New report on meeting career needs of newcomer and refugee students

The final report of a CERIC-funded University of Winnipeg project into how career development can make school more meaningful for newcomer and refugee youth is now available. The report provides details of a three-year research program led by Dr Jan Stewart that investigated schools and communities in Calgary, Winnipeg and St John’s. It contains recommendations for creating culturally responsive career development programs that address the unique needs of children who may be experiencing the effects of trauma, interrupted learning and acquiring a new language.

In the research, teachers, counsellors and school administrators indicated that refugee and newcomer youth needed more assistance with career choices and that many students were ill-informed about the impact of course choices on their future career trajectories. With complications arising because of psychosocial issues (e.g., trauma from war, loss of parents, forced migration) or language barriers, students experienced further obstacles to career planning. School counsellors reported that they did not feel fully equipped to deal with the diverse needs of children from refugee backgrounds and, that when these needs are not met, children leave the school system.

The research findings are intended to prepare counsellors and teachers who provide student career development, and to help create stronger networks between community partners, universities, organizations and schools throughout Canada. The major output of the research will be a data-informed curriculum guide entitled Bridging Two Worlds: Culturally Responsive Career Development Programs and Services to Meet the Needs of Newcomer and Refugee Children in Canada: A Guide to Curriculum Integration and Implementation.

In the first section of the guide, nine consistent themes uncovered in the research are considered in-depth as they relate to school-based learning and teaching:

  1. Conflict Awareness
  2. Social Determinants of Health
  3. Peace and Sustainability
    • Restorative Practices and Justice
    • Equity Training
  4. Refugee Characteristics
    • Anger Management
    • Stress Reduction
    • Resiliency
    • Students with English/French as an Additional Language
  5. Building Personal and Community Connections
  6. Cultural Competency: Culturally Safe and Responsive Teaching
    • Listening, Empathy, and Perspective-Taking
    • Classroom-Based Counselling Skills
    • Expressive Arts Training
    • Storytelling
  7. Trauma-Sensitivity, Mental Health Awareness, and Crisis Response
    • Responding to Mental Health Issues
    • Loss and Grief
  8. Career Planning and Career Development
  9. Teacher Self-Care

The second section focuses on identifying and increasing educator-based competency in culturally responsive career development. Using a combination of the research-based themes and the Canadian Standards and Guidelines for Career Development, core competencies related to newcomer and refugee children in Canada are explored through 30 sample lessons for educators.

The guide concludes with a section devoted to classroom-based learning for all students. On the premise that classrooms are inclusive of young people with varying ability and varying lived experience in Canada, 15 student lessons ranging from kindergarten to grade 12 are provided. Each lesson is linked to the research-based thematic areas and the Blueprint for Life/Work Designs.

Future training of both pre-service and in-service teachers and school counsellors will be able to incorporate the curriculum guide to better help them meet the needs of newcomer and refugee students. The curriculum guide is expected to be available by early 2018 and will launch at the Cannexus18 National Career Development Conference in Ottawa.

Additional partners and funders of the research include the University of Calgary, Memorial University, Mitacs and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.