Network of online business concept.Careering

How to create effective online career workshops

Developing pre-recorded presentations can help broaden access to career services for rural and remote communities

Diane Moore

This article was also published in the Summer 2020 issue of the National Career Development Association’s Career Developments magazine.

Many career development organizations have begun creating online workshops to complement their face-to-face offerings or as a substitute for live seminars. Online workshops can be a great way to provide services to a broader audience, particularly in rural and remote communities where it can be difficult for clients to travel long distances to attend a workshop in person, especially during the winter months. This may be even more important now, as COVID-19 physical distancing has reduced or eliminated opportunities for face-to-face training.

There are two approaches you can take to offering online workshops: live online webinars or pre-recorded, on-demand seminars. Pre-recorded seminars, which will be the focus of this article, make more sense as offerings in remote communities. While we take easy access to Wi-Fi for granted in urban and suburban settings, network connections may be unreliable in rural settings. Also, individuals may not have access at home to the electronic devices they need to connect with webinars in real time and may need to travel to a nearby town to access equipment at a library. By offering pre-recorded, on-demand training sessions, you will ensure clients can access the information they need to support their job search or career decision-making when they need it. If you are asked to create an online workshop for your organization, here are some steps and tools to help you get started.

Compile workshop content on your topic and create an outline. When converting a live workshop to an online offering, the content from a face-to-face workshop is a good place to start. If you’re starting from scratch, research and create your content just as you would for a face-to-face seminar. Assess the needs of your audience and consider what will work effectively in an online format. Be clear about your learning outcomes. What do you want participants to know or be able to do as a result of your seminar? Ensure that every component of your content connects to these outcomes. Keeping it simple is particularly important for online workshops as viewers can quickly “tune out” and lose interest if there is too much information for them to easily absorb. Keep your topic narrow and don’t try to cram in everything you might do in a live workshop. Once you have your content compiled, create an outline of your key points to use later for your narration script.

Select a platform to create your visuals. PowerPoint is the most common software used for presentations. However, you may want to experiment with other programs. Prezi ( is a more dynamic way of displaying your visuals as it allows you to zoom in on the different components of your presentation. Canva ( provides some good presentation templates with colourful and engaging graphics. VideoScribe ( is also an excellent tool for creating animated presentations. These programs have free trial versions, but check their limitations to ensure they meet your needs. If your organization wants to make online presentations a permanent feature, a full version of the program(s) you prefer will need to be purchased.

Young student watching lesson online and studying from home.

Create the visual framework for your presentation. Design a rough draft of your visuals using the program you’ve selected. Put each of the key points you outlined on separate slides. It’s okay if you don’t have wording fully fleshed out yet. As you work through the remaining steps, you may decide to replace some of the text with images or graphics.

For each slide, decide on the best way to deliver the content. In live workshops, we usually alternate content delivery with activities that participants do independently and in small groups. You want to replicate this process as much as possible when designing online presentations. For example, you might do a two-minute introduction to your topic, then ask a question and have participants write down their answers.

Add visual interest to your presentation by displaying some information in graphic form. For example, you might place a mind map at the beginning of your presentation showing all the points you’re covering at a glance. offers a good tool for creating mind maps. Or you might create an infographic ( to provide statistics related to your topic. offers a good inventory of free images. Allow extra time as visual elements take a bit longer to design than just putting text on a slide.

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Fill in the rest of your content on the slides. Go back to any slides where you have just rough ideas written down and flesh them out further. Continue with this step until you have finalized the text and images you want on each slide. Ensure your text is correct and visuals are all firmly in place before you begin recording.

Create a script for your narration. Use the key points from the outline of your text to create a word-for-word script. Some people can do their narration just using a list of bullet points. However, if you’re nervous about recording yourself, using an exact script will help you to eliminate “ums” or “ahs” and present your content smoothly. Rehearse your script a few times by reading it out loud before trying to record.

Choose a method to record your narration. PowerPoint has options for recording narration on slides, but it can sometimes be a bit glitchy depending on the version you use. A program like Screencast-o-matic ( is an excellent alternative for recording narration. It’s easy to learn and there’s a good trial version allowing users to record videos up to 15 minutes long. You can record your narration using your computer’s microphone as you advance through your slides on your screen. There are other options for recording narration, but pairing Screencast-o-matic with PowerPoint is an easy place to start if you’re creating your first online presentation. Ensure that the program you choose allows you to add closed captions in compliance with accessibility guidelines.

 Record your narration in a professional manner. Incorporate some inflection into your voice rather than reading your script in a monotone. Experiment with your microphone to get the best sound quality. Using good headphones can sometimes produce better sound quality than speaking directly into your microphone. Record your narration in a quiet room where you will not be disturbed.

The first couple of times you create a video can be a bit time consuming, but eventually you will master the software and become quicker at designing engaging, professional videos. Developing this skill can support your organization’s commitment to fully serve its client base in remote communities, while also enhancing your own competencies as a career development professional.

Diane Moore, MEd, CCDP, teaches online courses for the Career Development Practitioner Program at George Brown College and the Career Development Professional Program at Conestoga College. 

Smart farming and agritech.Careering

Canada’s agriculture sector must adapt to overcome chronic labour shortages

The industry needs training to improve worker expertise and ensure farm employers have skills to manage their workforce

 Jennifer Wright

This article was also published in the Summer 2020 issue of the National Career Development Association’s Career Developments magazine.

For decades, Canada has been a world-leading exporter of agricultural products, and our contribution to food production is expected to continue to grow in the years to come. Unfortunately, most provinces and many commodities in Canada are affected by the agriculture sector’s chronic and significant labour shortages. In 2018, more than 16,400 positions went unfilled, costing the industry $2.9 billion in lost sales. The inability to find a skilled and knowledgeable workforce directly affects sales, productivity and expansion plans.

The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council’s (CAHRC) Agriculture Forecast to 2029 helps us understand today’s agricultural workforce requirements to be able to source and train an adequate workforce. The forecast confirms that future operational success, expansion and innovation are not possible if the industry does not increase youth interest, focus on effective recruitment channels, invest in knowledge and skill enhancement, and expand retention practices to secure the labour pool required for the future.

