A new national CERIC study has identified seven publicly funded Canadian universities and colleges with the most “impressive” models of career services. The study, undertaken by Dr Peter Dietsche and Jim Lees of PSE Information Systems, also examines the level of institutional commitment across the country to providing career services for post-secondary students.

In conducting the study, comprehensive information on career service was obtained from as large a sample of Canadian colleges and universities as possible using a mixed-methods research design. An online survey of 180 institutions during October/November 2016 resulted in responses from a total of 67 institutions. The 67 institutions consisted of 32 colleges (48%) and 35 universities (52%) drawn from all Canadian provinces and territories except for Nunavut, Manitoba and Prince Edward Island. A total of 207 post-secondary web sites were also reviewed.

Impressive models

The Insight into Canadian Post-Secondary Career Service Models report characterizes institutions that have an impressive model of career service delivery as those that: evaluate services regularly, measure outcomes, are proactive in delivery, and collaborate extensively with campus stakeholders. While a total of 24 institutions scored “above average” on these criteria, the universities and colleges found to exemplify an impressive model are:

  • Wilfrid Laurier University
  • Queen’s University
  • Simon Fraser University
  • University of Toronto Mississauga
  • Mount Royal University
  • Fanshawe College
  • Nova Scotia Community College

An examination of other characteristics that the seven top-scoring institutions had in common showed the majority: have a Director with a Master’s degree and a career designation; are within Student Affairs/Services; are co-located with co-op/experiential services; have practices informed by written departmental policies; and, have a senior administration that is “very” or “quite” committed to student career development.

Criterion-specific models

In addition to highlighting impressive models, the study distinguished five “criterion-specific” career services models:

  • Use of student assistants or peer helpers – A total of 27 institutions in the sample indicated they had student assistants on staff, with this to be more likely in universities compared to colleges
  • Co-location of services – Four campus services were listed as possible candidates for co-location, Co-op/Experiential Learning Services, Personal Counselling, Academic Advising and Student Life. The largest number of career services was located in close proximity to two other services
  • Service for prospective students – Survey results showed that slightly more than one-third of respondents provide career services to prospective students
  • Student-based funding – Respondents at 28 institutions reported receiving no funding via fees derived from students or employers while 36 institutions did in varying degrees
  • The Quebec model – Quebec CEGEPs and universities exhibited a distinctive approach to career services with them divided into two separate areas, Service d’orientation working with students around program choices and Service de placement focused on employment advising, job search and university selection

Institutional investment

The study concluded that institutional commitment to career services as measured by financial and physical plant investments (e.g. total budget, staff size, space allocation) was highly variable and clearly influenced by institutional size. Current year budget amounts ranged from a low of $0 where career services were totally funded via student fees to a maximum of $5 million for a very large university. The overall average was $697,961. Likewise, full-time staff ranged from a low of 0 for one very small college and a university that outsourced career services, to a high of 50 with an average of 8.5. Part-time staff numbers ranged from 0 to 12 with an average of 1.9.

More indirect measures of institutional commitment suggest significant support for career services delivery exists in a considerable number of Canadian post-secondary institutions. Indirect measures include:

  • Embedded career-focused curriculum – Slightly more than one half of respondents said this occurred in some programs or classes and one in 10 in all programs
  • Faculty engage students in career-related topics – Just under half reported that faculty were encouraged to engage students in career topics in “some of their programs” and approximately one-quarter said this occurred in all programs
  • Career staff meet classes – Survey results showed that career services staff in the vast majority of institutions (91%) met with classes/student groups to explain services available
  • Collaboration with campus stakeholders – The highest levels of collaboration for career services were with counselling services and academic advisors

Survey participants were asked to indicate the proportion of their operating funds derived from various sources. On average, 60% of their funding came from the institution. The second major funding source was from fees charged to students or employers where, on average, about one quarter (26%) was derived. In terms of rating the commitment of their senior administration to student career development, the largest group of respondents, slightly more than one-third, said their senior administration was “somewhat” committed. Almost one-quarter reported they were “quite” committed and one-fifth reported they were “very committed.” Only 18% said they were either “not very” or “not at all” committed.

Web analysis
The report asserts that if post-secondary institutions wish to promote the career development of their students, being able to easily locate the career services web site is critical. The conclusion is that career service sites are typically prominent and easy to access from the institution’s home page with an average of 2.28 clicks for colleges required and 2.1 clicks for universities.

A separate report, Insights into Impressive Practices in Career Services, summarizing the results of site interviews with career services staff at institutions scoring highly on the impressive model scale, will be published in the coming months. The goal is to obtain sufficient information on the impressive models so that these might be replicated at other institutions.

Read the full study, which includes a 7-page Executive Summary.