appropriate services for particular populations or clients
  • Provide unbiased, objective assistance that is carefully tailored to individual needs
  • Empower each individual with career navigation skills
  • Provide efficient, streamlined services, fully utilizing technology for maximum scale

"We can solve this challenge," Choitz said. "Weíve got the tools" but we "need the vision" and the "will." One idea is a "national communications campaign" that would raise awareness and investment for programs that work so that they could be applied on a national scale. She also recommended a career "online homebase" or website that would function as a personalized coordination point that could offer "unbiased and objective" advice.

People want career information in "a detailed way" that has "specific education requirements," Herndon said. A student should first be able to tap into this online server in seventh grade and stay with it throughout their career to connect them to peers, counselors, and potential employers. Workers donít just need these tools, "they expect these tools," he said.

The U.S. economy needs these tools, too. "We are being extremely inefficient with our labor market right now," said Choitz, because not having a coherent career navigation system wastes our human capital. "This is a national economic imperative."

Students, job seekers, and incumbent workers all need different information presented to their specific needs in a unified way. A national career website would be a good "starting point" but itís not nearly enough, Caravatti said. We "need a cultural shift" to help give workers the skills they need to feel secure in their career choices.

Welcoming Remarks:
Louis Soares, Director, Postsecondary Education Program, Center for American Progress

Opening Remarks
Phil Jarvis, Senior Vice President, National Centre for Work/Life

Paper Presentation: A National Approach To Career Navigation For Working Learners
Vickie Choitz, Senior Policy Analyst, Center for Law and Social Policy

Featured Panelists:
Vickie Choitz, Senior Policy Analyst, Center for Law and Social Policy
Craig Herndon, Director of Career and Educational Resources, Virginia Community College System
Elliott Brown, Founder and Executive Director, Springboard Forward
Mal Caravatti, Associate Research Director, American Federation of Teachers

Moderated by:
Louis Soares, Director, Postsecondary Education Program, Center for American Progress