Career briefs

CERIC-funded project to examine role of career education on outcomes of young Canadians

The Social Research and Demonstration Corporation (SRDC) is undertaking a project, supported by CERIC, that will identify the impact of career interventions/education on high school students’ post-secondary choices and workforce outcomes. The project will use data documenting 10 years in the lives of 7,000 young Canadians across 72 schools in British Columbia, Manitoba and New Brunswick, including their occupational aspirations at age 14, their post-secondary education and their earnings. It aims to help equip the career counselling profession to respond authoritatively to increasingly urgent policy questions about how best to structure career education for young people.

Visit to learn more about the project.

Brookfield Institute report examines diverse drivers of change in Canadian labour market

Turn and Face the Strange: Changes impacting the future of employment in Canada illuminates the diverse and intersecting trends driving change in Canada’s labour market. While technological trends will play a significant role in the future of work, many other trends could also influence future skills demand in positive and negative ways. Turn and Face the Strange paints a complex picture of the future, exploring 31 broad trends in the areas of:

  • Demographic change
  • Globalization
  • Technological change
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Urbanization
  • Increasing inequality
  • Political uncertainty

Brookfield Institute is continuing research in this area and is planning to share an insights report in summer 2019 based on workshops held in six Canadian locations.

Head to to read the report.

Training for working Canadians is scarce, Public Policy Forum report finds

This report examines Canada’s strengths and weaknesses in skills development as well as training models from around the world, and suggests improvements to lifelong learning systems. It suggests that while Canada’s K-12 education system is a world leader in equipping children and young people with the skills they need, training opportunities for workers in the labour force are scarce and unevenly distributed. Among the findings:

  • Less than one-third of Canadians receive job-related, non-formal education.
  • Those who do get job-related training receive only 49 hours of instruction annually, below the OECD average of 58 hours.
  • Less educated, Indigenous and older workers, as well as workers living in rural and remote communities, are less likely to receive workplace training.

Check out the full report at

Research report sheds light on Canada’s settlement sector

The Competencies of Front-line Settlement Practitioners in Canada: A Background Research Report is part of a project funded by CERIC and led by ECaliber Group and Calience Research that aims to enhance understanding of capacity-building among settlement workers. This timely report examines the nature of front-line settlement work and the context in which it is carried out. It also reviews what research and work has been undertaken toward strengthening the competencies of front-line settlement practitioners.

A finalized set of competencies and career pathways as well as insights gained during the implementation of the project will be captured in a final report and an infographic.

Find out more about this project at

Ontario inadequately preparing students for jobs, adulthood: report

Ontario schools are falling behind in preparing students for future jobs and adulthood, according to a Counselling Foundation of Canada-funded report by People for Education titled Roadmaps and roadblocks: Career and life planning, guidance and streaming in Ontario’s schools. The province has a policy aimed at supporting students, from kindergarten to Grade 12, for career and life planning, but schools are struggling to implement it, the report says. These challenges come at a time when there is growing pressure to prepare students for a rapidly changing, increasingly complex future, the report suggests.

Read the report at


10 Questions with Dr Chris Wood

Dr Chris Wood is an Associate Professor and Department Chair in the Counselor Education, School Psychology and Human Services Department at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He has been a faculty member at Old Dominion University, Seattle University, Ohio State University and the University of Arizona. Dr Wood has previous experience as a high school counsellor, a counselling/guidance department chair, a counsellor/group leader at a residential youth facility for troubled teens and a career counsellor at an alternative school serving grades 7-12.

Dr Wood was the editor of the Professional School Counseling Journal for six years. He has been the principal investigator or faculty research associate on over $3 million in state and federal grants. He has over 30 conference presentations and 30 publications including articles in Professional School Counseling, the Journal of Counseling & Development, the Journal of College Counseling, Counselor Education and Supervision, Career Planning and Adult Development Journal, and The Elementary School Journal. Dr Wood was co-editor of the 5th and 6th editions of the National Career Development Association (NCDA) publication A Counselor’s Guide to Career Assessment Instruments. He was honoured with the American Counseling Association’s Fellow Award in 2017.

