New reference guide offers case studies of “impressive” post-secondary career services

A new report presents case profiles of 15 Canadian post-secondary institutions that have been recognized for having best practices in career service delivery. Insight into Impressive Practices in Career Services: A Reference Guide expands on a CERIC-backed research study, released this spring, that sought to establish the importance that publicly funded universities and colleges place on career development services and to highlight impressive models of career services across the country.

In the reference guide, researchers Dr Peter Dietsche and Jim Lees of PSE Information Systems summarize the results of interviews with career services staff at post-secondary institutions that scored above the mean on an Impressive Model Scale, and analyze their range of impressive career service models:

Wilfrid Laurier University: Comprehensive Career-Integrated Learning Model
Queens University: Efficiency Model
Simon Fraser University: Partnership Model
University of Toronto-Mississauga: Skills Development Model/“Teach How to Fish”
Mount Royal University: Centralized Work Experience/Career Development
Fanshawe College: Open Doors Model
Nova Scotia Community College: Holistic/Lifespan Focus Model
St Francis Xavier University: Personal Development/Reflective Model
Mohawk College: Advising/Coaching Model
Dalhousie University: Psychological Model
Mount Saint Vincent University: Centralized Career/Employment Services Model
Bow Valley College: Centralized One-Stop Model
Ryerson University: Three-Pillar Model (curricular, co-curricular, personal)
Conestoga College:  Integrated Model
Centennial College: Three-Stage Model (engage, prepare, connect)

Characteristics that are common across models are explored in the first half of the guide. The dominant theme, mentioned by 12 of the 15 institutions, was the importance of establishing relationships with campus stakeholders. These partnerships are seen as a way for career services to increase contact with students and improve visibility on campus. Other top themes related to career service models were: aligning career services with the institutional strategic plan; co-locating with other services on campus, most frequently co-operative education; being responsive to stakeholder needs, namely those of students and faculty; and being proactive in the delivery of career services by reaching students “on their turf.” Additional themes related to institutional commitment, funding sources and outcomes measures are also examined.

The second half of the guide provides brief profiles of each institution, key descriptors of their service, and an overview of what staff viewed as some of their best practices. A total of 47 best practices in career service delivery are captured. Just a few examples include:

Wilfrid Laurier University – Graduate Survey: Career services has conducted an annual graduate survey of the entire graduating class for the past 35 years. It has proven very beneficial from a career counselling perspective in terms of demonstrating to students that their skills are transferable and a vast array of career options are open to them.

Queen’s University – Major Maps and Grad Maps: Major Maps are holistic, integrated tools for career development, reinforcing early engagement and building experience throughout a student’s degree. The maps were created with, and are used by, multiple stakeholders across the university, for example, academic and career advisors.

Mount Royal University – Blending Career Development with Work Experience: The department is a blend of career development co-ordinators and work experience co-ordinators. This supports the university offering a variety of work experience models ranging from internships to co-operative education that are embedded in credentials.

Nova Scotia Community College – Trained Live Chat & Email Help by Career Advisors: Trained career advisors inform and explain career development principles, concepts and activities within Career in Gear, a website that allows students to start learning about career development prior to start seeing an advisor one-on-one.

Fanshawe College – “Don’t Cancel that Class”: A service for academics that are aware they may have to cancel a class due to conference attendance or travel. Career services offers to meet the class and deliver career-related workshops tailored to specific needs, providing a chance to further build relationships with students.

Ryerson University – Career Checkpoint: A toolkit for employers of student staff, to enable professional development to be seamlessly incorporated into the on-campus job, requiring all student jobs to list learning outcomes. It includes specific resources for supervisors working with international student staff and Indigenous students.

While it is not recommended that post-secondary institutions attempt to “transplant” a model from another career service, the intent of the reference guide is to have the key themes and best practices provide a roadmap for deploying an impressive model of career services. The authors also state that they hope their research findings assist all stakeholders in supporting post-secondary students to achieve their academic, personal and professional goals.

A CERIC webinar series planned for the week of November 13 will feature Dr Dietsche sharing his research along with leaders from some of Canada’s most impressive career services. Watch for further details.