Aerial view of the Kingston road area in Scarborough, Ontario.Careering

Geography matters: The value of place-based workforce development

The story of one community’s exploration of geographic solutions to geographic poverty

Anne Gloger

Author headshotIt was lack of services in the inner suburban community of East Scarborough, ON that prompted the design and development of a new kind of organization. The East Scarborough Storefront was created by the community for the community to ensure that local people had access to local services. The Storefront began as a service hub where staff acted as hosts, conveners, facilitators and connectors for 35 social sector organizations offering a range of services from employment to legal advice, settlement to addictions support.

The Storefront was originally funded by the federal government as an innovative approach to providing employment services for people furthest away from the labour market. By creating this community-based, one-stop shop, The Storefront seamlessly brought together quality employment services and easily accessible wrap-around supports under one roof. The Storefront became a trusted place in the community that offered holistic services, thereby eliminating or reducing the need for jobseekers to navigate systems in order to have their needs addressed.

This was the early 2000s, when there was growing evidence that in Toronto, like in so many cities across Canada, poverty was becoming increasingly concentrated in specific communities. These communities, predominantly in the inner suburbs, were and are largely populated by people of colour, and are plagued by decades of underinvestment, poor transit and few options for decent work (United Way of Greater Toronto, 2004; 2011; Hulchanski, 2010; 2015).

Over the next two decades, both on-the-ground experience and research evidence began painting a picture of geographic poverty and yet, there were few geographic solutions to this rapidly increasing problem.  Ultimately, social services were never going to be enough to reverse this alarming trend. Access to decent work is fundamental to geographic solutions to geographic poverty. The Storefront was well positioned to begin exploring innovative, community-centred approaches to workforce development to create that access.

Infographic demonstrating Connected Communities model, showing connections between employment support, trade unions, wrap-around supports, colleges, local people and employers.

Part 2 of infographic demonstrating Connected Communities model, showing connections between employment support, trade unions, wrap-around supports, colleges, local people and employers.
Images provided by author.
Working in the context of a community ecosystem

What was unique about The Storefront’s approach to designing and operating a service hub was its emphasis on facilitating and stewarding inclusive processes, constantly listening, learning, iterating and fostering collective action. Surfacing local stories and ideas made it glaringly obvious that while the service hub effectively broke down barriers to service access, the community aspired to so much more.

Services help people overcome individual barriers to jobs. The people of East Scarborough identified that, in communities like theirs, so many barriers were not individual, but systemic. Services are important and necessary, but do little to shift the systems that for too long have acted to keep Black, Indigenous and people of colour from accessing opportunities to decent work.

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Employer-engaged workforce development: Strategies to address sector shock

What students want from employers to create safe, inclusive workplaces

3 ways to transform your organization by creating a culture of continuous learning

The Storefront was created as a “by the community, for the community” solution to service access. The Storefront’s role as facilitator and convenor has been variously called a network weaver, an integrator and a community backbone organization. Over time, by learning together with partners and community, it became clear that the implications of this role could go well beyond service delivery, and could make a significant contribution to improving economic inclusion in marginalized communities.

Systemic barriers need systemic solutions

A visionary funder, the George Cedric Metcalf Foundation, invested in the early research and development that The Storefront needed to understand the potential of being an integrator or community backbone organization in local economic inclusion.

Early insights from the Democracy Collaborative in Cleveland, Ohio helped to identify that in many marginalized communities, decent work did in fact exist: “Cities are increasingly turning to their ‘anchor’ institutions as drivers of economic development, harnessing the power of these major economic players to benefit the neighborhoods where they are rooted. This is especially true for cities that are struggling with widespread poverty and disinvestment.” (Wright et al., 2018)

Anchors are institutions that are “rooted in place” like hospitals, universities and, in the case of East Scarborough, the local zoo. Millions of dollars are spent and hundreds of jobs are created in these anchor institutions and yet, local people, especially people who are racialized and living in poverty, are rarely able to take advantage of these employment opportunities. In 2016, The Storefront, as part of the provincial poverty-reduction strategy, began to explore how workforce integration at a local level might make a difference.

The Storefront’s role as an Employment Ontario service provider brought insights into just how programmatic, siloed and fragmented the workforce ecosystem was in East Scarborough. While there were excellent organizations doing excellent work, there was no unifying vision that would help address the personal, practical and systemic barriers that local people were facing accessing decent work.

East Scarborough Works: Place-based workforce development in action

Employment services are essential in helping people find, secure and keep employment. Our research found, however, that employment organizations are often frustrated by the complex dynamics of employer cultures, recruitment norms, and economic and regulatory environments that exist at the “demand” end of workforce development pathways.

The research further revealed that people furthest away from the labour market often feel that employment services are not for them. While there are certainly exceptions, by and large, employment organizations work with the people who walk through their doors or attend formalized events, leaving those who don’t further marginalized from the labour market.

And finally, without intentional integration, employment service providers often struggle to find the right wrap-around supports and the right training to help people furthest from the labour market prepare for and secure employment.

East Scarborough Works (ESW) was born out of The Storefront’s experience as a service hub integrator and from new learnings about the employment ecosystem. It is based on the recognition that even when the components of employment ecosystems exist in a community – jobseekers, social services, training organizations, employment organizations and employers – they are typically disconnected from one another. Local expertise, assets and resources are critical to creating effective local workforce development strategies, but leveraging them requires a new way of working.

East Scarborough Works uses a Connected Community Approach (CCA) to cultivate a deep understanding among local people, organizations and networks about each other’s mandates, priorities and expertise. This understanding creates a foundation for multiple organizations to work together to ensure that local people have the best opportunity to prepare for jobs created by anchor institutions.

Early prototypes have shown promising employment outcomes: pre-pandemic results in hospitality saw 22 local people secure employment at a new event venue and a success rate of 70-80% in the social sector. The ultimate impact, however, is in changes in the system. To this end, we have seen:

  • Increased transparency from anchor institutions about recruitment needs and processes
  • Improved cross community/cross-sector communication
  • Increased collaboration among Employment Ontario organizations
  • Increased voice and involvement of grassroots groups in problem solving and outreach
  • Improved overall understanding of the community as ecosystem and who plays what role in supporting people furthest from the labour market to secure decent work

Based on these early outcomes, The Storefront has begun working collectively with anchor institutions, service providers, trainers and jobseekers to design demand-led, supply-driven, network-managed workforce development pathways in construction, tourism and facilities maintenance.

Implications beyond East Scarborough

East Scarborough Works is one of the inaugural projects of Toronto’s innovative Workforce Funders Collaborative (TWFC). TWFC, Metcalf Foundation and other funders and policy-makers are helping to deepen our collective understanding of the potential of using the Connected Community Approach in place-based workforce development.

East Scarborough is not the only community where people furthest from the labour market are unable to access jobs created through large-scale local investment in anchor institutions. What is emerging in East Scarborough can be adopted and adapted to work in various contexts.

The model beyond East Scarborough is known as Connected Communities Work (CCW), which takes a whole-community approach to supporting people furthest from the labour market to prepare for and secure local employment. The Future of Good has identified CCW as one of the country’s most promising initiatives to move toward more equitable and sustainable cities post-pandemic.