Dr Wood was also interviewed for the 2019 Summer issue of Career Developments, the National Career Development Association print magazine.

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

Career development matters because it helps individuals actualize their dreams and it gives society a chance to ameliorate inequities created by sociopolitical oppression. When individuals don’t experience adequate career development interventions, they are susceptible to socializing forces that minimize their career opportunities and society misses out on the many benefits such individuals could have provided.

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

I’m trying to finish The Truths We Hold by Kamala Harris. I heard her speak on my campus several months ago and was immensely impressed. Her children’s book is good, too – my daughters and I enjoyed reading it.

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

My first real paying job was as a kennel person at a veterinary clinic. My job was to clean cages and clean up after animals. It was a dirty job but I enjoyed it. They made a special award for me after I had been there a year because no one had lasted in the position more than a few months.

One of the veterinarians was going to night school to study/learn to be an engineer. He hated being a vet but was visibly animated when discussing vectors and related math.

So, I think from that job I learned lessons both about the value of hard work and the importance of matching intellectual interests to a career.

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

Relaxing is definitely a weakness of mine, but I love to read and I enjoy playing the game Words with Friends on my phone. Both of these activities help me unwind before bed.

What is the one thing you wouldn’t be able to work without? Why?

A good desk. I like to work in the library – it feels like a special treat, to have a large table and be surrounded by books. I try to get work done on airplanes but it’s a physically and mentally taxing process.

What is the most unusual interview question you’ve ever been asked and how did you respond?

I was asked, “What kind of plant would you be?” I think I said, ”I don’t know.” Such questions make me wish I would say something like “Venus flytrap, for obvious reasons,” and then just wring my hands like a villain.

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

I would like to be on time more often than I am late!

Who would you like to work with most and why?

I’d like to work with Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG). I think I would learn a lot from her. I found the documentary on her life and career to be very inspirational. A colleague of mine gave me an action figure of RBG and I keep it on the shelf in my office.

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

I wish I could pause time – if I had that superpower I would never be late. Maybe eventually I would also figure out ways to use it to help people and for the greater good of society, but the initial appeal is just being on time for appointments and finishing tasks on time.

What do you consider your greatest achievement and why?

Being a father to my 4-year-old and 6-year-old daughters (as author and therapist Virginia Satir pointed out, ‘peoplemaking’ is probably the most important thing we can do). Like their mother, they are very smart, funny, beautiful, multi-talented and seem to like hanging out with me (despite the fact that I lack most of the aforementioned qualities!).

Check out our previous 10 Questions interviews with: 

The Rt. Hon. David Johnston

Dr Mary McMahon

Deborah Saucier


Client Side: It’s a small world after all – reflections on a career coaching journey

In this Careering feature, jobseekers reflect on successes and struggles in their career development 

Debra Thompson
When a series of life changes left Debra Thompson at a fork in the road, she turned to a former client for guidance – and became the client herself

Our business relationship started several years ago, when she was the client and I was an account executive for a global training company. We met a couple of times while working on a project and I immediately felt a kinship and a professional connection that is rare in such a short time. Afterward, we remained in touch professionally over LinkedIn. Fast forward a couple years later and I noticed some of her social media posts focused on career coaching. Barbara Wilson was launching a new venture: Thrive Career Consulting.

Over a year ago, I reached out and suggested we connect. I had no plan, but I was curious about what she was doing and how it might help me. This time, I would be the client and she would be the coach.

I shared with her that I had reached a stalemate in my career journey, a fork in the road and that I was unsure about where to go next or how to get there. My work environment and my job were changing dramatically, I had lost my father to suicide, my mom was going through cancer treatments for a second time and my only daughter was finishing university. Meanwhile, I was trying to make sense of what the next 10-15 years of my career were going to look like as I approached retirement. I didn’t know if I had the strength to start another sales career to build my brand and I had no idea what I wanted to do. I was also tired, unbalanced and desperately in need of self-care. I knew one thing – that I needed help to navigate or I would continue to flounder.