Identifying key challenges

As part of the Agriculture Forecast research, CAHRC conducted a survey that had participation across the country by industry, types of workforce (eg, management, owners, family workforce, employees and foreign workers) and across all provinces. Over 1,700 farm employers, managers and employees participated in the labour market forecast, including more than 1,300 farm business owners.

The survey found that the key challenges in attracting and retaining workers included too much or too difficult manual labour and that the seasonal nature of work does not interest applicants. The rural location of operations and low wages were also reported as challenges in attracting and retaining workers. Rural areas are also seeing declining populations, which means a decline in the local labour force. A need to increase awareness of the opportunities in agriculture and food production was also mentioned in the survey and may affect the ability of food producers to attract applicants.

Evolving skills

In many industries, advancements in technology have reduced labour requirements, but they have also resulted in the need for workers with highly technical and advanced skills. Data from the forecast indicates that the evolving skills required to work in many agriculture sectors will demand training to improve worker expertise.

A shift in skills also brings with it new career opportunities. This includes training related to data management, oversight of digital equipment and specialized animal care. The development and promotion of agriculture-related training and careers is essential to create interest in working in agriculture. Businesses, educational institutions and government will need to work with industry to co-ordinate training and career development programs that address the need for specific competencies and knowledge development within the agriculture sector.

“Continuing to find ways to make agriculture an attractive and viable career path will be an important strategy in accessing more of the domestic workforce,” says Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst, Executive Director of CAHRC. “It will take concerted effort, multiple strategies and a sustained approach so that we can truly make a difference. Developing and implementing training and education programs that support the future needs of the sector will certainly be one solution for ensuring a healthy future for Canadian agriculture.”

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Developing HR expertise

 Employees should not be the only focus. We must also ensure employers are adequately trained to effectively work with their staff. Many farmers rely on international workers for labour. However, applications for the Government of Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) programs are complex, and navigating these initiatives requires a deeper understanding of human resource management techniques. Not following all the regulations related to TFW programs can result in serious consequences for farmers’ businesses.

Regardless of the source of labour, ensuring farm employers have human resource skills to manage their workforce is critical. The adoption of best practices in human resource management and manager training will assist the agriculture sector with the development of more effective recruitment and retention strategies. Farm business owners need to be knowledgeable about the latest human resource practices to support employees on the farm.

Farm managers also need to be knowledgeable about human resource practices to reduce turnover and associated costs. Retaining employees is easier and less expensive than finding new workers. Giving farm business owners the tools they need to be able to hire and keep qualified, reliable employees will be vital to lowering turnover costs. To address the labour issues identified in the research, CAHRC has developed agriculture-specific human resource tools and training programs designed to help modern farm operations manage their workforce.

Smart agriculture: Future to crop quality improvement
Securing the future

This data and understanding of the current agri-workforce issue highlights the fact that unless the agriculture sector can adapt and secure a reliable, qualified and skilled workforce, our ability to produce food now and in the future will be at risk. Information and data from the labour market forecast can help us find solutions and develop strategies to address workforce issues effectively. Ensuring human resource best practices are well entrenched across the industry will also support attraction of workers to the industry and retention of workers once they join the industry.

Jennifer Wright, CAHRC’s Senior HR Advisor and Stakeholder Engagement Specialist,  grew up on a family farm and farm equipment dealership in Southwestern Ontario. She has worked in HR policy, leadership, inclusion and diversity, recruitment and retention in agriculture and other industries for 20+ years.


CAHRC. (n.d.) How Labour Challenges Will Shape the Future of Agriculture in Canada: Agriculture Forecast to 2029. Retrieved from






North American rural workforce development: Poised for growth

Efforts must be made to attract new industries and build skills-training pathways in rural communities

Rebecca Merlenbach and Sarah Patterson-Mills

This article was also published in the Summer 2020 issue of the National Career Development Association’s Career Developments magazine.

Workforce development, a relatively recent term and concept that has developed over the past two decades, describes a wide range of activities and public policies related to learning and skill building for entry into the world of work. A 2019 Federal Reserve National Brief, Investing in America’s Workforce, outlined several rural workforce development priorities based on a series of dialogues between the Atlanta, Chicago and Minneapolis Federal Reserve and community leaders, policy-makers and higher-education institutions. These areas were:

  • Education and technology training opportunities to expand skill development
  • Economic diversification
  • Improving the quality of jobs available
  • Enhanced infrastructure that allows for access to technology
  • Partnerships across non-for-profit, public and private sectors to facilitate economic regional growth (Bozarth & Strifler, 2019, p. 2)

Historically, rural employment opportunities have consisted largely of blue-collar and unskilled jobs including agriculture and reliance on natural resources. As discussed in the list above, in order for workforce development in rural areas to be successful, public policy efforts must widen the scope in order to attract new industries and grow rural populations, which in turn strengthens the economy.

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In the US and Canada, 70 years ago, over 70% of workers lived in remote areas while today the inverse is true, with 66% of workers living in urban areas (Leeson, 2018). In the US, rural counties have experienced a 3% population growth rate since 2000, which can be attributed to gains in rural communities on the edges of metropolitan areas, while more remote counties continued to lose population. In Canada today, 81.4% of the population lives in urban and suburban areas (Plecher, 2019). Thus, in the US and Canada, the lack of available workers adversely affects rural economies, which stymies population growth, eroding stability in these areas.

To ensure American and Canadian career practitioners are able to effectively serve those in rural communities, access issues may need to be considered and resolved. Internet and other technological tools to reach our clients may be less available, for instance. Cost for counselling services may be an additional consideration and practitioners may consider sliding or reduced fee scales to make services affordable for those who are earning less per capita. In addition to providing affordable and accessible sessions to rural clients, access to more training programs is essential. Students and employees who are looking for a sustainable future may need different training programs such as those in agriculture or other non-traditional post-secondary pathways. Career counsellors are encouraged to advocate for social justice and advocate for these types of accessibility.

