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SPECIAL REPORT: Assessment Tools Continue to Top PD Wish List

Surveys Also Show a Big Drop in Career Development Research over Past Five Years

by Mario R. Gravelle

The Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling (CERIC) plays a part in generating primary data about the career counselling and career development field. CERIC recently carried out a survey to uncover the opinions of career service professionals. The online survey was conducted between October 14 and November 18, 2011. Participants were recruited via an open call across CERIC’s e-mail lists. Supporting organizations also forwarded the survey notification to broaden representation. It was completed by 1,013 respondents from the field. CERIC undertook similar surveys in 2006 and 2007. Whereas 765 career service professionals completed the 2006 survey, 503 answered it in 2007.

The purpose of this article is to compare some of the findings from CERIC’s Survey of Career Service Professionals 2011 with those of similar surveys CERIC undertook in 2006 and 2007. All three surveys delved into professional development, research, career competency and mobility as well as issues pertaining to technology. Although elements of these surveys differ, a comparison of findings nevertheless offers some very interesting insight. In brief, interest in assessment tools continues to grow and the desire to focus professional development on adults in career transition has increased greatly. Furthermore, there has been a big drop in the percentage of organizations involved in career development research. Lastly, practitioners in 2007 and 2011 share the same opinion about what skills they need to upgrade to meet their employers’ needs with individual leadership & initiative leading the way. Here are some of the details about what we learned when comparing results from the respective surveys:

Professional Development and Learning

Respondents were asked in 2006 and 2011 where they would like to focus their professional development over the next year. The top five answers provided in these respective surveys showed some interesting differences. The first choice in 2006 is career counselling techniques/interventions (44%), followed closely by career assessment tools and career and labour market information (both at 41%), and individual counselling skills related to the provision of career development services tied with trends and issues in the workplace at 38%. Career assessment tools gained three pointst (44%) and are the first choice in 2011. It is followed by career and labour market information (down five points to 36%), future trends—macro global business issues (32%), and diverse populations—e.g. new Canadians, rural population, persons with disabilities etc. (27%). Individual counselling skills related to the provision of career development services is the fifth highest choice at 26% down from 38% in 2006 where it ranked eighth overall.

The respective 2006 and 2011 CERIC surveys also asked what client group career service professionals would most like to focus their professional development upon. Adults in career transition are the top choice of respondents in both years. It is important to note that this client group gained considerable importance over the five-year period as it increased from 48% in 2006 to 63% in 2011. The other top five choices in 2006 are students/graduates (45%), youth (37%), new Canadians/immigrants (32%) and older workers (26%). The gap between the first and the second choice is much more pronounced in 2011. Whereas the difference is only three per cent in 2006, there is a 23% drop off in the most recent survey as post-secondary students is far below adults in career transition at 40%. The unemployed (37%) ranked third, followed by new Canadians/immigrants (34%) and people belonging to a sexual minority group (33%).


Several questions were asked about research in the 2006 and 2011 surveys that provide interesting comparisons across time. For instance, more than half (58%) of 2006 respondents note that their organization is involved in career development research compared to slightly less than a quarter (23%) in 2011. A follow-up question about the type of research being undertaken shows some differences over time as well. Qualitative research more than doubled (from 22% to 50%) while quantitative research saw a two-fold increase (from 19% to 38%). By comparison, follow-up studies only experienced a slight increase from 2006 to 2011 (from 25% to 28%). Consequently, it has fallen from the most prominent type of career development research to the least.

What types of research are you undertaking? (Select all that apply)

 What type of research are you undertaking


The percentage of career service professionals that evaluate the impact of career counselling/career development programs or services has remained largely the same from 2006 to 2011. A total of 54% of respondents mention doing so in the earlier survey compared to 60% in the latest poll. Both surveys asked a follow-up question about the type of information that these evaluations focus upon. While every category decreased, changes in client attitudes, knowledge and/or skills after an intervention experienced the most significant change as it dropped by almost half (from 74% in 2006 to 38% in 2011). It is now by far the least popular measure tracked in evaluations by career service professionals.

If you are currently evaluating your program, what are you focusing upon?

(Select all that apply)

If you are currently evaluating your program



Career Competency and Mobility

The 2007 and 2011 surveys included a question about how career service professionals felt they could upgrade their skills to meet their employers’ needs. Team building & motivation (77%) was voted the top ranked competency enhancement opportunity in 2007 while individual leadership & initiative (66%) received the highest mark by 2011 respondents. The next four in the earlier survey are: Negotiation & conflict management (76%); individual leadership & initiative (72%); judgment & decision making (71%); and priority setting, managing work, delegation & follow-up (70%). Rounding out the top five in 2011 are performance evaluation & support (65%), team-building & motivation (64%), negotiation & conflict management (63%) and judgment & decision-making (59%). It is interesting to note that two choices saw very significant decreases from 2006 compared to 2011. While 62% stated that enhancing their skills in operational awareness would suit their employer’s needs in 2007, only 36% did so in the most recent survey. Customer service orientation experienced a similar decrease as it dropped 22 points between 2007 and 2011 (from 70% to 48%). It consequently lost some ground in the ranking from fifth to tenth most important.

For more detailed findings about the 2011 survey please consult the Highlights Report: Survey of Career Service Professionals available (in French and English) as well as Regional Analysis of the survey on the CERIC website ( Thematic articles will also be distributed via The Bulletin throughout 2012. These articles will examine some topics in greater detail.

Mario R. Gravelle joined The Counselling Foundation of Canada in early 2011 as Learning and Innovation Analyst. His responsibilities include instituting and overseeing knowledge capture and knowledge transfer activities about projects that the foundation supports. Gravelle is completing his doctoral dissertation in history at York University (BA from Concordia University and MA from the University of Ottawa).

1 Comment

  1. December 9, 2012, 7:30 am   / 

    […] SPECIAL REPORT: Assessment Tools Continue to Top PD Wish List by Mario R. Gravelle […]

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