I had no idea what this call for help would mean to me in the coming months and how it would lead me down a path I could have never envisioned for myself. The journey had pivots and pitfalls and helped me learn the world is much smaller than I thought.

Assessing values and weighing possibilities

Our work started with a short phone meeting and Barb giving an overview of how she could help. I remember her telling me I had a lot on my plate, which was true. During my rare moments of spare time, we continued with the coaching sessions.

We spent time talking about my career goals and what I liked and didn’t like about my current job, where I was facing organizational and industry changes. I often felt relieved after each session, when I unloaded all of my “life updates” on Barb. She was a patient listener and she kept me on track.

We did questionnaires and a Wheel of Life assessment, where I was asked to assess my focus on various aspects of my life and do a values exercise. This last exercise yielded three values – resilience, initiative and life balance. I was then asked to reflect on these values in a number of ways to find my own career values.

Additionally, we spent time reflecting on homework and actions I was taking during the process. One of the pieces of homework was to “hire a financial planner.” This might be unexpected advice from a career coach, but this was what I needed to assess what kind of career I could pursue and what retirement would look like for me. I did values and skills card sorts and I involved my family in assessing my skills and values – they were along for the ride whether they wanted to be or not. I reminded them that my happiness was their happiness.

Big network, small world

After a few weeks, we determined the not-for-profit sector as an area of interest. I have been a lifelong volunteer and wanted to spend time in my next career giving back. I also enjoyed the creative pursuits of writing, communicating and building relationships.

While I spent time researching roles, Barb connected me with her network and encouraged me to contact people in the NFP sector to conduct informational interviews. Having honed my cold calling and prospecting skills in my sales work, I was ready for this, but my “interviewees” made it that much easier and the NFP sector was particularly welcoming. Even those who were complete strangers to me openly shared their advice and career journeys, and even introduced me to others in their own network. Many have become valued mentors.

I developed an amazing network and the small world stories started piling up. One of the first informational interviews I had was with a recruitment professional who had posted a role I was interested in on LinkedIn. We discovered we had many connections and had likely crossed paths a few times without even knowing it.

Read more:

Client Side: How I found my career fit in science

Client Side: How my disability changed my perspective on jobseeking

Finding fit with career values

A few months into the coaching process, while I was still figuring out the role I wanted and had not yet applied to other positions, I was restructured out of my job. After the initial shock wore off, I was relieved because I had already started the journey. After a short break, I kicked things into high gear. With Barb’s help, I remained connected with my network, built an amazing resume and cover letter, and upped my interview game. Looking for a job became my job.

After three months, I found an amazing job with a local education council that checked all my boxes and aligned with my career values. I realized in the first interview that it was a fit for me and my new employer.

On my first day, I realized I had a connection with most of my new co-workers from either volunteering, my previous career or my personal life. The recruitment pro I mentioned? Turns out she’s one of my employer’s greatest community supporters and was thrilled to learn I’d joined them. Small world indeed.

We don’t hesitate to hire a professional to help us with our physical or mental health, but many are reluctant to reach out to an expert for career development assistance. I say, do it! Without going on this journey, I would not have found the role I now know is a great fit for me.

Debra Thompson is Communications and Community Outreach Manager for the Halton Industry Education Council (HIEC) and resides in Burlington, ON. She’s also a girlfriend, mom, daughter, reader, photographer, volunteer, self-professed foodie and tweeter of randomness.

New tools for integration: Credential assessment for displaced individualsCareering

New tools for integration: Credential assessment for displaced individuals

Many refugees who arrive in Canada are highly skilled, but have little access to evidence to prove their academic achievements

Beatrice Kohlenberg

The United Nations estimates that there are more than 68 million individuals displaced as a result of natural disasters, conflict and violence (United Nations, 2018). Many are forced to flee with little to nothing in hand. When these individuals arrive in a new country, ready to contribute their skills, they often face a critical challenge: lack of proof of their educational credentials.

