With a theme of “Stretch, Support, Strive,” the 2020 CERIC Annual Report reflects on a year like no other. It was a year that took us to new and uncharted places, both as an organization and as a sector. We started the year with banner attendance at Cannexus, Canada’s Career Development Conference, in Ottawa in January 2020. By mid-March, our staff were working from home and CERIC began to respond to the fast-changing needs of career development stakeholders in the face of the global public health crisis.
As Board Chair André Raymond and Executive Director Riz Ibrahim outline in their Leadership Message, CERIC sought to better understand how these needs were unfolding and what gaps were emerging. We did this through a series of periodic Pulse Surveys that took a recovery-oriented lens and showed remarkable resilience and innovation across career services in Canada. Our response included offering free webinars on timely topics like taking career and employment services online and managing mental and emotional well-being for both clients and career professionals. The pandemic also meant that we had to reimagine Cannexus in 2021 as a virtual offering. Being mindful of the economic uncertainties, we offered compelling rates and were also able to bring in new international partners with the pivot to virtual – all with a view to reimagining career development in this new reality where we found ourselves.
Internally, CERIC took time in 2020 to fine-tune our new Strategic Plan. Early in the year, we revised our Vision (People in Canada have the capacity to use their skills and talents towards a more fulfilling future for all) and Mission (Advancing career development in Canada) and confirmed two mandates that would drive our work for the next few years. These are: “Promoting career development as a priority for the public good,” working with stakeholders across the career development ecosystem to advance efforts that show the social and economic value, and public benefit of career development; and, “Building career development knowledge, mindsets and competencies,” growing expertise and skills among career practitioners and educators through research, learning and acting as a hub for community.
Highlights for CERIC that promote career development for public good:
- Launched the book Strengthening Mental Health Through Effective Career Development: A Practitioner’s Guide, which makes the case that career development is a mental health intervention
- Announced the development of Retain and Gain: Career Management for the Public Sector to help managers across government better engage and develop their employees
- Funded research based on unique Canadian data that found evidence to support career education in high school changing students’ career choices and pathways, with implications for policymakers and practitioners
- Published the “Career Superpowers” issue of CERIC’s Careering magazine, which highlighted how career development skills such as developing agility are superpowers that support people through difficult transitions
- Released the results of a national survey of 1,300+ career service professionals that found that 7 in 10 Canadians who see a career counsellor wish they had made different career decisions earlier in their lives, generating significant media attention
- Engaged with many organizations around shared advocacy goals, systems change and joint learning, including RBC Future Launch, Canadian Chamber of Commerce, OECD, Canadian Education Association EdCan Network and the federal Privy Council Office
Key achievements for CERIC that build career development knowledge:
- Initiated a project to translate the popular book Career Theories and Models at Work: Ideas for Practice into French, with Japanese, Latvian and Estonian translations also in progress, extending its international reach
- In partnership with Memorial University, continued to expand knowledge by publishing two issues of the Canadian Journal of Career Development, Canada’s only peer-reviewed academic journal in the field
- Presented free webinars that addressed pandemic challenges and also offered paid series with partner associations in the field on highly relevant topics such as supporting positive outcomes for Black students, with a total of 19,887 webinar registrations
- Hosted Cannexus, Jan. 27-29, 2020 in Ottawa, bringing together a record number of 1,258 delegates to learn about and discuss the issues shaping work and well-being in Canada, including workforce development, youth employment and reconciliation
- Produced timely resources through CERIC’s popular bilingual content communities, CareerWise and OrientAction (in partnership with Quebec-based GRICS), to help Canada’s career development professionals navigate a rapidly changing reality
- Conducted a series of CERIC Recovery Pulse Surveys with 1,146 career and employment professionals to track the effects of COVID-19 on career services across the country, with data showing resilience and innovation
- Engaged the next generation of career development researchers through our Graduate Student Engagement Program (GSEP), adding 39 students currently enrolled in full-time master’s and PhD programs
- Issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) on the linkages between experiential learning and career development to effectively bridge the gap between the classroom and the world of work
- Announced the award of the Career Development in Children: Identifying Critical Success Conditions and Strategies project, which will examine how foundational skills introduced by classroom teachers connect to career-related learning in grades 4-6
In addition to these highlights, as well as inclusion of financial statements, the CERIC 2020 Annual Report also includes an acknowledgement of CERIC staff this past year as well as a special thank you to the CERIC Board and Advisory Committee volunteers who helped us navigate through these uncharted waters and to our funder, The Counselling Foundation of Canada, for its unwavering support.