Education and technology training opportunities to expand skill development

Once barriers are overcome, there are many strengths that a rural workforce provides for the entire economy of a country such as food supply for export and domestic consumption. There appears to be a rural population shift in Canada and the US with increased immigrant populations settling in them (Ajilore & Willingham, 2019). As career practitioners and social justice advocates, we can help our clients recognize and develop their own social capital through a review of interests, abilities and values they hold. Government funding can go a long way to growing workforce opportunities in rural areas. Land is cheaper and larger distribution centres and manufacturing may be more profitable in these areas. In addition, natural resources and community social capitol bolster the threads in these communities, and with government subsidies, institutions of higher education can also contribute to the growth of these communities.

As new industries and technologies are introduced, higher-education institutions can support these efforts by adding programs that provide skills training to rural employees. Since 2017, partnerships between governing bodies and community colleges in the United States have increased focus on legislation to provide more equitable access to education for adult learners, especially in states largely composed of rural populations. These actions are removing barriers and providing funding to support short-term programs that meet the local industry needs (NCLS, 2018). Short-term skills-training programs offered by community colleges and job-training centres have wrap-around benefits for the economy and must be better equipped to “nimbly” respond to current rural workforce demands (Dews, 2013). These programs benefit the employee by increasing their skills and abilities, making them more valuable, and thus – hopefully –increasing their wages. Employers benefit from partnerships with these programs, as they can provide a pipeline to human capital for companies that are experiencing worker shortage.

Rural areas across the US and Canada are home to different cultures, people, businesses and infrastructure, and are far from geographically or economically homogenous. Rural areas are less densely populated and less connected to major centres of employment and thus face unique challenges affecting job growth and advanced work skills training. It is our responsibility to the profession to ensure we provide services that are accessible to all, are inclusive and social-justice minded, and honour the diversity within and between communities.

Sarah Patterson-Mills, PhD, LPC is the Program Chair for School Counseling at Lindenwood University for the Illinois and Missouri Campuses. She has worked in developing college career centers and directing them over five years.

Robyn Gunn is pursuing a Master’s of Arts at Lindenwood University and has a BA in Psychology (cum laude) with concentration in special education. In her final year of Master’s in Counseling Program-School Counseling at Lindenwood University, she also works as a Graduate Assistant in the Counseling Department.


Ajilore, O. & Willingham, Z. (2019, October 21) Adversity and assets: identifying rural opportunities. Center for American Progress.

Bozarth, A. & Strifler, W. M. (2019). Strengthening workforce development in rural areas. The 2019 Federal Reserve System Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. Retrieved from:

Dews. F. (2013). Closing the Skills Gap through Workforce Development Policy. BROOKINGS.

Leeson, G. W. (2018). The growth, ageing and urbanisation of our world. Journal of Population Ageing, 11(2), 107-115. doi:

National Career Development Association (2015).  Code of Ethics.

National Conference of State Legislatures (2018). Higher education legislation in 2017.

Opinko, D. (2019, October 3). Canada’s population grows by more than 500,000 in one year. Lethbridge News.

Plecher, H.(2019, December 11). Urbanization in Canada 2018. Retrieved on 2/25/2019 from:

Green canabis on marihuana field farmCareering

Cannabis legalization demands creative career services response in BC Interior

In the ‘champagne region’ of marijuana cultivation, legal changes present opportunity for career professionals to connect with resilient but reticent jobseekers

Phil Sarsons

Rural and remote areas are anything but barren. They have a lot to offer, and they also face unique challenges. Though the natural beauty is often abundant, formal year-round employment is generally not. Some locations even retain a sense of being frontier-like, where the pace of life and the pressures of urbanization collide.

The Kootenay region, which comprises a significant portion of the Interior of British Columbia, certainly fits this mold. The geography is very diverse, and so are its peoples and their histories. This region is both rugged and quaint, inviting and rustic, yet not without affluence. It boasts about 120,000 residents (Work BC, n.d.), many of whom have developed resilience, resourcefulness and humility in an area that is off the beaten path and facing economic challenges.

In the West Kootenay, both clients’ resilience and the need for career practitioners to meet local needs were highlighted as the region started adapting to one of its latest challenges: cannabis legalization.

The times, they still are a changin’

The West Kootenay is home to many historically “exiled” cultures: the interned Japanese, Vietnam War draft dodgers and the Russian Doukhobors, as well as people seeking ways of life outside of the Canadian norm. With the comparatively recent addition of cannabis growers (residents refer to West Kootenay as the “champagne region” of Canadian cannabis) the regional culture continues to carry a non-conformist sentiment. As a result, delivering government-sponsored services in this remote and rural region has had its challenges.

This tension became very apparent as the new cannabis regulations prompted reactions ranging from dejection to fear to fierce optimism. Amid such transitions, populations that may have otherwise been reticent to engage with government-sponsored services found their way into my office.

I experienced an uptick of clients who had been cultivating marijuana prior to legalization disclosing their concerns about how legalization would affect their futures. Would their work survive this transition? Could their farms afford to align with the incoming standards and building codes required by regulation? Many clients expressed concerns that having cultivated cannabis would by default leave them behind on accessing EI-funded employment services, because they had not paid into it previously. While clients’ resilience and self-sufficiency had been serving them rather well prior to legalization, regulations have made various long-standing culture gaps very pronounced. In inadvertently being barred from accessing EI supports, long-time cannabis growers are emblematic of an isolation often experienced in this region – of being in a world they may otherwise feel too vulnerable to participate in, and of the feeling that capitulation into the status quo is not necessarily a feasible or reasonable thing to do.