The need for solutions that allow these individuals to begin quickly contributing their skills to their new communities has become increasingly urgent over time. The conflict in Syria – and the huge outflow of people seeking new lives in Canada – prompted the Canadian government to begin looking for solutions in 2015.

Many of these refugees were highly skilled, but had little access to evidence to prove their academic achievements. Their institutions were destroyed, damaged, closed or unresponsive. This caused significant delays and barriers when attempting to build a life in Canada and go back to school, re-enter their professions or find anything but a so-called survival job.

World Education Services (WES) is a credential evaluation service provider that also partners with a number of organizations in Canada’s settlement sector. As such, we quickly began hearing from our institutional and community partners about issues on the ground. Refugees were facing barriers to integration. They wanted to re-build their professional lives, but without verification of their educational attainments, that was exceptionally difficult.

International policies added another element of urgency to these questions: Canada was on the verge of ratifying an international agreement, commonly referred to as the Lisbon Recognition Convention. In the details of this treaty is a special note regarding the credential recognition for “refugees, displaced persons, and persons in a refugee-like situation.” This clause details assurance and accessibility requirements for credential assessment and recognition for this specific population.

” … applicants who had the credential evaluation in hand were able to move forward with their lives.”

The confluence of factors provided an impetus for WES to create a refugee pilot project. The project ran throughout 2016 and 2017, and ultimately led to the establishment of a permanent initiative to help qualified individuals, including those who are not refugees but who have fled specific countries in crisis, surmount at least one barrier to moving forward with their lives. This program is now known as the WES Gateway Program.

Manifesting barriers in Canada

The problem of credential verification creates barriers that academic institutions, professional regulatory bodies and employers are not well positioned to address. Receipt of documents directly from the awarding institution is normative credential evaluation practice. These credentials stand as verifiable proof of baseline eligibility for academic programs and professional roles. Without these verifiable credentials, institutions and others often find their hands are tied.

“Our community welcomed many Syrian refugees, and as much as we all wanted to help,” said Kate Day, admissions and pathways advisor at Fanshawe College, “we learned quickly that we were missing some of the tools we needed to help these newcomers transition to post-secondary education.”

Read more:

Working with newcomer clients? Check out these 6 webinars

CERIC funds research to support the professional integration of immigrants in Quebec

6 websites you can share with your newcomer clients

Testing solutions to emerging challenges

WES launched its refugee pilot project in July 2016. The goal was to determine whether WES could use its expertise and resources to reliably provide those who were facing barriers to integration with a high-quality credential evaluation that would prove their academic accomplishments and their equivalency in Canada.

Drawing on over 40 years of experience, WES developed a rigorously tested methodology to compare available academic documentation to documents stored in our extensive archival database to produce an evaluation report. WES worked with documents individuals had in their possession that signified they attended or completed a program of study. In some cases, WES evaluators were able to reconstruct the course of study using partial documentation, information in the organization’s archives and knowledge of the country’s education system.

Working with a network of organizations across Canada who supported eligible participants with application assistance and wrap-around services, WES was able to provide 337 Syrian refugees – 100% of applicants – with a credential evaluation.

More notable, however, was the fact that applicants who had the credential evaluation in hand were able to move forward with their lives. Through surveys and participant feedback, we confirmed how the report was being used. Three-quarters of those who used the report to apply for education were offered admission. No applicants reported having their application rejected. Others used their report for the purpose of professional licensure; 84% reported passing the initial review. And more than 60% of those who used their WES credential evaluation to obtain employment reported receiving at least one job offer.

Just as impressive as these numbers was the quality of organizations that accepted these reports. They included organizations such as the Association of Professional Geoscientists of Ontario (APGO) and Osgoode Hall Law School.

To move forward with a scaled version of the program, WES conducted research on other countries in crisis. We sought to identify countries where great numbers of highly educated individuals were being forcibly displaced as a result of political unrest, conflict and natural disasters, and faced challenges in accessing verifiable documents. Equally important was our ability, based on data maintained in our credential evaluation database, to credibly map and reconstruct the education histories of applicants based on standard qualification requirements of a given education system.

