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Trends in the provision of career guidance

Peter Tatham
Peter Tatham is Head of the Career Development and Employment Service, University of Tasmania

The need to access high quality career guidance, information and counselling services throughout life is now recognised as being of critical importance. In Australia we are beginning to recognise the need to prepare people for more complex and frequent transitions throughout their lives.

The complexity of the knowledge economy/society means that skill shortages emerge in unlikely areas. There is also a clear shift of responsibility for career management to the individual and away from the organisation. It is now essential to strengthen systems to assist individuals to develop the skills and knowledge to manage their career and learning choices more effectively.

World trends

In October 2003, the OECD, World Bank (Watts & Fretwell, 2004) and the European Commission (Sultana,2004, Sultana, 2003) presented the results of research from three major international reviews of career guidance services. The reviews, run in parallel and covering a total of 37 countries, focused on the contributions that career guidance makes to lifelong learning, economic development, labour market efficiency and social cohesion.

The reviews used the term 'career guidance' (in Australia we are increasingly using 'career development' as an overarching term), and defined it as 'services intended to assist individuals, of any age and at any point in their lives, to make educational, training and occupational choices, and to manage their careers.' (OECD, 2004).

There is a wide range of examples in the reviews that highlight the role career guidance is intended to play globally in relation to economic development. For example, the World Bank has made a loan of $25 million to Turkey to facilitate the implementation of a national career guidance system to support knowledge economy development. The European Commission will use career guidance as a vehicle to achieve its goal to become the most competitive knowledge-based society in the world by 2010 (Dennehy, 2003).

The qualities of effective careers guidance systems

The Contrasts and common themes report (Watts and Sultana, 2003) identified a range of key issues to be addressed by career guidance services, whether for young people or adults:

  • Services should encourage career self-management and self-help skills
  • Services should be matched to clients' personal needs and circumstances, rather than assuming that everybody needs intensive personal career guidance
  • Organisations need to offer diversity in their services, forms of delivery, and staffing structures
  • An integrated approach is needed in the use of ICT (including helplines as well as the internet)
  • The private and voluntary sectors should be offered incentives to develop their own career guidance services
  • Professional associations and training bodies should be involved in improving education and training for career guidance practitioners, preferably on a cross-sectoral basis, producing professionals who can manage guidance resources, as well as direct service delivery
  • The information base needs to improve for the purposes of public policy making. This will require improved mechanisms for gathering data on the financial and human resources devoted to career guidance, on client need and demand, on the characteristics of clients, on client satisfaction, and on the outcomes and cost-effectiveness of career guidance
  • There is a need for better quality assurance mechanisms, linked to the funding of services
  • Stronger structures are required for strategic leadership.

Delivery within schools

The OECD report identified three main options for delivery within schools: stand alone (separate course), subsumed (a strand of a course), infused (within most subjects). It noted that where career education is mandatory, its quality is easier to monitor in its stand-alone or subsumed forms. 'The report found that, with the infusion model, provision could be patchy, disconnected and often invisible to the student unless significant resources, including specific career services, are included.' (OECD, 2004). This finding has important implications for the development of learning frameworks in Australia.

What is happening in Australia?

The level of interest in career development in Australia continues to grow, and, fortunately, the best career programs in this country are also amongst the best globally.

At present the Department of Education Science and Training is focused on improving career services further. A set of national standards will exist sometime in 2005. A basic training package will be available to all current and prospective career practitioners. In 2005, the trial of an Australian Blueprint for Career Development will help to address issues of consistency. In addition, a report on the establishment of national telephone career help line will be presented.

Support has recently been offered to teachers in the form of a scholarship, to build links between school career counsellors and industry, and also to improve research. In March 2004, the Learning to Work: Inquiry into vocational education in schools recommended 'that careers education be a mandatory part of the core curriculum for the compulsory years of secondary schooling', and 'that that all secondary schools have at least one full-time professional careers adviser' (House of Representatives, 2004).

Some steps have also been taken toward a cohesive national career guidance system, accessible by all Australians across their lifespan. In time, a national centre for career guidance will be needed to ensure that good practice and strong research are accessible to those responsible for developing Australia's career management skills, enabling those who use their services to make effective contributions to society and achieve satisfying lives.


All Web locations correct as of November 22 2004.

Dennehy, J. (2003) Closing Remarks. Career Guidance and Public Policy: Bridging the Gap conference.

House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Training.(2004) Learning to Work - Report on the Inquiry into vocational education in schools.

Grubb, W.N. (2002) Who am I: The inadequacy of information in the Information Age. OECD:Paris.

Houghton, J. & Sheehan, P. (2000) A Primer on the Knowledge Economy. Canberra: DISR

Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. (2002). OECD Education Policy Analysis - Chapter 5. Paris, France. OECD

Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. (2002). OECD Review of Career Guidance Policies - Australia Country Note Paris, France. OECD

Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. (2004). Career Guidance and Public Policy: Bridging the Gap - Final Report. Paris, France. OECD (publisher's description)

Sultana, R. (2004). Guidance Policies in the Knowledge Society - Trends, Challenges and Responses Across Europe. Thessaloniki. Centre Europeen pour le Developpement de la Formation Professionnelle (CEDEFOP )

Sultana,R. (2003). Review of Career Guidance Policies in 11 Acceding and Candidate Countries Synthesis report. Turin, European Training Foundation

Watts, A.G., Fretwell, D. (2004) Public Policies for Career Development: Case Studies and Emerging Issues for Designing Career Information and Guidance Systems in Developing and Transition Economies. World Bank.

Watts, A.G., Sultana, R.G.(2003). Career Guidance Policies in 36 Countries: Contrasts and Common Themes. Thessaloniki. CEDEFOP (Available via CRAC)


Subject Headings

Curriculum planning
Economic trends
Education policy
Educational planning
Vocational guidance