Every day during Canada Career Week (November 4-8, 2013), the ContactPoint and OrientAction online communities will publish guest blogs on the state of career development around the world. Today’s post was written by Rich Feller, Past President of the National Career Development Association (NCDA) in the United States.
Change becomes stressful when we lose a sense of constancy in life. Dick Bolles offered me this wisdom as NCDA planned for and celebrated its centennial and conference “Celebrating 100 Years of Career Development: Creating Hope, Social Justice and Legacy” held in Boston in July. While exploring NCDA’s legacy with Mark Savickas, Mark Pope and Paul Hartung’s, I learned to appreciate the remarkable constancy of career development issues during changing times. In 1913 the transformation of the occupational structure (agrarian to industrial), homelessness, immigration, youth unemployment, women’s limited choices, and education reform issues launched the need for the National Vocational Guidance Association (now NCDA). Its inclusive vision to provide learning, work and well-being resources remain constant today. Honoring the dignity of the most vulnerable by helping them through vocational guidance, advocacy and access strategies was a promise made and well kept. In the US and Canada remarkably similar needs and a call to advocacy remain constant. Most every worker faces job restructuring due to technology’s impact. Automation (artificial intelligence and predictive analytics) and outsourcing (and resourcing) has re-shaped notions of job security, credentials, and job longevity. Adaptation, lifelong learning and career management are new words for long held success attributes. Elevated demands on fewer middle skill jobs, and increasingly bifurcated mobility and wealth opportunity structures are a form of quite radical change. But limited access to quality learning, networks, and privileged information are constant correlates to falling behind.
As during NCDA’s birth, unemployment created considerable social and personal upheaval. Today 200M people are unemployed according to the International Labor Organization. Young people under the age of 25 make up 50M. The “wage scare” created by youth unemployment has created a generational scare that ripples throughout families, consumer behavior, and lifetimes. Andy Sum (Northwestern Univ.) reports that every single age group under 54 years of age was less likely to be working in 2010 than in 2000. Yet the importance of work and meaning to one’s identity and ability to contribute to community remains constant.
In a country created by immigrants, immigration remains critical to a career counselor and specialists’ work. In March 2013 Gallup reports that 138 million adults would like to move to the United States permanently — more than want to move to any other country in the world. Ten million or more of these adults would come from China, Nigeria, and India. Canada sees similar patterns of a desire to move to the western hemisphere.
Since 1913 education and schooling has repeatedly been asked to reform. And today the educational pipeline and employer expectations “mismatch” remains. The website www.stemcareer.com is filled with pleas to promote STEM careers for women. Constant tension between the “college for all” movement, career and technical education’s rebirth, and Harvard’s “Pathways to Prosperity” reaffirms the constant call for more career guidance. (March 2013 Pathway Summit calls for multiple career pathways, an expanded role for employers, a new social contract with youth, and a re-invention of career guidance). The College Board report “The Promise of High Quality CTE” and the Phi Delta Kappen report “Toward a Common Model of CTE” both speak to the need for work based learning which without sound career guidance will not produce more able and ready employees.
Often economic cycles took care of high levels of unemployment and low skilled employees. Today, structural issues and technology has created a world wage structure and a growing divide between “knowledge nomads”(Feller and Whichard, 2005) and what Carl Van Horn calls the “working scared”. Demographic changes with an aging workforce create demand for certain skills as other skills disappear at a faster rate. Retirement and pensions are being re-invented, and encore careers are being reimagined (see Life Reimagined: The New Story of Aging at www.lifereimagined.com ).
Fortunately, as NCDA begins its second century and Cannexus14 preps for another great professional development conference, change and opportunity are welcomed. Honored to serve as an NCDA President, I’m confident of career development’s future knowing that we are grounded in a rich legacy, a commitment to social justice and hopeful about the opportunities before all career professionals. We gain as organizations and personally when we reflect on the constancy and change affecting our roles. Such wisdom allows us to celebrate career development’s past as it enters its second century with a spirit of life reimagined. On behalf of the of my NCDA colleagues I offer my heartfelt gratitude for CERIC’s support, encouragement and commitment during this year of celebration. May all career professionals pass our good fortune forward to serve others during times of constancy and change.