Accessing long-term programming

We’ve now expanded the pilot phase to become the WES Gateway Program. This program is available in Canada to displaced individuals who, because of adverse circumstances in their country of education, lack standard proof of academic achievement.

Program eligibility centres on access to documentation, not refugee status. Eligible participants have been educated in seven countries: Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Ukraine and Venezuela.

As shown by the example of one applicant, the program’s impact is profound: Wid Sabir completed his education in Iraq. After arrival in Canada, he obtained a job offer from the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). However, to move forward, Wid had to provide TTC with a credential evaluation that validated his educational qualifications. This was a major barrier for Wid: He was able to obtain his diploma, but he could not obtain the needed verification from the Iraqi Ministry of Education.

“I was about to potentially lose this job offer because I couldn’t obtain verification and prove my qualifications,” he said.

Through word of mouth, Wid heard about the WES Gateway Program. He brought the documents he had in-hand to a WES referral partner, ACCES Employment, which submitted an application for a WES Gateway Credential Evaluation. WES evaluated Wid’s credentials and submitted the report directly to TTC for recognition. He began his new role with TTC earlier this month.

Wid’s story is one of many. The WES Gateway Program offers a way forward for displaced individuals, and provides employers and other institutions with the verification they need to recognize qualifications. It also enables career practitioners in the settlement sector to offer their clients solutions to this barrier. WES works with referral partners across the country to ensure that this program is accessible to those who need it. Visit to find a list of our partner organizations.

Beatrice Kohlenberg, PMP, is the senior program manager for the WES Gateway Program. She has extensive experience in project and program management, managing employment and diversity programs covering all aspects of program development, implementation and evaluation.


United Nations. (2018, June 19). Figures at a Glance. Retrieved from


Finding the pieces, focusing on the patterns and finishing the puzzle

When using multiple assessment tools and strategies, these tips can help weave different elements into a meaningful whole

Deirdre A. Pickerell

When working with clients, career development practitioners (CDPs) are almost always engaged in some form of assessment. From the moment clients first seek services, and as their plans/goals evolve, CDPs assess and re-assess clients’ needs.

CDPs assess work search documents (eg, resume, cover letter) to help maximize their effectiveness and evaluate interview skills to help clients communicate their value to employers. CDPs also assess for factors such as skills, values, interests and personality as they assist clients in identifying new and emerging career opportunities. They assess for employment barriers, learning styles, career beliefs and a host of other factors that might be important when helping clients achieve their goals.

Finding the pieces, focusing on the patterns and finishing the puzzleA variety of formal (eg, psychometric “tests”) and informal tools (eg, checklists, cards) along with custom/in-house procedures (eg, intake forms, structured interview questionnaires) are used to support assessment processes. Some CDPs make very strategic, well-informed decisions about what tools to use, at what point in their work with clients. Others are limited by whatever their agency uses, what the funder will pay for, what they were taught or they rely on their “favourites” (Life Strategies, 2009).

Regardless of the tool being used or what is being assessed, at some point, all these pieces must be brought together into a meaningful whole, helping clients create a vision of the future, set achievable goals and create an action plan. Unfortunately, assessment results can sometimes seem contradictory; either the specific tools don’t align or the client’s story seems disconnected from assessment results. This, in turn, can create confusion for the CDP and the client, making the vision of the future much harder to see.

Building on a series of assessment-related tips (see developed by the team at Life Strategies, the following may help CDPs focus on the patterns and themes that emerge during any assessment process.

Read more from Deirdre A. Pickerell on CERIC’s CareerWise website:

The long-sought-after, unrealized dream of a single LMI portal

Check your assumptions about the gig economy

  1. Work within a conceptual framework.

    Tools such as the Wheel (Amundson & Poehnell, 1996) and the Hope-Centred Model (Niles, Amundson, & Neault, 2011) provide a lens through which to view each client’s context and presenting issue, helping to select relevant assessments and in the interpretation and integration of results. As with theories and models, working within a conceptual framework “equip[s] us with effective starting places to begin to understand what has already happened, what is happening now, and what needs to happen next” (Neault, 2014, p. 144).