Young smiling woman in a cannabis field checking plants and flowers, agriculture and nature concept
Client vulnerabilities great and small

Giving assurance of their privacy (as outlined in FOIPPA, BC’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act) was key in gaining their alliance. All the classic tools for career counselling then naturally came to the fore, beginning with conversations around values, and then skills and interests. The area does not lack for passionately minded individuals, and so an appeal to that energy helped establish trust. By recognizing the value of clients’ self-esteem, resilience and courage, we made our services more welcoming to them, giving clients the opportunity to assert their creativity within a dynamically changing landscape. Even the primary task of developing a resume and naming their skills helped clients understand how assertive and directed an individual can be while job searching.

It was not surprising that many of these clients expressed a desire for autonomy in their work. Developing avenues of self-employment that leveraged their abundance of creative energy and knowledge of various aspects of horticulture seemed key to their successes and survival.

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Conversations also revolved around how to best refocus their abilities toward different avenues of work – whether this would be in agriculture or if they would need to embark on an entirely new career path, or relocate to a larger urban centre. Though the intent of legalization has a welcoming feel around it, much of the net effect has been a kind of displacement. Many people have been unable to compete with the “big money” that has entered the space. Given that the employment landscape was comparably bleak to begin with, and because legalization has thus far interrupted an otherwise-thriving cannabis agricultural industry, WorkBC Services has been compelled to engage pro-actively to help improve outcomes of these jobseekers in the community by diversifying services.

“By recognizing the value of clients’ self-esteem, resilience and courage, we made our services more welcoming to them, giving clients the opportunity to assert their creativity within a dynamically changing landscape.”

Addressing the cultural barrier in remote settings

Our organization developed Liaison roles to further catalyze our work in the region to address situational and systemic barriers, and I saw an opportunity to give agency to these populations. The situation demanded a robust and creative response, and shifting toward liaison work was exactly what was needed. Liaisons are granted time to research their chosen area of specialty and leverage the banner of employment services to address systemic barriers. “Multi-Barrier Liaison – Rural Focus” was added to my title of Employment Counsellor, which helped me engage more deeply with residents in need to determine what employment services can do for them in the long term.

Career practitioners should not only embrace the frontier-like feeling of rural areas, but recognize the immense opportunity presented in becoming an advocate for remote and rural populations. In this instance, the West Kootenay holds an immense invitation to tune in to the unique value propositions of the clientele, and to support an industry of global significance. The West Kootenay never presents a dull moment in this regard, and in the years to come, the local cannabis industry may well present itself as responsive and as resilient as ever.

Phil Sarsons is an Employment Counsellor at the Nelson WorkBC office, Kootenay Career Development Society. He holds a Liaison position for rural and remote clients, with a focus on agriculture, and he has a BFA in acting, having retired from the professional theatre many years ago.


Work BC. (n.d.). Kootenay.


Editor’s Note

Flexible. Innovative. Resourceful. Creative.

This is how authors in this issue of Careering describe rural communities in Canada and the United States. While these attributes have always served rural areas well, they are especially valuable as we navigate the effects of COVID-19 on the economy and the workforce.

At CERIC, we have also had to be flexible, bringing our Spring-Summer magazine to you exclusively online – a temporary change in response to the circumstances. Planning for our Rural Workforce Development issue ­– a collaboration with the US-based National Career Development Association (NCDA)’s Career Developments magazine – was well under way by the time the coronavirus pandemic struck North America. However, the themes, successes and struggles our authors highlight from both sides of the border continue to resonate.

You will find case studies exploring how rural communities have employed creative solutions to address chronic labour shortages. Authors propose changes that are needed to ensure industries such as agriculture continue to be viable. They examine the challenges unequal broadband access poses to rural vitality as well as how to leverage online workshops to deliver career services to remote communities. This issue also looks to the future, examining trends in rural workforce development.

Right now, we need community more than ever. After reading this issue, I would encourage you to reach out to CERIC and your peers on social media. What articles did you enjoy? What did you disagree with? What do you think is the way forward for workforce development where you live? Tag us on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.

Take good care, and happy reading!


10 Questions with David Blustein

David L. Blustein is a Professor in the Department of Counseling, Developmental and Educational Psychology at Boston College. Blustein is the author of The Psychology of Working: A New Perspective for Career Development, Counseling, and Public Policy and a new book titled The Importance of Work in an Age of Uncertainty: The Eroding Experience of Work in America. He also has contributed numerous articles and book chapters – including a chapter in CERIC’s Career Theories and Models at Work: Ideas for Practice on psychology of working theory, unemployment, career counselling, career development education, decent work, relationships and work, and other aspects of the role of work in people’s lives.

This article was also published in the Summer 2020 issue of the National Career Development Association’s Career Developments magazine.

In a sentence or two, describe why career development matters.

Career development matters because work is a vehicle to fulfill many of our dreams while also optimally meeting our needs for survival, power, relatedness, social contribution and self-determination.

Which book are you reading right now and why did you choose it?

I am reading Beaten Down, Worked Up: The Past, Present, and Future of American Labor by Steven Greenhouse, which can inform my efforts to advocate for effective workers’ organizations.

What was your first-ever job and what did you learn from it?

When I was 16, I worked selling and stocking shoes at a department store in Queens. My mother also worked in this store, and had to stand on her feet for many hours a day even into her late 50s. I deepened my compassion for the struggles of work during this job, which has been a lifelong lesson.

What do you do to relax and how does it help you?

I relax by walking, exercising, spending time with my family, reading and listening to music.

What do you think will be the biggest lasting change of the pandemic on work?

I think that this crisis has brought the fault lines in our work lives into a vivid sense of clarity.  As described in my recent book The Importance of Work in an Age of Uncertainty, the essence of work has changed, creating a sense of erosion in the workforce and within our inner lives. I hope that the biggest change is that our workers and public leaders will now insist on decent and dignified work for all.

What’s something you want to do in the next year that you’ve never done before?

I would like to develop an integrative intervention for unemployed adults. I am hoping to develop a workshop curriculum that can be readily used by career counsellors, vocational psychologists and employment specialists.

If you had one piece of advice for jobseekers navigating COVID-19, what would it be?

I would suggest that jobseekers develop support groups of others who can provide active assistance in the hard process of looking for work and critically needed social support.

Which talent or superpower would you like to have and how would you use it?