The City of Toronto has adopted the model as a pilot in its new Community Benefits Framework. Together with the Centre for Connected Communities, the City is exploring how CCW can move the needle on equity hiring associated with large-scale development and anchor institutions in communities across the city.

Researchers have been pointing to increasing geographic concentration of poverty in Canadian cities for almost two decades now; there are, however, relatively few examples of successful geographically based strategies to address it. The Storefront’s service hub is one such example and its relatively new foray into local workforce development is poised to be another. And we need a lot more, because, as local residents, researchers and employment service organizations will tell you, geography does matter.

Anne Gloger is the founding Director at the East Scarborough Storefront and Principal at the Centre for Connected Communities. Gloger’s background includes early childhood education, social development and business. She has over three decades of experience co-designing impactful community projects and approaches including the Connected Community Approach for which she has received several awards including the Canadian Urban Institute David Crombie City Builders Award, the Jane Jacobs prize and the William P Hubbard Award for Race Relations.

Additional references

Bhatia, A., Heese-Boutin, C.-H. & Roy, M. (2020). Geography Matters. Metcalf Foundation.

Gloger, A. (2016). The Connected Community Approach: What it Is and Why it Matters.

Mann, C. (2012). The Little Community That Could. East Scarborough Storefront.

Stapleton, J., Murphy, B. & Xing, Y. (2012). The “Working Poor” in the Toronto Region: Who they are, where they live, and how trends are changing. Metcalf Foundation.


What students want from employers to create safe, inclusive workplaces

Dalhousie University interviewed students and graduates belonging to equity-deserving groups to better understand their experiences in the labour market

Vicki Mackintosh and Michelle Patrick

Author headshotsEquity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility (EDIA) have been major buzzwords in the labour market in the past 18 months. But it goes beyond language. The onset of a global pandemic has exposed inequities in the workforce experienced by historically excluded communities. What does EDIA actually mean to the people facing inequities in the workforce, and how can career development shift to appropriately serve them?

It is no surprise that jobseekers from equity groups – including Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC), 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals and people with disabilities – report that they feel underrepresented and lack support in the workplace. Members of equity groups are often denied employment opportunities, and even when hired, face inequities and discrimination. In Canada, people of colour experience significant hardship securing employment, even if they are highly educated. They are also less likely to attain higher positions such as management and senior roles and are more likely to experience substantial wage gaps.  Career development must acknowledge these inequities and provide effective strategies to support diverse individuals.


Dalhousie University Career Services – within Student Affairs, the Faculty of Management and SITE (science, information technology and engineering) co-op education – wanted to better understand the experiences of students and graduates belonging to equity groups in accessing the labour market and gaining meaningful employment (including work terms or co-op placements). In July and August of 2021, as part of a pilot project, EDIA Outreach Assistant Vicki Mackintosh facilitated conversations with 13 individuals to identify their barriers, challenges and needs.

Dalhousie University campus. (iStock)

In these virtual one-on-one discussions, participants spoke about their career goals, and what they looked for when applying for a job and in an employer. They opened up about the challenges they faced in employment and while accessing supports from employers or the university – often describing how frequently they encountered discrimination. Students shared how they needed to work twice as hard as others who did not represent an equity-deserving group. Mental health was frequently mentioned as a challenge stemming from the discrimination and oppression they met daily. Students and alumni spoke about their experiences disclosing their identities with others and acknowledged areas of support to make this, and the overall experience, more comfortable.

Below are some of the priorities for supportive action identified by students and graduates, which can inform career development practices in a post-secondary context and beyond. Institutions and employers should take the time to build relationships and trust with these communities and listen to their specific needs, as regional and cultural difference can further shape practices. Significant consideration should be given to the equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility of services and the workplace, as well as the positions being recommended to jobseekers, and employers should actively encourage diversity in upper management.

More from Careering magazine:

Hiring a Chief Diversity Officer isn’t enough to make workplaces safer for racialized employees

Career development as a social justice imperative

Career competencies and skills translation: Helping students prepare for the future of work

Inclusive environments

Jobseekers shared that an equitable hiring statement was a critical element that they looked for in a job post. However, they also wanted further information to determine the employer’s true culture, policies and practices to recruit, train and retain equity groups in the workplace.

People of colour stated that company culture, diversity and positive leadership were essential to their consideration when applying for a job. All participants who identified as part of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community said that they sought compassionate female leadership. These participants added that while it was a start to hang the Pride flag, they wanted to know what was being done to create an inclusive and supportive environment. Students and alumni who identified as having a disability suggested they sought employers who would consider accommodating them in their work environment, including with paid sick days.

“Career development for jobseekers within equity groups must include building self-efficacy to be able to advocate for their needs at each stage of the employment process.”

Career development then has a place to assist jobseekers to understand their own needs from an employer to feel safe and included. This may include helping jobseekers learn how to evaluate job postings to determine whether a potential employer’s policies and practices are reflective of their EDIA statements.

Building empowerment

Providing students with the resources and skills to advocate for themselves is another important recommendation that emerged from the conversations. Many of the participants experienced feeling undervalued, unheard and harassed during their work term or employment.

Those who identified as having a disability spoke about how often co-workers and managers made them feel guilty about taking time off for illness, working at a slower pace or receiving accommodations. Participants were also discouraged by the lack of clear communication after submitting applications. They shared that they would appreciate being asked if they required accommodations prior to a meeting or interview. Those with learning disabilities who struggled to think on the spot identified that having clear meeting goals or being provided the interview questions in advance would be beneficial.

Career development for jobseekers within equity groups must include building self-efficacy to be able to advocate for their needs at each stage of the employment process. Career services can help empower students and graduates to ask for what they need, which can include education and information on labour laws to help jobseekers understand their rights and responsibilities. Employers can provide confidential, culturally competent employee supports and include ongoing diversity and sensitivity training for all staff. Both career services and employers must understand their own power and privilege, and the impact this can have for equity groups in a workplace setting.

Supportive networks

The value of mentorship and networking was also a significant topic of discussion among most participants. Having mentors with shared identity and similar lived experiences, or in their chosen field of work, was something participants felt strongly about. Those with mentors spoke about their positive experiences, with some saying they would not be where they were today without mentorship.

Career development must include the fostering of networking skills, particularly to support students in building their network within their own community – not just their industry of interest. Similarly, general mentorship programs must focus on recruiting a broad range of diverse mentors and equip mentors and mentees with a clear understanding of their roles to encourage a healthy and lasting relationship. To promote cultural safety, mentors who do not share the identity of their mentees should be educated on the systemic barriers faced by equity groups and to recognize their own power and privilege.

Safer spaces

Creating safer and more open space for jobseekers is vital. When asked what would make equity-deserving folks feel more comfortable in the workplace, students suggested:

  • open, honest conversations regarding identities and accessibility needs
  • pronouns on name tags and in email signatures
  • information specific to equity policies and practices in the workplace available to employees, as well as the general public
  • seeing themselves reflected in all aspects of the workplace such as diversity in senior management

Career development practitioners should consider these suggestions within their own practice and engage in professional development to learn more about employment equity and discrimination and their effects in the workplace. This includes but is not limited to using a trauma-informed lens and collaborating with diverse colleagues.

