The Art and Science of Finding a Good Vocational Fit
By Addie Greco-Sanchez
Sometimes temperament and skills blend together perfectly; but often, potential is diminished when it slams up against barriers of attitude, discipline and cultural expectations. Addie Greco-Sanchez gives an introduction to the science – and the art – of vocational evaluation and its contribution to career development.
It’s been said that art is I and science is we. In vocational evaluation, science consists of tools, processes and protocols proven through years of experience and thousands of applications to distilability to its key dimensions. Art is how an individual, a beautiful oddity, can be reconciled with standard vocational test scores.
Practitioners in vocational rehabilitation don’t always agree on whether vocational evaluation should be termed assessment or evaluation. Assessment comes from the Latin assidēre, meaning to sit beside and suggests the placement of an individual on a continuum where there is no right or wrong position. Evaluation implies a top-down judgment with value attached and is commonly used because evaluation is how schools and industries determine performance.
Both assessment and evaluation have their merits as descriptors, with assessment denoting the co-operative art of interacting with clients, and evaluation denoting the scientific rigour with which results are examined. As a society, we tend to stress objective science over the subjectivity of art, therefore vocational evaluation is the most commonly used term.
But vocational evaluation goes beyond administrating, scoring and interpreting scientifically-proven tests. The cost of a vocational misfit is great, both to society and the individual, therefore the definition of vocational evaluation developed by the Vocational Evaluation and Work Adjustment Association (VEWAA) is necessarily broad:
A comprehensive process that systemically uses work, either real or simulated, as the focal point for assessment and vocational exploration, the purpose of which is to assist individuals with vocational development. Vocational evaluation incorporates medical, psychological, social, vocational, educational, cultural and economic data into the process to attain the goals of evaluation.
The comprehensive evaluation process refers to data collection methods – usually standardized testing – used to gather information about individual interests, abilities and aptitudes. The goal is to explore possibilities and to provide information to help people gain insight about their vocational potential.
Evaluation is a method of acquiring information and a process to assist individuals in identifying their functional competencies and disabilities. It evaluates factors such as vocational strengths and weaknesses, which can be assessed in the areas of personality, aptitude, interest, work habits, physical tolerance and dexterity. There is also an element of fortune-telling involved because vocational evaluations attempt to predict a person’s future and to advise as to how barriers may be overcome. Evaluation can generate a course of action for people with disabilities that may range from competitive employment to personal activity outside employment. Not all individuals are able to move toward competitive employment, therefore recommendations for productive living at home can be included within the goals of assessment.
To ensure positive outcomes for the individual, attention must be directed to the appropriate choice of tests, the prudent use of administration procedures and the enlightened interpretation of results. People bring a variety of individual traits, competencies and limitations to rehabilitation opportunities. These include distinctive cultural backgrounds and individual expectations, attitudes and values that emerge from their ethnicity.
Frequently, factors such as motivation, interests, ethnicity and work tolerance may be just as important to reaching rehabilitation goals as the qualities of intelligence and learning-related aptitudes; this is where the art of vocational evaluation comes in. Determining the barriers to career choice and satisfaction is just as important as uncovering the opportunities. In vocational assessments, as in life, understanding what you can’t do is just as important as understanding what you can do.
Aptitude and interest-based testing uncovers a range of possibilities; habits and attitudes narrow the options. Taking the science of testing and applying the template of temperament is where art meets the science of vocational evaluation.
Here is perhaps the most frustrating diagram you face as a career development professional: the individual potential that is blocked by habits of behaviour or attitude that can be extremely resistant to change. Balancing aptitude and attitude to present a realistic survey of vocational options is the measure of a wise evaluator. Balancing aptitude and attitude to survey ourselves is the measure of enlightenment.
According to Vocational Rehabilitation Association Canada, vocational rehabilitation specialists “(…) serve clients with a wide range of disabilities across the lifespan. These disabilities are the results of impairments due to any loss or abnormality of psychological, physiological or anatomical structure or function. [They] advocate for the recognition of the rights and the accessibility to appropriate services for persons with disabilities [and they] work with persons with disabilities to enhance their power and control over their own lives.”
Addie Greco-Sanchez is President of AGS Rehab Solutions Inc. She holds a passion for vocational evaluation and has been in the field of vocational rehabilitation for 25 years.