I wish that I could use mediation skills more easily, both in my personal life and in day-to-day interactions.

What do you consider your greatest achievement and why?

For me, developing the psychology of working framework and theory is my greatest professional accomplishment. This initiative was a dream of mine back in the 1990s – to develop a perspective that would be inclusive, integrative and transformative. With the help of amazing colleagues, we have created a movement that is integral to our field and that is particularly needed during this crisis. Even more importantly, I feel that having a wonderful family of adult daughters and a caring and loving wife is the most precious achievement of my life.

What is one way we can leverage the power of career development right now?

I think that career development needs to embrace a transformative agenda that will be inclusive of all who work and who are aspiring for a decent job that provides sustainability in a humane and safe environment.

weaving loomCareering

Case Study: Employment fit and friction in a rural creative enterprise

In this recurring Careering feature, career professionals share their real-life solutions to common problems in the field

John Thompson

Distance is a well-known source of friction in the economic transactions between rural and urban areas, and the extent of this distance goes some way to defining what we mean by rural (Reimer & Bollman, 2010). This obviously applies to transactions involving the transport of goods but can also apply to employment transactions. When people live far from their jobs, they have to deal with the friction of commuting every day. But distance is not the only challenge when it comes to employment, especially in a small town. The issue of fit can also be a source of friction.

Consider the case of Allan Avis Architects. Located in Goderich, ON (pop. 7,000), the firm has been in business since 1993. Four years ago, Allan Avis and his partner, Jason Morgan, decided that the firm needed to hire another licensed architect. In a more urban context, this could have been a fairly easy transaction to complete. The practice was thriving, had a great reputation and had done some very innovative design work. However, achieving their goal has taken them all of those four years. The explanation lies in the challenges of both fit and friction.

‘Fit’ is about more than the workplace

“Fit” is a metaphor with a long history in career development (Inkson, Dries, & Arnold, 2015). This metaphor describes the aim of matching characteristics of the person with corresponding characteristics of the working environment. This definition works well for our purposes here, as long as we are prepared to define the “working environment” more broadly that just the workplace. For Allan Avis Architects, a candidate needed to be able to make a smooth entry into both the workplace environment and the social environment of a small town. In their experience, it is the second of these requirements that was the greatest source of friction.

Living in a small town like Goderich can be difficult for people who are accustomed to the social anonymity of larger cities. Within weeks of arriving, a newcomer will find that people know who they are. They will also be confronted by the need to keep in mind the overlapping circles of social connection. Any person they meet in any context may be socially, commercially or familially related to any other person they meet. This creates a requirement to take no one for granted and to always be conscious of making a good impression.

Past Careering Case Studies

This sort of social pressure is not for everyone, particularly newcomers who are accustomed to more distance and anonymity in their dealings with others. If they don’t like this experience, they will find it hard to fit in with the culture of the town and their workplace.

People who grow up in small towns are more accustomed to operating in this social environment. Not everyone likes it though, and many move away. However, there are people who grow up in small towns, leave for education and training, and then find themselves wanting to return to small-town life to establish their careers. These folks have been called returners (Carr & Kefalas, 2009).

This sort of social pressure is not for everyone, particularly newcomers who are accustomed to more distance and anonymity in their dealings with others. If they don’t like this experience, they will find it hard to fit in with the culture of the town and their workplace.

Job posting with a twist

All these factors created a significant hiring challenge for Avis and Morgan. First, they needed to find a trained architect with good design skills and a creative, self-motivated approach to problem-solving. Second, they needed that person to be comfortable with the social norms of a small town and thus able to integrate with minimal discomfort (or social friction). The person they hoped to hire, Avis said, was someone “at peace with themselves,” who was ready to settle into the practice of architecture in this small-town environment. What they didn’t want was someone who saw their career as an effort to get across a “never-ending series of goal lines.”

The method Avis and Morgan settled on to find such a person was to advertise the position and invite applications – but with a twist. Rather than invite qualified applicants to submit evidence of architectural competence such as a portfolio of work, they first asked them to write a letter stating why they were attracted to living in a small town. This was an interesting approach. By directing their appeal to returners, they limited their pool of potential applicants. This limitation certainly made things more challenging for them. After hiring one person who left after six months because they were not able to obtain their professional qualifications, Avis and Morgan paused their search. But after a year, their need for talent started pressing again, and they began a new search using the same approach. It took some time, but once again they were able to attract and hire a fully certified architect for the firm who has fit in very well with their environment.


Much has been written over the past 40 years about the importance of culture in building successful enterprises. Peters & Waterman (1982) and Collins & Porras (1994) both stressed the importance of culture in the successful companies they studied. A strong culture has the effect of limiting one’s options. This sounds like the wrong path to success, but experience suggests otherwise. Something similar may be at work in the case of Allan Avis Architects. By choosing to base their practice in Goderich, with its distance from “city markets” (Jacobs, 1961) and its small-town social environment, they limited their options when it came to attracting and hiring creative talent. But another word for limiting one’s options is focus, and one thing we are learning these days is that ability to focus on one’s work and eliminate distractions (Newport, 2016) is a key determinant of success in any creative enterprise.

John Thompson is a career counsellor living in Goderich, ON. He holds a PhD in Human Development and Applied Psychology. Immediately prior to starting his encore career in career development, he was a freelance rural economic development researcher. He can be reached at Lifespan Employment Coaching and Counselling (


Carr, P. and Kefalas, M. (2009). Hollowing out the middle: The rural brain drain and what it means for America. New York: Beacon Press.

Collins, J. & Porras, J. (1994). Built to last: Successful habits of visionary companies. New York, NY: HarperBusiness.

Inkson, K, Dries, N., and Arnold, J. (2015). Understanding careers. Second Edition. Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications.

Jacobs, J. (1985). Cities and the wealth of nations: Principles of economic life. New York, NY: Vintage.

Newport, C. (2016). Deep work: Rules for focused success in a distracted world. New York: Grand Central Publishing.