It is clear in Canada we have a long way to go to reach equality and equity in the workforce. The global pandemic has shown how equity groups are disproportionately affected, and career supports for them are more essential than ever. It is our hope that this knowledge will be used to strengthen the future of equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility in recruitment, hiring and employment. If we are to reimagine career development, we need to acknowledge and understand the individual and their identities, and the impact of the intersection of identity, and honour their lived experience by providing inclusive, relevant supports.

Vicki Mackintosh (she/her) is a master’s student in Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Agriculture, in Truro, NS. She has been working with the Bissett Student Success Centre as the Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility (EDIA) Employer Outreach Assistant on the discovery of equitable hiring and recruitment. She participates heavily in equity advocacy and sits on many boards and committees for women’s rights as well as 2SLGBTQIA+ inclusion.

Michelle Patrick (she/her) is the Student Success Career Advisor at Dalhousie University, located in Halifax. Prior to this, Patrick was the program manager for PLANS (Promoting Leadership in health for African Nova Scotians), which aimed to increase representation of Black health-care professionals in Nova Scotia. She is also a member of the Racial Violence policy development group and co-chair of the Student Affairs EDIA committee at Dalhousie.

Book on wooden table with glowing graph illustrations and symbols.Careering

What you measure matters … but your mindset matters more

It’s time to move beyond funder-imposed metrics of success and take ownership of our story of positive impact

Deirdre Pickerell, Sareena Hopkins and Lynne Bezanson

Over the past 30 years, and counting, career development professionals (CDPs), their managers and employers, along with various funders, have hotly debated the data that demonstrate the need for services and how to best evaluate the success of various interventions.

The sector has been caught in a seemingly never-ending loop of funding priorities based largely on work-search interventions, which are then measured by number of clients in education and training or employed. In some jurisdictions, these are not only the metrics used to evaluate services, but also what triggers funding. With the shift to performance-based outcomes, service providers are increasingly incentivized to shape their programming and interventions to achieve these narrow outcomes.

Yet, career professionals know that the individuals they serve present with a wide range of needs beyond wanting referrals to training or jobs. CDPs know they make a difference in the lives of their clients in a myriad of other meaningful ways, including positive improvements to hope, confidence and mental health, and reductions in poverty and addiction. These changes have important positive implications not only for the individuals served, but also their families, communities and, broadly, the socio-economic health of the country.

As we consider career development reimagined, there may be no better time to explore what we measure and to shift our mindset. It’s time to move beyond funder-imposed metrics and truly take ownership of our data, our services, our evidence and our story of positive impact. With this in mind, a team of career development leaders recently came together to develop and study a logic model for Canada’s career development sector.

Building a vision of career development

A logic model is a linear picture of a program or intervention that comprises the resources needed – which are called inputs (e.g. staff, budget) – and the services being offered, called activities (e.g. counselling, training). These combine into various programs and services offered, which are called outputs. The inputs, activities and outputs need to result in some sort of expected change in clients who engage with services; these are the outcomes. The outcomes are generally broken down into three timelines for when the desired change might occur, such as short-term, mid-term, long-term.

Teal background with dark blue text, with arrows in between and icons representing each word: Inputs, Activities, Outputs, Outcomes. Within the sector’s logic model, our ultimate outcome (i.e. what would happen if every other outcome was achieved) is to have Canadians manage learning and work to both build the lives they want and to contribute to a thriving and inclusive economy. This is a lofty goal, but it serves as an important north star, shaping the mindset we need to move forward.

What the research showed

One key interest in studying a logic model for Canada’s career development sector was to understand whether respondents could provide evidence for specific outcomes and, if yes, what kind of evidence they could provide. The research consisted of a targeted survey of CDPs across Canada. We had close to 400 responses, with representation from almost every region. The research team explored four distinct outcomes from the logic model; two were short-term outcomes and two were more mid-term:

The research consisted of a targeted survey of CDPs across Canada. We had close to 400 responses, with representation from almost every region. Our key interest was whether respondents could provide evidence for specific outcomes and, if yes, what kind of evidence they could provide.

“It’s time to move beyond funder-imposed metrics and truly take ownership of our data, our services, our evidence and our story of positive impact.”

The majority of respondents felt fairly confident they could provide evidence. However, specific examples of evidence were limited and included data such as year-end statistics, quotes and testimonials from clients, and information from clients about their wages and employment status. Much of the respondents evidence referenced was focused much more on securing future funding than on client progress toward longer-term career development outcomes. As one respondent put it, “I believe most organizations look at the needs of clients when providing services. What makes it hard is to try to match to our funder needs also.”

This is the self-fulfilling loop referenced earlier; what gets measured by funders is what is incentivized to get done, with funders’ priorities potentially superseding clients’ real needs and priorities. But what if we could shift the mindset of all stakeholders, including funders, to recognize that the employability needs of clients should drive services and that their progress toward goal achievement is critically important – and, in fact, the only way to achieve sustainable outcomes? To do this, the sector must have the ability to provide evidence (proof) that clients have made progress, even if they are not yet employed.

More from this issue of Careering:

The hybrid future: Shifting employment services to meet client needs

Cross-cutting concerns for public policy in career development

What students want from employers to create safe, inclusive workplaces

A new way of evaluating outcomes

Over the past decade, the Canadian Career Development Foundation (CCDF) has partnered with multiple jurisdictions and frontline CDPs across Canada on the “art of the possible” when it comes to employability assessment, service planning and delivery, data collection and the story of impact our sector can tell. The resulting tool, PRIME, engages clients in a robust assessment of employability strengths and needs, captures a richer range of progress and outcomes indicators, and uses this data to feed improved service and impact. PRIME is now being integrated into career/employment services, with clients actively shaping the interventions they need and CDPs providing strong evidence of the deeper and wider impacts of quality career services.

Here are just a few highlights from the most recent research:

  • Statistically significant positive changes in clients across 48 progress indicators across the full spectrum of employability dimensions (e.g. pre-employability/readiness, career exploration/decision-making, skills enhancement, intra-personal factors such as hope, resilience and motivation);
  • Statistically significant positive changes in clients across 16 indicators of mental health/wellness;
  • Data on client community engagement and involvement in part-time work, volunteerism, entrepreneurship and self-care;
  • And, of course, outcome data on employment and training.

CDPs involved in using PRIME as part of this research – and who were able to generate and use the resulting evidence – were transformed as well. A broader mindset shift affected CDPs’ ownership and empowerment, with positive impacts on their sense of professionalism, commitment to ethical practice and quality service, client engagement and – not surprisingly – evidence-based practice.

These kinds of developments that begin to shift our thinking about progress and outcomes are moving the career development profession in Canada forward. Tools like PRIME allow CDPs to take charge of our own data, ensuring we can measure meaningful and concrete progress in addition to the outcome data funders value. Only then will we be positioned to tell full and real stories of client transformation – both the progress they made, and the outcomes achieved.

To achieve this goal, CDPs must shift their mindset to owning their data, and the story it tells. What we measure matters, but decisions about what gets measured must come from the profession, not the funder. Our collective minds must shift from:

  • a preoccupation with outcomes to a preoccupation with context, progress and outcomes
  • services driven by funder priorities and program availability to services driven by client needs and evidence of progress
  • a focus on client numbers to a focus on client change

The research briefly described here creates a foundation for providing tools and supports as our field shifts its mindset to truly embracing our capacity and identity as evidence-based professionals.

