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How The Guidance Centre Became a Vital Player in Canadian Career Development

This blog post originally appeared on CLSR and was republished with the permission of the author.

By Denise Hughes

I recently read Career Development Practice in Canada: Perspectives, Principles, and Professionalism, and was particularly interested in the first chapter, The Emergence of Career Development in Canada. This interest is due, in no small part, to the fact that I’ve been involved with this field since the early 1970s, specifically with The Guidance Centre, then part of the Faculty of Education of the University of Toronto. In particular, my interest is in the development of Canadian resources and those available to support the work of guidance counsellors and career development professionals in the early years.

In January 1943, the Vocational Guidance Centre began operations with the goals of assisting ‘guidance workers,’ fostering the development and production of special materials “likely to be of particular value in the Canadian situation” and ensuring that these materials would be kept up-to-date through frequent revisions. Additionally, the Vocational Guidance Centre was a source for carefully selected U.S. assessments and related materials, applicable to Canadians, to alleviate the inconvenience of ordering and shipping from the U.S. In April of that year, this tiny organization was taken over by the National Committee for Mental Hygiene, Canada, and its services were greatly expanded.

Much of the Canadian content offered by the Vocational Guidance Centre was based on occupational information materials written by Morgan D. Parmenter, who held the position of director of the Vocational Guidance Centre. The V.G.C. Occupational Information Monographs series grew from the initial 100 different occupational titles to 500+ titles over the years and continued to be revised and updated until the late 1990s, when access to Internet-based materials made them obsolete. In addition, M.D. Parmenter authored four V.G.C. Occupational Course Text-Notebooks to coincide with the four divisions of the guidance and counselling curriculum: You and Your Future; The Producing Occupations, The Service Occupations and Success in the World of Work. The 1944-45 school year also saw the introduction of a modest V.G.C. Mailing Service, which promised two copies of each new monograph produced in the period as well as a copy of The School Guidance Worker (a monthly bulletin of developments in the field of guidance that in September 1985 became known as the journal Guidance & Counselling) and a variety of reprints and pamphlets selected for their value in occupational information files. These materials often formed the backbone of career centres in schools and libraries.

In 1945, the Vocational Guidance Centre became a division of the Ontario College of Education, University of Toronto. The V.G.C. Mailing Service was greatly expanded and the variety of U.S.-based assessments, ranging from Tests of Mental Ability, Intelligence, Clerical, Mechanical, Personality, Reading and Vocabulary, Mathematics and Interest Inventories offered was further increased. Many of the assessments available through the Vocational Guidance Centre later became restricted access under the Guidelines of the Canadian and American Psychological Associations for Test Distribution.

The guidance field transforms

By 1953, the field of guidance was no longer considered to be strictly vocational. Rather, it was broadened to include attention to the needs of the whole individual. In March 1953, the term “Vocational” was removed from the name and the organization was thereafter referred to as The Guidance Centre, Ontario College of Education. In addition to several new as well as ongoing publications by the director, M.D. Parmenter, Canadian authors were encouraged to create useful resources – books, posters, etc. – for publication and selected materials were distributed from a variety of Canadian sources, such as the National Film Board. Information on where teachers who were interested in training for school guidance work was also included in the annual catalogue.

Professor Parmenter remained as director of The Guidance Centre until his death in 1968. His significant contributions to the field of Guidance continues today through the awards of both the Ontario School Counsellors Association and of The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education that are presented in his honour.

The Guidance Centre continued to expand its role to support the whole individual through an extensive variety of publications over the years; introducing, among many other publications, books in The Social Problems in Canada Series, edited by Benjamin Schlesinger, and The Student, Subject and Careers Series, H.O. Barrett, General Editor. Titles in these series were on the recommended classroom materials list of the Ontario Ministry of Education. The Guidance Centre Mailing Service had record numbers of subscribers and was sent to nearly every English-language school across the nation. The GC Occupational Information Monographs, begun so many years before by Professor Parmenter, continued to be important components of this service along with each new title in the two series noted above. Likewise, an extensive number of other relevant Guidance Centre publications were introduced to Canadian Guidance Counsellors via this subscription service.

In 1971, three committed guidance professionals from the then Peel County Board of Education introduced the first title in another groundbreaking series: Spectrum. Spectrum was the result of the dedicated, detailed and time-consuming work of Nan Davies, Daryl Cook and Muriel Peck, and presented, for the first time, a full picture of all the post-secondary courses available to students in Ontario in a given school year complete in one place. Ontario Spectrum, as it was later known, was joined by Atlantic, Western and Quebec Spectrums in the years that followed. This series was completely revised annually and remained in print until The Guidance Centre, University of Toronto, was closed in 1998.

My personal journey

Along my journey in the Career Development industry I’ve had the privilege of meeting, and working with many of individuals who are mentioned in Career Development Practice in Canada: Perspectives, Principles, and Professionalism including Stu Conger, Lynne Bezanson, Roberta Neault, Deirdre Pickerell and Gillian Johnston, to name but a few. My journey has literally taken me from coast to coast, and I’ve been privileged to participate in many notable events such as the first NATCON conference (at which I had the only display of English-language resources and IPR, based in Montreal, had a display of French-language materials), and each subsequent NATCON.

From the early days of the Vocational Guidance Centre, when resources to support the work of Canadian guidance counsellors, and later co-op educators and career development professionals, were slim indeed, The Guidance Centre was the primary source for English language materials across the country and each new resource was warmly welcomed.

I have only touched on a few highlights here. No matter where I travelled, visiting guidance centres in schools, school libraries, college or university career centres meant that I would see materials that were either published or selected for distribution by The Guidance Centre. It was a privilege to be part of an operation that played a small but vital role in helping individuals make decisions about their education and/or world of work options, and to get to know the incredible professionals who were dedicated to helping others make these important decisions. The knowledge and experience that I have gained along the way continues to serve me well as the director of Career/LifeSkills Resources Inc. While the shape and form of the delivery may have changed, our mission remains consistent with that of Professor Parmenter: to serve the whole person.


Denise Hughes is the Director and owner of Career/LifeSkills Resources Inc. and general editor of Personality Dimensions® materials and products. She just noticed the calendar and realized it is just past the 44th anniversary of her introduction to career materials. Those experiences and the expertise she gained through her years with The Guidance Centre, University of Toronto, and now with CLSR, continue to shape the direction that both Career/LifeSkills Resources and Personality Dimensions® take.

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