Peters, T. & Waterman, R. (1982). In search of excellence: Lessons from America’s best run companies. New York, NY: Harper & Row.

Reimer, B. and Bollman, R.D. (2010). Understanding rural Canada: Implications for rural development policy and rural planning policy. In D. Douglas (Ed.) Rural planning and development in Canada, Toronto, ON: Nelson Education Ltd., pp. 10-52.

School Bus School Bus on country road in the morningCareering

Making it work: Strategies from a rural school district’s sole counsellor

How a school counsellor in a small Texas town employs creativity, flexibility and intentionality to promote career readiness

Lori Olive

This article was also published in the Summer 2020 issue of the National Career Development Association’s Career Developments magazine.

Oakwood, Texas, has a population of 510 residents. In this small, rural town, the Oakwood Independent School District (OISD) is the hub of the community. Student enrolment is typically anywhere between 175-200 PK-12 students at any given time. As the entirety of the school counselling department, my counsellor-to-student ratio falls well within the recommended American School Counselor Association (ASCA) ratio of 250-to-1 (ASCA, 2019). The challenge is not in the number but in the varying grade and maturity levels of the students I work with every day.

With the ultimate goal being “to give all students adequate opportunities to be successful academically, socially, personally, and in their chosen careers and to help students to become productive members of society,” as the OISD School Counseling Mission Statement says, this is no small feat for one school counsellor. Add to this a dynamic lack of resources and limited funding and the task of getting graduating students ready for college, the workforce and the world, and the workload could appear to be a bit daunting. If I am being honest, getting pulled in so many different directions is sometimes overwhelming.

So, what does student academic, social/emotional, and college and career development look like at OISD? Truthfully, it looks different every day. Flexibility is a critical aspect of being the only counsellor in the district. Students are always my first priority. It may seem like that should go without saying but in a rural school district, counsellors have a number of duties, many of which do not fall under our job description. Therefore, advocating for my role as a school counsellor has been critical to making sure my students’ needs are met.

“to give all students adequate opportunities to be successful academically, socially, personally, and in their chosen careers and to help students to become productive members of society”

Supporting students at every level

A key factor in preparing students is to start early at the elementary level. It is here that foundation, trust and rapport is built. At this level, the primary focus is on social and emotional skills. However, this is also where discussions begin about goal setting, interests and career exploration. I either create my own lessons or purchase lessons from resources such as Teachers Pay Teachers. I especially like to use the website Counselor Keri’s career lessons as they are tailored to particular grades and introduce students to various career clusters based on their everyday skills and interests.

Once students reach middle school, the focus becomes more in-depth career exploration and preparation for high school. All middle-school students are required to complete a career exploration course. This course is taught by a certified Career and Technical Education (CTE) teacher. We currently use the ICEV Career Exploration online course for the curriculum. In addition, students are able to start earning high school credits in middle school. This opens the door for more opportunities in high school.

In Texas, all high school students graduate under the Foundation High School Program. It requires each student to earn a minimum of 22 credits in general education and then allows them to add additional credits to earn one or more “Endorsements” across five different content areas (STEM, Business & Industry, Public Services, Arts & Humanities and Multidisciplinary Studies). Students are tasked to select their Endorsement area(s) at the end of eighth grade using Personal Graduation Plans (PGPs). In order to accomplish this goal, I meet with each student to help them figure out what endorsement area(s) captures their interests, knowing that that might change over time.

These requirements were designed to give students more flexibility in choosing their high school courses to help them either to follow a traditional path to college or to move directly into the workforce. Essentially, this was a move to put more career and technical education (CTE) programs into our curriculums and to move away from the one-size-fits-all pathway to graduation. While I agree with the goal of this new graduation program, putting it into place in a rural district has not been without difficulty. Still, we have found ways to meet these challenges and address student needs. It is important to note that OISD has a high population of economically disadvantaged students and we never want cost to be a barrier, so most components of our programs are offered free of charge.

Right career choice essential for future growth
Building pathways

The first thing we do as a leadership team is to be creative and intentional in building our master schedule each year. This involves reviewing the certifications and qualifications of our faculty and adding in elective courses of interests to students. As a Texas “District of Innovation” we are given some latitude with faculty and course offerings. As a result, we are poised to offer four of the five different endorsement areas for Texas students. In addition, since we have an eight-period school day and students can earn high school credits in middle school, they are typically able to graduate with more than one endorsement and quite a well-rounded transcript.

A key component to preparing our students is through our dual-credit program. We do not have enough faculty to offer AP (Advanced Placement) courses like many other schools, so we put a great deal of emphasis on our dual-credit partnership with the local community college. Students who qualify can take both academic and CTE coursework, depending on their individual career interests. Several of our students have graduated with 24-30 college credit hours and are well on their way to earning an associate’s and/or bachelor’s degree. Studies have shown that taking these courses in high school increases the likelihood that students will continue their education after graduation.

Recently, the district has also started to offer our students the opportunity to earn industry certifications. In Texas, this involves completing coursework and then sitting for a certification exam that students can later use for job or college applications. These are typically administered through our CTE programs and we currently offer certifications in small-engine repair and vet science, just to name a couple.

An important piece in providing effective college and career development is using valid assessments. At OISD, we administer the entire College Board suite of assessments (PSAT 8/9, 10, PSAT NMSQT and SAT School Day). In addition, we offer ACT District testing, ASVAB and the TSIA (Texas Success Initiative Assessment). Since OISD picks up any costs for these assessments, we make most of these tests mandatory. This gives us a wealth of data for each student as we plan each year. We then use the results of these assessments to guide instructional offerings and counselling services.

The culmination of all of the above components and programs is college and career counselling. Small numbers afford me the luxury of working with students on an individual basis to help them plan for their futures. I work closely with students on college applications, financial aid and scholarships, as well as helping them decide on a career path. I am a big proponent of the ASVAB Career Exploration Program, College Board Big Future website and the website Texas OnCourse. These are free, valuable resources for counsellors, parents and students to work together in college and career planning. We look at all options and help guide students in their next steps after graduation. Along with working individually with students, I host freshmen orientation, senior college night, and financial aid and scholarship workshops. I also take students on campus tours throughout the school year, visiting community colleges, universities and trade schools.