Dr. Deirdre Pickerell is an award-winning career development leader. She has spent many years exploring the data that demonstrates impact of career services and has led the recent research teams examining evidence-based practice.

As Executive Director of CCDF, Sareena Hopkins works to strengthen the impact of the career development sector by moving from ideas to action in areas of public policy, research and development, capacity building and advocacy.

Lynne Bezanson is Executive Director Emeritus of the Canadian Career Development Foundation (CCDF), which means that she has been contributing to the career development field for a very long time and simply cannot stop! 

Illustration of woman walking toward sign with arrow pointing backward with text "Comfort zone" and forward with text "Growth zone."Careering

Client Side: Agility is the ‘resilience vitamin’ in a career with many twists and turns

Meeting change and uncertainty with positive thinking and eagerness to learn has helped this professional navigate a career with many pivots

Christina Fung

Author headshotWhile living in Hong Kong for the first 16 years of my life, I never imagined my career would be in a foreign country. Career counselling was not a popular topic, and I was left unaware of options and how to relate my strengths and interests to my career choices.

However, going with the flow and keeping my mind open turned out to be one of the best assets I have. My ability to be adaptive has helped me come a long way, including during COVID.

In the Client Side feature, workers and students reflect on successes and struggles in their career development

The journey

I finished my last two years of high school in Toronto, after my family moved to Canada in hopes of providing me with a better education and career options. This was a daunting experience and the initial hurdles to overcome were not small, but this served as a training ground to help me build stronger resilience and flexibility.

One of my early challenges was to select a discipline to study in university. I did not think too far ahead about my career goals, but instead focused more on the path of least resistance (i.e. embracing my natural strengths) and choosing a discipline that would help me develop transferable skills and knowledge. I studied engineering – but as it turned out, my career would take me in many different directions.

“I began to notice that the best way to deal with complexity is simplicity, and the best way to prepare for career challenges is to un-prepare.”

My first job was as an assistant investment advisor in a small firm. I then moved to a sales-marketing compliance officer role for one of the top mutual funds companies in the world, before shifting to an IT position at a large Canadian bank. I have tried different leadership roles including program management, delivery execution, sales and now leading a global team in building software.

The challenges

When I look back on my career, there have been unexpected hiccups and disruptions. I have faced challenges around culture differences, language barrier and gender disparity. These affected my ability to communicate effectively, to build a strong rapport and to network. I experimented and tried different ways to adapt (such as attending communications training, broadening my knowledge of Canadian culture and joining industry associations). Some worked and some did not, but regular reflections helped me to “fail fast” and find new ways to improve my skills while staying true to who I am.

More Careering Client Side articles:

I’ve become the career strategist I wish I had when launching my career

How I found career joy in an unexpected place

I had my career mapped out – until a new experience opened my eyes

I am fortunate to coach many different talented individuals, and I noticed there is a common set of challenges among us, regardless of our career directions. We often experience doubts and hesitation along the journey, because we are afraid to make decisions that we will regret. These doubts are typically around whether we are taking the right path and if we will be wasting our precious time. When we don’t have guidance to navigate these decisions, it creates challenges. Threats, such as new technology or other changes, also compound the complexity that may affect our sense of security and our confidence. The most recent disruption and threat is certainly the COVID pandemic.

These different elements create a complex “spiderweb” that can make career decision-making confusing. I began to notice that the best way to deal with complexity is simplicity, and the best way to prepare for career challenges is to un-prepare.

The necessary vitamins

While I am unable to prepare for all the surprises the future may hold, there are certain things I have tried that strengthen my ability to work through difficult times. Similar to the agility I used to adapt when I first came to Canada, my “resilience vitamins” come from positive thinking, can-do mentality, eagerness to learn and maintaining a network of support.

Where others may see career gaps in my journey, I see development opportunities to get to a better self. For instance, when pivoting into roles in the mutual funds and IT industries, I had knowledge gaps, so I completed new certifications to help me move forward. I have used time away from work to help set new goals and boost my energy level. This in turn creates the momentum to keep me having the right mindset and believing in myself.

Another “vitamin” is comfort with learning new changes. There are always new people, new work and new areas that are intimidating. I have tried different areas of work every few years in my career. I find it to be an excellent way to learn about myself, including my strengths and gaps, what I like and dislike. I found areas that I could do well but had little personal interest in, as well as areas that I am performing well with great passion. For every role I try, it helps me move one step further along my journey.

My last “vitamin” is a solid network of support. Meeting new people and expanding my network helps me broaden my horizons. Some of these people have become my best friends with whom I share passions and mutual respect. They are my sounding board and provide me valuable feedback when I am in need.

Bird’s-eye view as an employer

Translating my career reflections to the perspective of an employer, I think an individual’s qualities are a very important element when we evaluate talents. We understand the workplace is a complex environment with many variables. What helps people to sail smoothly in this long journey is their ability to adapt, learn, collaborate and persevere.

Relevant work experiences and tangible skillsets are always important. But what ultimately differentiates one person from another and the trajectory their career will take depends on more than just tangible skills.

We have seen during the pandemic that people with a positive viewpoint, who are adaptive and open minded, have been able to find new ways to shine and contribute differently. They are the ones embracing their uniqueness, continuing to develop their personal strengths without over-analyzing each circumstance that may hold them back. They embrace changes and view them as opportunities to grow.

Perhaps it is more important than ever before that we, as employers, focus on transferable skills, soft skills and resilience. We cannot predict what the next disruption will be, but we can prepare ourselves by focusing on core values instead of trying to get ahead of every possible challenge. Preparing to unprepared will give us the adaptability we need to thrive.

Christina Fung is currently the Head of Global Wealth & Capital Markets Products in CGI, with more than 20 years of financial services and IT experiences. She has held various executive positions throughout her career. She is a board member of Skills for Change, the Oakville Symphony Youth Orchestra and a member in the Industry Council of NPower.

Older man sitting at desk and writing in notebook.Careering

Reflection is key to helping jobseekers reimagine their career

These exercises can help individuals derive meaning from their observations and experiences, which can then inform future actions

Helena Prins

Author headshotRecently, during our team’s monthly “Show & Share,” my director delivered a presentation on all the jobs she has had, starting with her first babysitting gig to now being the director of learning and teaching at an organization that serves the province. It was fascinating to hear her reflect on the positive, negative and sometimes funny lessons she learned from each role, despite the perceived importance or insignificance of her job title. I loved hearing about her journey, and it reminded me about the power of reflection. It can heal, it can ground us, it can provide insight and it can inspire us as we consider the next steps in our career.

Reflection gives the brain an opportunity to pause amidst the chaos, untangle and sort through observations and experiences, consider multiple possible interpretations and create meaning. This meaning becomes learning, which can then inform future mindsets and actions. Engaging in reflection activities when at a crossroads in your career or when supporting clients who need to reimagine their future will lead to more effective action. People who make the space to reflect are more articulate about their goals and “value add” in resumes, interviews and during meetings in existing roles.

I see career development as a continuous and lifelong process through which people come to understand themselves as they relate to the world of work and explore and discover their role, or ideally, their purpose in this world.  Whether career practitioners are guiding clients toward occupational achievement by establishing congruence between type and occupation (Holland), or whether their client’s development task is Exploration, Establishment or Maintenance (Super), or promoting opportunities that will impact self-efficacy (Bandura), I believe reflection should be build into every coaching session. Whether choosing a quantitative or qualitative assessment tool, providing opportunity for the client to reflect on the results is what leads to meaning making, helping them to stay true to themselves, and therefore, better govern their own lives.