  2. Understand and interpret each tool.

    To effectively interpret assessment tools, and integrate results across a battery of assessments, CDPs need to fully understand the theoretical foundation of each tool, including how each scale is defined (eg, the Six Factor Personality Questionnaire [SFPQ] defines extraversion differently from the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator [MBTI]) and how scores are presented (eg, t-score, percentile). It is important to engage clients in the interpretation of each tool that is completed; their context and story are important components in understanding assessment results.

  1. Don’t over-interpret.

    Although CDPs must understand each tool and provide meaningful feedback on specific results, it is also important to avoid over-interpretation. Even norm-referenced tools (ie, where client results are compared against a norm group) are still self-assessments rather than objective measures. At this stage, be comfortable with gaps in information or with questions that might surface and remember that each individual assessment will contain far more information than you need. Be discerning; focus only on the information that is relevant for your specific purpose.

  1. Focus on the patterns.

    As each tool is interpreted, patterns will begin to emerge. Use Post-it notes, highlighters or other strategies to group together similar concepts. As assessment tools may use different words for similar concepts, remember to focus on the underlying meanings – not just the words.

  1. Explore contradictions.

    As you explore individual results and identify themes and patterns, some information may not fit together. To begin, consider whether the contradictions make sense based on the tools used; per Tip #2, as extraversion is defined differently on the SFPQ and the MBTI, it is possible for these two assessments to seem to contradict each other, but the underlying meanings may explain any confusing results.

  1. Consider other information.

    Remember that your clients are more than the sum of their assessment results. Their individual context and story along with their hopes and dreams for the future are of critical importance to the final picture. Take a holistic approach, weaving in information from a variety of other sources, and engage the client in creating a vision of their future.

  1. Be prepared for further assessment.

    As information is obtained, questions may surface that require additional assessment to explore them fully. However, be sure to recognize when enough is enough; over-assessing doesn’t necessarily lead to additional information. Be mindful of the client’s goal so that each additional assessment is still relevant to the broader purpose. Pay attention to client fatigue, physical comfort and attention span; assessments done while tired may be worthless.

  1. Be mindful when reporting results.

    How you report results may depend on your purpose, the audience, and who may have access to assessment results and for how long. In some instances, a keep-it-simple approach may be best; in others, a more comprehensive report to support a training or return-to-work plan may be required. Keep jargon and technical language to a minimum, especially if readers aren’t likely to be assessment experts. Always keep the purpose in mind so that reports are focused.

Ethical and effective use of assessment models and tools is a specialized skill. Specific and comprehensive training on individual tools is likely not going to include any meaningful information on how to focus on the patterns and themes across multiple tools or how to incorporate information from a wide variety of sources. As such, CDPs are encouraged to seek coaching, mentorship or other assessment training with a focus on assessment interpretation and integration. There is an “art” to seeing beyond the individual pieces to the story that is being told.

Dr Deirdre Pickerell, CPHR, GCDF-i, is Dean of Academics at Yorkville University’s British Columbia Campus and Vice-President of Life Strategies Ltd. She has been honoured with the 2014 Stu Conger Award for Leadership in Career Development and Career Counselling and the 2006 Human Resources Association Award of Excellence. She has authored/co-authored several articles, training guides and research reports on integrating assessment tools and models into effective career practice.


Amundson, N. & Poehnell, G. (1996). Career pathways (2nd ed.). Richmond, BC: Ergon Communications.

Life Strategies Ltd. (2009). Use of assessment processes and tools in career development services (2009). Retrieved from / source

Neault, R. A. (2014). Theoretical foundations of career development (pp. 129-152). In B. C. Shepard, & P. S. Mani (Eds.), Career development practice in Canada: Perspectives, principles, and professionalism. Toronto, ON: CERIC.

Niles, S. G., Amundson, N. E. & Neault, R. A. (2011). Career flow: A hope-centered approach to career development. Boston, MA: Pearson Education.