These are just some of the things we do at OISD to promote college and career readiness for our students. Our graduation rate each year is almost 100%, with about 80-90% attending college or trade school and the remaining 10-20% joining the military or the workforce.  It’s not a perfect system by any means, but it works for us and for our students and we will continue to improve our programs every year.

Lori Olive received her Bachelor’s in Business-Journalism from Baylor University and her Master’s in School Counseling from the University of Texas at Tyler. She has served as an educator and school counsellor for the past 21 years at Oakwood Independent School District in Oakwood, TX and currently serves as the district’s PK-12 school counsellor.


Looking to diversity to meet labour needs in Canada and the US

Case studies from the US and Canada show rural communities and industries are adopting creative approaches to attract new talent

Kristin Kirkpatrick and Scott Fisher

This article was also published in the Summer 2020 issue of the National Career Development Association’s Career Developments magazine.

Agriculture to fill talent pipelines with diversity lens

To address the monumental challenge of feeding a rapidly growing global population while using fewer resources, some of the largest agribusiness interests on a worldwide scale have joined forces to think strategically about the pipeline of talent that will be needed to drive rapid innovation in agriculture. Recently establishing an educational and research centre in partnership with Colorado State University, the consortium members of the new Center for an Enhanced Workforce in Agriculture include such invested corporations as ADM, Bayer, Bunge, Cargill, Land O’Lakes, Caterpillar, DuPont and Tyson Foods.

As global population growth booms over the next three decades, reaching around 9.7 billion people by 2050, experts estimate that we’ll need to produce more food in the next 30 years than we have had to produce in all of human civilization. To add complexity to that challenge, we will be seeking to meet the demand for food while needing to use fewer resources and creating a lighter environmental impact than ever before. In fact, earlier this year, the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) announced its ambition to increase agriculture production by 40% while cutting the environmental footprint by half. Across the industry, there is broad recognition that the solutions to tackle these challenges will focus heavily on innovation that might drive production while lessening environmental impact, most likely through the deployment of existing and emerging technologies such as precision agriculture, genomics, precision breeding, predictive data analytics, and so on. However, we need to focus on more than the technology. We also need to think strategically about building the teams that will create this innovation and the individual contributors needed to power this work.

This focus on the challenge of feeding our future led to the formation of an industry consortium in 2016 called Together We Grow (TWG). Started by Michael D’Ambrose, the Chief Human Resources Officer of ADM, and Secretary Tom Vilsack, who served as the Secretary of Agriculture under former US president Barack Obama, TWG is working across the country to create awareness and opportunities for more people to do the important work of feeding our world. Together We Grow is a consortium of some of the world’s largest agribusiness interests focused on building a skilled, diverse and inclusive agricultural workforce in collaboration with nearly 50 members – including modern food and agriculture companies, educational institutions, government agencies and national non-profits – committed to improving and expanding diversity in agribusiness. For example, member organization Land O’Lakes, a Minnesota-based agricultural co-operative, has been working to more effectively reach and retain Latin talent in agriculture. The consortium sponsors invest in research to create scalable pilot projects and provide a platform to share best practices for building future workforce capacity.

Diversity is a proven strategy for driving innovation. According to research compiled by McKinsey & Company (Hunt, Layton & Prince, 2015; Hunt, Yee, and Prince, 2018) and also by the Harvard Business Review (Rock & Grant, 2016), diverse teams generate more solutions to a given problem, they are more objective and careful when discussing facts, they generate more innovations and they are also more profitable. TWG’s Center for an Enhanced Workforce in Agriculture has defined diversity broadly and is tracking gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity, ability and veteran’s status as starting points.

Meeting the next 30 years of complex challenges related to global hunger and food insecurity is not something that any one organization can do individually. As a consortium of diverse interests, Together We Grow aims to help more people from diverse backgrounds see their own future as leaders in agriculture.

Growing diversity pipelines among our rural workforce

Professions North/Nord (PNN) is a unique regional Canadian program to develop new talent pipelines among diverse populations. Our strength is in our ability to reach individuals across an area of approximately 800,000 square kilometres. Add to the equation that the area is sparsely populated with large distances between centres and the challenges became daunting. However, the project has prevailed, developing techniques and tools that are well equipped to handle these conditions. These techniques/tools have been applied to further assist in the attraction of skilled professionals to add to our rural/remote/northern workforce. Many of these professionals are immigrants with international training and non-portable credentials that have not been recognized, as new residents of the province.

PNN was established in 2010 and is a part of a network of bridging programs. These bridging programs –mostly in the larger urban areas – facilitate the transition of highly skilled foreign-trained professionals into the labour market. PNN is part of the Faculty of Management at Laurentian University in Northern Ontario. Although it may seem like a very distant and remote area, Northern Ontario has so much to offer to professionals and families. A constant challenge has been to erase inaccurate stereotypes, and to instead highlight the wonderful opportunities and quality of life in our centres and region.

One project that has been developed to promote our centres to highly skilled-yet-unaware-talent pools of professionals located in larger, urban areas was to develop “Spotlights.” These were interactive, live-streamed events that promoted our northern/rural/remote areas with the purpose of attracting new talent to our area. The presenter was located in the city/region that we were highlighting, while all logistical aspects were co-ordinated through our central office—sometimes 16 hours away. During the real-time streaming, individuals had the ability to join in from anywhere; some would join from a classroom, others would join from their home or, in some cases, they would join from their car during a lunch break at their survival job. Not only those in Canada were participants; others were participating from abroad from countries including China. It was a robust and easy-to-use platform. Additionally, screen shares were incorporated – alternating between live video from the central office and the remote presenter – and dynamic chat features allowed for a seamless and fuller experience.