More from Careering:

Client Side: Agility is the ‘resilience vitamin’ in a career with many twists and turns

Case Study: Carleton careers course aims to help students manage change and complexity

Career professionals need accessible tools to build LMI literacy

Putting reflection into practice

A first step in providing opportunity for reflection is to make clients aware of the purpose of reflection and to prioritize it by scheduling 10 to 15 minutes for meaningful reflection daily. Fraser-Thill refers to this intention as “targeted reflection,” which has a set goal and system for carrying out the contemplation.

Here are three exercises practitioners can use with clients to help them engage in career reflection.

1. Likes and dislikes reflection

One of the easier questions to start reflecting upon is: What works and doesn’t work for your client in their current position? Consider a template like this:

Likes Dislikes
Job 1
Daily tasks
Workplace culture
Office space/location/building
Work-life balance
Job 2

When discussing the list with a peer or career coach, a clearer picture of wants and needs emerges for the jobseeker. Career professionals can encourage clients or students to consider how the job description and company culture for prospective employers align with the preferences they identified in this activity.

2. Self-reflection: Who do I want to be?

For some, it might be intimidating to look within themselves and share personal insights with a career coach. Brené Brown’s research on shame and vulnerability comes to mind. One way of easing into self-reflection could be to ask the client to name role models and to identify what the admirable qualities of these figures are.

The next step is to consider which of these qualities or behaviours the client wants to apply more consciously in their life or which they would like to develop further in the pursuit of their next goal. As Swords reminds us, self-reflection takes time, trust and honesty. Support jobseekers in starting from a position of strength and focus on helping them develop their self-belief.

3. Reflected Best Self Exercise

The Reflected Best Self Exercise is based on research by Quinn, Dutton, Spreitzer and Roberts. This eye-opening activity involves having the individual reach out to their network to ask for examples of when the jobseeker was their “best self.” Grant (2013) outlines the four steps:

  1. Choose sources and seek feedback. Have the client identify 10 to 20 people they know well from different walks of life (e.g. friends, current or former colleagues) and ask them to write a story about a time when the client was at their best.
  2. Spot patterns. Once the feedback arrives, help the client look for the common themes that appear in multiple stories. Have the client make a list of the themes, the key examples that support each of them and what they suggest about their strengths.
  3. Create a self-portrait. Using this information, have the client write out a brief profile of who they are when they are at their best.
  4. Put strengths into action. Support the client to create an action plan for how and when they will use their strengths.
  5. Self-reflection prompts. The following is a short list of questions that provides insight into what is important and inspiring to you or your client. These could serve as a weekly prompt, a conversation-starter activity or a five-minute daily journal reflection.
  • Name the top three peak experiences in your life – times when you were in states of highest happiness. What do they have in common? What does this tell you about yourself?
  • If money weren’t a consideration, what would you spend your every day doing?
  • One thing I still really want to learn is …
  • In five years, I see myself …
  • Success is … and I feel successful when …
Next steps

While self-reflection is important, the work doesn’t stop here. It is only the beginning. The value of reflection lies in effective action. It may take time to make use of all the insights gained through self-reflection activities. However, these reflections will provide a sense of purpose toward a reimagined future.

Helena Prins is a Certified Career Strategist with Career Professionals of Canada. She is a full-time advisor in Learning and Teaching with BCcampus and an associate faculty member at Royal Roads University, where she is teaching a career development course to students in the School of Tourism and Hospitality.

Close-up of sign at protest reading "There is no Planet B".Careering

Cross-cutting concerns for public policy in career development

Governments have opportunity to use career development as a tool to advance social justice, sustainability and social change

 Pete Robertson

Author headshot.In the early years of the 21st century, public policy for career development began to be taken seriously by researchers, policy-makers and service leaders. Around that time, there were some international comparison studies led by key figures including Tony Watts, Ronald Sultana, Richard Sweet and Helmut Zelloth. From this work there emerged an international consensus about what governments were seeking to achieve when they created policies for career development. It seemed that governments were a) trying to make the labour market operate more efficiently, b) trying to make the education system and its interface with work operate more efficiently, and c) trying to promote social equity.

One of the great achievements of this work has been to secure recognition from international bodies that career development can contribute toward these governmental aims. A good indication of this is the joint statement by CEDEFOP, ETF, European Commission, ILO, OECD and UNESCO, which highlights the value of Investing in Career Guidance.

I have argued that this work is excellent for highlighting what governments do and say they do, but it does not capture everything they could do. The full potential contribution that career development services could make to society has not yet been recognized by policy-makers. By using the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as inspiration, we can systematically consider all the policy goals of responsible governments. From this, we can identify additional potential contributions we can make to:

  • Health and well-being goals, through supportive guidance and access to good-quality (health-promoting) meaningful work and learning
  • Environmental goals, through guidance to support the transition to a green economy
  • Peace and justice goals, through reducing crime and social tensions by providing fair access to work and learning

It is for the career development profession to make the case that it can have an impact on multiple socially desirable outcomes. While it can be useful to identify separate categories of policy goals, there are some concerns that cut across all of these categories. These include the three s’s: social justice, sustainability and social change.

Read more on CareerWise:

It’s time for a UN International Day of Careers and Livelihood

Advocating for career development in the time of COVID

Making the case for career development: why it matters and what it’s for

Social justice

Most people are in favour of social justice, but we do not all agree on what it is. Arguing about justice and fairness has kept philosophers and politicians in work for centuries. There are a variety of different ways we could think about it. When applied to career development, for some, social justice means providing the same standard of service to all; for some, it means proactively targeting key groups; and for others it means a more radical stance of supporting people to challenge the system.

Nonetheless, it is relevant to all aspects of practice. It is also relevant to the big-picture policy objectives for career guidance. Disadvantaged groups find it harder to access and benefit from good educational opportunities and good quality jobs. They are more likely to have poor mental and physical health. They are likely to find it harder to avoid environmental degradation. And they are more likely to be on the wrong side of the criminal justice system.

Issues of social justice are central to career development work and should infuse all aspects of policy with and awareness of the needs of disadvantaged groups.

Hand holding light bulb with icons showing energy sources for renewable, sustainable development
The need to promote environmentally sustainable careers is increasingly as unavoidable as the impacts of climate change. (iStock)

Sustainability is another slippery concept, with many people seeing it as broadly a good thing. It has been used cynically in some corporate marketing to “greenwash” carbon-producing corporate interests. Nonetheless it is a useful and multi-faceted idea. Of course, the UN goals give great prominence to sustainability. The term has become familiar from its ecological sense, and the need to promote environmentally sustainable careers is increasingly as unavoidable as the impacts of climate change. But sustainability is a usefully ambiguous term: it means the potential to endure over time. This does not imply a static position; renewal and adaptation are necessary to survive.

The notion of the “sustainable career” has been explored by management scholar Ans De Vos and her colleagues. De Vos, Dujardin, Gielens and Meyers (2016) suggested that the sustainable career needs to be on policy-makers’ agendas. With longer life spans come longer careers, and the need to find pathways through education and work that can be sustained and renewed over several decades. Work needs to be health-promoting rather than harmful in order to be sustainable, and this may require some re-adjustment as we age.

Societal change

In considering career development policy, there is a distinction to make between a reactive and proactive role for career services. In some conceptions, career services are seen as part of the education and employment systems, perhaps even as a lubricant to help the machinery work more smoothly. This positions services as more or less supporting the status quo. It is very different from seeing career services as proactive agents or levers for social change. This latter position could be described as “radical.”

This does not mean distorting individual career counselling to push the political agenda of the practitioner. But it might mean re-envisaging career education and career learning in group settings to raise awareness of social issues and change. Career development does not have simply react to socio-economic change; it can help to drive the transformation.


Career development services will continue to focus on supporting the operation of the labour market and education system, and in promoting social equity. In addition to their traditional role, career services may also be able to make a contribution to public health policy, to environmental policy and to criminal justice policy objectives. Infusing all of these areas must be a concern to promote fairness in society, to help individuals find long-term sustainable solutions and to reflect a willingness for services to take a pro-active role in the social changes that we face.

A former career adviser, Pete Robertson is Professor in the School of Applied Sciences at Edinburgh Napier University, Scotland where he teaches policy and theory to trainee career development practitioners. He is a Fellow of the National Institute for Career Education and Counselling (NICEC) and promotes the work of the Career Development Institute (CDI) in Scotland.

Man sitting at desk looking at laptop with pensive expression.Careering

Career professionals need accessible tools to build LMI literacy

Despite the importance of labour market information for job search, few career practitioners receive training in this area

Liz Betsis and Anthony Mantione

author headshotsSome of the most important choices a person will make revolve around career and education. We spend our entire lives equipping ourselves for these choices – from a young age when we imagine ourselves in various careers, to adolescence, when we’re asked what we want to be when we grow up. And it doesn’t stop there. Mid-life career changes are increasingly common and even expected. Throw in a global pandemic, and the importance of making these decisions based on research and careful consideration of facts becomes evident.

In this context, facts refer to labour market information (LMI). Simply put, LMI is any information that supports the decisions Canadians make in the world of work. It includes education, wages and salaries, skills requirements, job outlooks and other information about the labour market. When a career development professional (CDP) helps clients identify available career opportunities, in-demand jobs and how to build sustainable careers, they need to access and use LMI. In other words, without some understanding of how to find and use LMI, it is unlikely that CDPs will be able to fully support their clients in realizing their career goals.

Research conducted by the Labour Market Information Council (LMIC) showed that four out of 10 CDPs surveyed in Canada found LMI difficult to understand and only 35% reported receiving any LMI-specific training. LMI is crucial to Canadian jobseekers’ informed decision-making, which has been reinforced by the escalating uncertainty and urgency of clients’ needs in the wake of COVID-19.

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To address this concern, LMIC initially proposed creating a series of LMI user guides to provide CDPs with training on how to leverage existing LMI tools and resources in a client-facing capacity. Fifteen CDPs from differing specializations across Canada were invited to participate in a workshop aimed at better understanding how they serve clients, to identify how LMI could be leveraged to support their work and to learn what an ideal LMI guide should look like.

Two profound insights emerged from this workshop. First, most sources of LMI contain too much jargon and require specialized knowledge and/or investment to find, access and understand. This leads CDPs to rely more often on informal sources of LMI such as social media or their own perceptions. Second, CDPs want to improve their LMI literacy, but there are few –if any – low-cost, flexible and self-directed options that enable CDPs to get practical support to integrate LMI effectively into their practices.

Illustration of woman sitting at desk with thought bubbles showing question marks, light bulb and woman graduating.
Ghassene Jerandi, LMIC

CDPs, especially those who work in client-facing roles, are incredibly busy. They serve clients across the country who have varied and unique support needs. While most clients require help finding work, there are often pre-employability issues that must first be addressed. For example, CDPs are often engaged in helping clients find transportation, childcare and mental health services before they can address the issues of employment. This means they do not have the time to read lengthy or comprehensive reports on LMI. While some use informal sources, others may turn to a colleague who has been informally designated as their organization’s LMI person.

The role of LMI and its importance in helping clients develop realistic and achievable career goals is acknowledged. The Canadian Career Development Foundation (CCDF), with the support of Employment and Social Development Canada and sector stakeholders, has developed a renewed Competency Framework for CDPs. The Framework highlights the maintenance of current labour market knowledge as one of several CDP characteristic competencies that are core to their practice. LMI literacy is also being evaluated as part of the new pan-Canadian professional certification.

As a result, LMIC has proposed creating a new micro-credential to help CDPs expand their LMI literacy. Consisting of several independent learning modules, the micro-credential will align with the LMI competency outlined in the new CDP Competency Framework. This will ensure CDPs have the necessary skills and knowledge of the Canadian labour market needed for the new pan-Canadian professional certification. Each module – which can be taken individually –will be approximately one hour and will consist of a variety of activities and embedded assessments to maintain engagement and check for learning. Individuals who choose to complete all modules in the series will be eligible for a micro-credential endorsed by both LMIC and CCDF. We hope to have the first module completed and ready by early 2022, with the full micro-credential to follow later next year.

CDPs serve diverse clients and often face barriers to finding, accessing and using LMI to support their clients’ unique needs. LMI literacy for CDPs – knowledge of the labour market and skills required to help clients find and use information supporting their decision making – is an important competency for practice but one for which training is often unavailable. CDPs need access to free and easily accessible tools and resources; the creation of a free LMI micro-credential will help ensure they have the knowledge and skills needed when leveraging these tools. This will further career professionals’ success in supporting their clients’ diverse needs while they navigate a rapidly changing and emergent labour market.

Liz Betsis is an economist with the Labour Market Information Council (LMIC), where she contributes to ongoing and forward-looking research projects, primarily focused on the future of work, innovation and human capital formation. Coming from a visual arts background, she still loves creating and consuming art.

Anthony Mantione is a senior economist with the Labour Market Information Council (LMIC), where he conducts research and analysis primarily related to the skills needs of the Canadian labour market. This includes identifying and measuring labour and skills shortages, exploring new technologies for skill classification and building resources for making LMI accessible, among other work.

Woman on video call on laptop.Careering

Increasing inclusion and engagement in virtual career workshops

Universal Design for Learning and Liberating Structures can support equity initiatives in career education

Gena Hamilton

For many career development practitioners (CDPs), the pandemic changed how we connect with clients and deliver career education. These changes raised questions on best practices for design in career education in my role as a career education co-ordinator. How do we design lesson plans for virtual workshops that will engage and include participants with diverse backgrounds and abilities? Applying two approaches, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Liberating Structures (LS), increased the responsiveness of my career education practice to improve inclusion and engagement to support equity initiatives.

Universal Design for career education

UDL is a framework that applies cognitive neuroscience insights about how people learn to the design of learning. This framework can be applied to the design of goals, materials, methods, assessments and policies to improve inclusion and accessibility in learning contexts. The goal is to support learners to be purposeful and motivated; resourceful and knowledgeable; and strategic and goal-driven by changing the design instead of expecting participants to change.