A key lesson learned is that the connection becomes meaningful when it is possible to simulate a realistic, live experience for the audience members. This has been instrumental in promoting our region (rural/remote/northern) to the masses in larger, urban areas that are surprised to learn about the opportunities and quality of life that our region can offer. Once this meaningful connection is established, there is a much stronger message – and more success – in attracting and growing our workforce.

Scott Fisher, MA-IOP, CCDP received his master’s from Colorado State University and has been a Certified Career Development Professional for over 15 years. He is currently a Project Manager for Professions North/Nord at Laurentian University in Sudbury, ON. Fisher serves on the Canadian Council for Career Development (3CD) board, and is a member of CERIC’s Content and Learning Committee.

Kristin Kirkpatrick, MURP is the Executive Director of Together We Grow and the Center for an Enhanced Workforce in Agribusiness hosted at Colorado State University. Kirkpatrick’s professional expertise centres on systems change to drive opportunity and equity. She received her Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Colorado and her undergraduate degree from Colorado State University.


Hunt, V., Layton, D., & Prince, S. (2015). Why Diversity Matters. Retrieved from

Hunt, V., Yee, L., Prince, S., & Dixon-Fyle, S. (2018). Delivering through diversity. Retrieved from

Rock , D., & Grant, H. (2016). Why Diverse Teams Are Smarter. Retrieved from

A musical approach to career assessmentCareering

A musical approach to career assessment

Engaging with a song that moves your client emotionally can reveal surprising insights about their interests, values and passions

Herky Cutler

If I asked you to name something that crosses generational, cultural, political and spiritual boundaries, moves people emotionally, changes moods, inspires people to be better, creates community, brings light to social injustice and simply entertains, what would you say that thing was?

Literature? Perhaps. Chocolate? A definite possibility. Music? Of course! Music is a powerful medium that everyone can relate to, and everyone uses music in many ways in their life. So, why not use music in career development?

Driving engagement through song

A long time ago, I wrestled with how to bring my passion for music into my professional life as an organizational consultant, speaker and trainer. And then it hit me.

What are we, as career practitioners, really looking for when we use assessments with our clients? Yes, we need the basic information from a client in terms of demographics, work experience, education and current situation. But what we really want is to get to know them – what they want out of life, what excites them and what dreams they have.

To find the answers, we would probably turn to an assessment tool – usually one we paid for – that measures employability, personality or occupational compatibility. All of these tools have merit. For me though, they lack what I consider to be the key in any relationship where one of the primary goals is change: engagement. If we don’t engage our clients deeply, how can we really help them change?

I’ll never forget my experience teaching a career course as a high school guidance counsellor, using a computer-based career interest inventory with students. I would ask a student, “What question did you just answer?” “Huh?” was the usual response.

The students weren’t engaged with this tool; they were just using it as a means to an end. Music, on the other hand, is highly engaging. I decided to put my theory to the test with some of the students who worked for me. I developed the following technique. 

From theory to practice  

The first person I tried this exercise with was a 16-year-old high school student I’ll call Will. Will was struggling in school, did a lot of drugs and showed real interest only in music, skiing and spending time with his friends. He brought in the song “Needle and the Damage Done,” by Neil Young. Will felt that the song was about social justice, conformity and rebellion. Through our discussion, many of Will’s characteristics, values and passions jumped out at me, including:  

  • Non-conformist
  • Risk-taker
  • Leader
  • Creative

While this exercise didn’t point Will toward a specific occupation, I suggested he reference the list I created when considering what types of work might make him happy.

How to use music as a career development assessment tool

Step 1: Ask your client to bring in a song that moves them emotionally. It can’t be just a song that they like. It has to move them deeply in some way. Instrumentals are fine, too.

Step 2: Find a video for the song and watch it together.

Step 3: Print a copy of the lyrics and have a conversation about them, asking a variety of questions. I have a list of general questions I ask in addition to others that pop into my head as we have the conversation. Some examples are:

  • Why did you choose this song?
  • What does this song mean to you?
  • What do you think the writer is trying to say about him/herself or about the world?
  • How does this song move you?

Step 4: While your client is answering the questions, make notes about their interests, values and passions.

Step 5: Once all the questions have been answered, go over your notes with the client. Ask them if what you wrote resonates with them. Ask them if there are any surprises and what those are. Once the discussion is over, hand the client your notes.

  • Make no judgment about the song the client brings in, even if it contains inappropriate images or language, unless you’re working with a group of people and you feel the song may offend others. If that’s the case, ask the client to choose another song.
  • Don’t share what you know about the song if it’s familiar to you, especially if you think the client’s interpretation of the song is “wrong.” It doesn’t matter. What matters is the impact the song has on the client.
  • When you’re making notes about the client’s interests, values and passions, make sure you use their words, not yours. Accuracy is very important in assessment. If you’re using your interpretation of what the client is saying, and not what the client is actually saying, it may not be accurate.
  • When you hand the client your notes, emphasize that what you wrote down cannot then be translated into determining an occupational path for the client. However, it’s fair to encourage the client to use those notes whenever they find themselves researching occupations or working. Does the occupation or job reflect the things that are important to the client, which he/she articulated from the analysis of the song?
  • This technique is another tool to add to your collection. It may not be appropriate for all of your clients, but if you feel your client is willing to take a bit of a risk, ask if they want to give it a try.

If you try this technique and your experience is like mine, you’ll be amazed at how engaged your client is in this process. Remember, this activity is client-driven; you will be talking about music that is important to the client, not evaluating answers to a career interest inventory they may have difficulty understanding the purpose of.

In my opinion, our goal as career practitioners is to help the client discover who they are and help them articulate their interests, values and passions. We should do so in a way that engages them and helps build a strong relationship between practitioner and client.

Music has the capacity to do this because of its universal appeal and its ability to trigger deep and meaningful emotions within us. Try using music as a career development assessment tool and discover just how powerful it really is. 

Herky Cutler is a Certified Career Development Professional, a lifetime member of the Career Development Association of Alberta and has been training career practitioners for more than 12 years. He has developed a number of unique career development tools and is a popular keynote speaker and presenter at conferences all over North America.