The UDL framework proposes three principles to design meaningful learning experiences, providing multiple means for: 1.) engagement, 2.) representation and 3.) action and expression. The UDL Guidelines are a tool to apply the UDL framework to career education practice. The Guidelines can be adapted based on the learning goals, content and contexts; therefore, it is important to have a well-defined learning objective. The Centre for Applied Special Technology (CAST) provides more information on research and applications of UDL and its Guidelines at

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Applying Universal Design in a career education workshop

During the past year, I designed and facilitated a one-hour virtual workshop for post-secondary students on developing an action plan. Reflection questions were integrated throughout the workshop and completed independently. In the original design, participants were given verbal and written instructions to reflect on the questions and write their goal. One systemic barrier with this activity is it requires participants to demonstrate their self-reflection only through written presentation (i.e. pencil and paper or typing). I observed that multiple means of expression could be integrated into the lesson plan to increase participant choice in how they represented their learning. In the revised design, I provided more options for participants’ response formats, such as drawing, recording audio, selecting an image or using a sentence-starter worksheet to identify their goal.

Furthermore, I employed the UDL framework regarding representation by including closed captioning that participants could turn on or off. I also sent participants workshop slides in a PDF-readable format to review before the workshop with a link to free text-to-speech software.

Liberating Structures for career education

LS are a collection of 33 tools/activities designed to improve engagement and inclusiveness in learning and work environments. provides more information on LS and applications.

When applying LS, it is important to be clear about your objective as every LS activity is designed for a specific purpose. For example, an LS-in-development called Mad Tea is designed to provide a deep and lively environment to enhance engagement and incite deeper insights for all participants.

Applying a Liberating Structure in a career education workshop

In the same one-hour virtual workshop, I incorporated a Mad Tea variation for virtual conferencing technology using the chat to all function. Students were instructed to reflect on questions, or invitations, provided verbally and in writing, including:

  • I registered for this workshop in hopes of …
  • A question that is emerging for me is …
  • Something I plan to do is …

Participants were instructed to finish the prompt sentence intuitively and concisely by typing their responses in the chat (to everyone) but to wait to submit their responses until the facilitator said “go.” Participants were then instructed to prepare for the ensuing prompt to repeat the process. Once all the prompts were addressed, participants read through the responses and identified keywords and patterns. The group had a larger discussion about their observations. This LS-in-development activity facilitated all participants contributing to the activity instead of participants not engaging at all, the chat being dominated by a couple of participants or participants’ responses being influenced by others’ responses. Additionally, the quick movement through the activity encourages participants to respond intuitively.


UDL and LS can transform the learning process for all participants in a variety of career education contexts and be applied in-person, or synchronously or asynchronously online. I encourage you to explore how you can apply UDL and LS to the design of your career education context to increase engagement and inclusivity for your participants. While becoming familiar with these approaches may be initially intimidating, there are supportive UDL and LS online communities. Remember that all design processes are iterative. You may be already applying some of these suggestions in your practice and now have a common language with others.

Looking for more UDL and LS resources?

The Universal Design for Learning Implementation and Research Network (UDL-IRN) offers a Networking and Learn Series Events, weekly email updates, as well as special interest group (SIG) networks in Higher Education, Implementation, Assessment and Measurement, and Anti-racism. Additionally, you can join LS #Slack group to explore using LS online and share resources. There are also regional LS User Groups, such as the Victoria/Vancouver Island and Vancouver User Groups.

Gena Hamilton is a Career Education Co-ordinator at the University of the Fraser Valley with a passion for learning design and innovation in career education.

Abstract concept of business innovation using butterfly evolution.Careering

3 ways to transform your organization by creating a culture of continuous learning

The 70:20:10 model can help employees focus their learning and feel a sense of accomplishment

Katie Williams and Jessi Haley

Author headshotsIt’s difficult for employees to find time for development. With increasing workloads, tight deadlines and the added complication of home distractions, employees are being challenged with finding new ways to work, improving their skills in current roles, and keeping up with technology and customer needs. Even with organizational support, employees often felt guilty about taking time to develop. Additionally, the vast number of learning venues and resources can overwhelm employees to the point of frustration, leaving them feeling lost, confused and ultimately losing motivation to develop.

To combat these challenges, employers should adopt the 70:20:10 model (developed by Michael Lombardo and Robert Eichinger), which asserts that 70% of learning should come from experience, 20% from interactions with others and 10% from instruction. This framework for learning and development can be applied to any business and can help employees focus their learning and feel a sense of accomplishment in their development.

We have applied the 70:20:10 framework by first looking at existing learning and development resources and aligning them to the model. As we identify gaps, we create and implement additional methods of development to ensure a robust learning culture. Use these three tips to help employees make time for learning and gain the motivation to develop.

1. Encourage on-the-job learning

Lombardo and Eichinger posit that most learning comes from experience. This experiential learning can take place in a variety of forms. We have found it is important to acknowledge the fact that development takes place at work every day. Work changes directions, technology changes and team members come and go, so employees are constantly adjusting and moving forward to meet demands.

Additionally, we have developed programs for both short and long-term development experiences for IT employees via gig and rotation opportunities. A gig-opportunities program allows employees with niche skills to share their knowledge with less-skilled individuals or teams on a short-term basis. This can be a one-time or minimal time commitment, depending on needs. For example, a software development team may need assistance with a written communication. Posting this as a gig opportunity allows that team to get the assistance they need while using the communication skills of another employee.

“We have found it is important to acknowledge the fact that development takes place at work every day.”

A job rotation program provides employees with a three to 12-month rotation to another team to gain hands-on experience and build skills, which they can later share with their team. This also helps employees to be more competitive for future positions as they navigate their career journey.

Leaders can also give employees more challenging assignments, cross-train them to create a multi-skilled team and encourage innovation to enhance their skills. Innovation is a form of ongoing development as it challenges employees to think of new ways to do things. Innovation days can be used as dedicated blocks of time to focus on improving a product or service. This can be inspiring and is part of creating a growth mindset in your organization.

As an employer, it is important that you acknowledge learning from experience and make employees feel comfortable with this style of learning.

2. Create structured opportunities to learn from others

Twenty percent of learning should come from others. Social interactions and development relationships are critical for both individual and business success. So, it’s crucial to foster an environment where employees can learn from others through mentoring, engaging in group conversations and leveraging feedback.

Creating a formal mentoring program can strategically develop an employee’s skills and contributions to the organization’s priorities. Additionally, employees can leverage the connections they make through mentorships to learn and share best practices for working virtually, increasing productivity and effectiveness.

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Effective public sector career management serves all Canadians

Establishing book clubs and study groups is a great way for employees to commit to development through structured group learning and accountability. We have found that by forming these different types of group development opportunities, employees are able to leverage the perspectives of diverse groups of individuals across an organization, allowing them to build their network, learn from others and engage in valuable conversations.

Nurturing a culture of giving and receiving feedback is another technique to encourage employees to learn from others. Employers should create a structured feedback program where leaders are trained to provide clear and honest feedback. Formal processes and activities can be put in place for employees to obtain anonymous input from peers and business partners.

3. Provide supplemental learning that meets employee needs

Surprisingly, the 70:20:10 model asserts that only 10% of learning should be from instruction. Historically, learning has been focused on classroom training, self-study and virtual sessions. Now the focus is shifting to targeted skill development – via short sessions, articles and videos.

Employers should identify the top skills needed to move their company forward and provide a simple learning platform with a variety of media so employees know where to go and what to tackle. For example, if a top skill is for employees to enhance their communication skills, the employer could pull together valuable materials such as articles and videos into one location, such as a learning plan. Make sure the employees are aware that this is a priority skill and provide them with the learning plan options. To be most effective, encourage employees to reflect on how and when they learn best, ensuring they are selecting a method from the learning plan that works best for them.

We encourage employees to create a development plan and focus on “chunks” of development that advance their goals. This creates structure, transparency and a partnership between leaders and employees as they prioritize learning, eliminate distractions and work toward a common goal.

Employers can incorporate learning into the work day by scheduling team learning sessions, dedicating time during innovation days and encouraging individuals to block time. Finally, acknowledge that learning may take place outside of office hours. Be clear about expectations, available development resources and priorities.

The 70:20:10 model helps illustrate that learning happens in a variety of ways for both new and tenured employees. Employees are your most valuable assets. Providing them with opportunities to grow and learn on the job, from others and through instruction, increases employee morale, job satisfaction, engagement and company success. We have seen excitement for adoption of the model and acknowledgement of the variety of ways learning and development are occurring. Do not let your employees overlook the value they provide. The 70:20:10 model is impactful and will help you develop a culture of continuous learning in your organization. To effectively use the model, we encourage you to think about your company goals, identify the key skills that will get you there and use those to provide a developmental focus to employees.

Katie Williams and Jessi Haley have been developing employees for over 15 years and are passionate about helping others meet their goals. They are currently Career Development Advisors, specializing in IT professional development. Having created career counselling models and programs to support employees in their career journeys, they are fulfilling their mission to inspire and empower employees!


Case Study: Carleton careers course aims to help students manage change and complexity

With activities including skills assessment, LMI research and e-portfolio development, learnings guide students to understand how they can leverage their degree to achieve their career goals

Lorraine Godden

Author headshot.As an undergraduate student, I had the transformative experience of taking a career course. I was able to examine what I was learning, and my confidence in applying my knowledge increased tenfold.

Flash forward to 2019, and I found myself in the position of being able to create a career development and employability course for Carleton University undergraduate students. I was thrilled to have the opportunity, as I knew first-hand how significant this experience could be for their career development.

IPAF 3800: Managing and Developing Your Career

The overarching goal of my course, which is offered to third- and fourth-year Faculty of Public Affairs (FPA) students, is to provide students with a better sense of how they can leverage their undergraduate degree to achieve their career goals. Broken down, this translates to the following wish list:

  • to help students connect their degree to what they want from their professional and personal lives;
  • to facilitate students’ thinking and understanding of why we work, how we work and with whom we work; and
  • to appeal to a range of students including those who think they know next their steps, those who have a sense of their next steps, and those who have limited understanding of next steps and what they want from their career.
Learning for career and career for learning

The course is part of a pilot project within FPA aimed at integrating employability skills into the academic curriculum, and is one of a range of courses offered to students registered in any undergraduate program across the twelve units within FPA. To enhance the interdisciplinary nature of the course, I liaise with Carleton’s Career Services for targeted resume and job searching support for students, and Teaching and Learning Services for experiential and immersive learning.

The course is designed as a half-credit optional course that runs over 12 weeks. Assessment components are structured so that students have the opportunity to develop and evaluate their employability skills, investigate and learn about labour market information, create a five-year career plan and compile an e-portfolio. All four areas of assessment are structured so that students can link them to their degree programs, deepening and enriching both their university experience and career development (McCash, 2008).

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Through the labour market information assignment, students further hone and apply their research skills, which helps them in their final-year capstones and thesis projects. Anticipating their own futures through the career planning assignment deepens critical reflection, promotes adaptability and helps students to see connections and pathways. The compiling of the e-portfolio is perhaps the most tangible aspect of the course and empowers students to confidently collate evidence of their learning, skills and experiences.

Rooted in worthwhile practices

As I developed the IPAF 3800 course, I strived to respond to Tony Watts’ (2006) call for career development within higher education to address the narrowness of the skills and employability discourse. For me, this meant that the course should stretch beyond supporting students with getting a job, to provide participants with the space to learn more about themselves, and try out exploration and decision-making techniques they can use to shape their careers. Subsequently, as I developed the course, I intentionally blending my teaching pedagogy with my career development research.

My students benefit from how the course is guided by CERIC’s Guiding Principles of Career Development, CMEC’s Reference Framework for Successful Student Transitions and Carleton University’s Career Competencies, and are deeply rooted in my career development scholarly practice. Ultimately, my goal is for a high-quality transdisciplinary approach that facilitates students’ academic, career and lifelong development.

My key learning

One important learning I have taken away from developing and teaching the course is how much skills matter, but, at the same time, how nuanced the conversation about skills must be. It is not enough to tell students that they need skills and that they must be able to articulate skills. Only when students are able to understand their levels of skills proficiency, how skills help them to execute tasks, apply their knowledge and expertise to solve problems, and relate all of this to different contexts and situations they might encounter, can they effectively use skills to support their life, learning and work. Correspondingly, approximately one-third of the course contact time is spent helping students learn about, further develop and evaluate their individual skills. This process provides a solid foundation for individualized learning that supports each student’s career.

Student responses 

I have now taught the course three times, as both in-class and online courses. As an instructor, the course has seemed to achieve its intended goals, but the best people to speak to benefits of my course are the students themselves.

“Through IPAF 3800, I learned I am more valuable than I had initially thought. It taught me to look at my unique habits and working style as an asset, not a flaw.”

“IPAF 3800 is the only class I have ever had that has actually helped prepare me for life after school. Learning and building career skills, how to build my career, how to work in a group, how to find career information, how to network, how to set goals, etc. These are all things I knew hardly anything about before taking this class.”

“Before the IPAF 3800 class, I never realized that various types of assignments of different courses would develop certain skills, so I was a bit lost and anxious as I am about to graduate and I was feeling that I did not have any special skills. I like how the class taught us that finding a job is not only related to the salary or the future development of the job, but our personal interests also matter. It’s not just employers choosing us based on our skills; we as well have the right the choose a career we like and want.”

In summary

Soon after I developed and began teaching the IPAF 3800 course, the world was faced with COVID-19. Numerous studies published over the past 18 months point to the impact this is likely to have on students for some time to come. Indeed, across Canada, numerous universities that provide essential support to students through their career services are rapidly responding to students’ increased anxiety about what their futures are likely to hold.

I would argue that it is important to continually examine whether we are appropriately supporting students with their careers, COVID-19 or not. Careers work in universities should not be about shaping our higher education systems as production lines for employment. Rather, it could be about helping students to manage change and complexity and learning to be the best with what they have got.

As I have learned from my students, IPAF 3800 is just that. The course makes students feel better prepared for career and life, and ready to become the workers, leaders, entrepreneurs and citizens of the future. What better aim for teaching a career development course could there possibly be?

Lorraine Godden is an Instructor II at Carleton University where she teaches career development, employability, and career management skills courses in the Faculty of Public Affairs. Her research is rooted in understanding how educators interpret policy and curriculum to make sense of career development and employability, work-integrated learning, adult education, school-to-work transition, and other educational multidisciplinary and public policies.