There is a pressing need for greater training of settlement counsellors – those on the front lines of welcoming newcomers to Canada – as their role changes in response to rising immigration levels and an increasingly complex settlement landscape, according to a new CERIC-funded project research report. The pan-Canadian research from two Toronto-based consultants identifies eight critical competencies that could form the basis of training to help settlement counsellors be successful as the job is redefined and the range of work is extended. While the focus is on the role of settlement counsellors, many of the insights, conclusions and recommendations can be applied to other categories of front-line settlement workers.
Canada is widely acknowledged to have one of the strongest settlement sectors in the world. At its core are 500 non-profit organizations that deliver programs and services to help newcomers adjust to life in Canada, including by improving their labour market outcomes. Front-line settlement counsellors are one of the initial points of contact for immigrants, helping them adapt and participate in Canadian society. But with the ongoing rise in immigration levels that will see more than one million newcomers welcomed between 2019 and 2021, the report highlights that settlement service agencies cannot address the challenges alone.
The report, The Competencies of Frontline Settlement Counsellors in Canada, from Iren Koltermann of eCaliber Group and Dan Scott of Calience Research and Consulting, found that the work of settlement counsellors needs to go beyond a traditional approach of providing direct services to immigrants to include building capacity in communities that welcome newcomers. The role of settlement counsellors now fundamentally has two parts, each based on capacity-building: empowering newcomers and empowering destination communities.
Direct services – historically the main purpose of the settlement sector – involve assessing the needs of newcomers and providing appropriate information, orientation, referrals and direct assistance such as helping them navigate legal services, housing, healthcare, education, employment and language training, and assisting them to appreciate Canadian society and Canadian culture.
The emerging aspect of the role of settlement counsellors is focused on building capacity in the existing community to be inclusive of newcomers. This involves advocating to overcome biases and systemic barriers that prevent immigrants from participating in society and in creating environments based on “unity in diversity.” The report makes the case that this aspect is becoming more urgent and requires greater attention.
The eight critical competencies to help settlement counsellors be successful include the ability to:
- Discern the strengths and identify the needs of newcomers
- Assist newcomers to navigate social and economic systems
- Help newcomers gain understanding of Canadian society and culture, and nurture a sense of belonging
- Advocate for the well-being of newcomers
- Contribute to building environments of unity in diversity
- Uphold integrity
- Promote learning
- Foster initiative
Research for the report involved conducting 40 in-depth interviews and five focus groups with settlement counsellors, managers and regional co-ordinators in Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia about how their work is evolving and their training needs.
The counsellors interviewed had diverse educational backgrounds, most including a university degree. Only about a quarter had studied for a diploma or certificate related to the settlement sector. In the interviews, several managers indicated they prefer to hire those who have themselves immigrated to Canada, the rationale being that it is possible to train people in the knowledge of Canada but not in the experience of leaving your homeland and resettling in another country. Maximum salary levels for settlement counsellors ranged from $46,000 to $52,000 per year. Retention was identified as an obstacle given low wages generally in the sector. Additionally, most settlement counsellors were satisfied to remain in the role and did not aspire to higher positions within the field. However, those interested in career progression found that accessing the training they need for leadership positions is a barrier.
This CERIC-funded project was conceived as a contribution toward a growing body of knowledge used by settlement agencies to:
- Raise the profile of settlement workers;
- Help identify potential candidates for the role;
- Provide initial and ongoing training; and
- Ensure talent is well nurtured.
A background report released in January explored the historic and current realities in Canada’s settlement sector. The ongoing research has had two interrelated aims:
The first is to gain insight into the work of settlement counsellors and map the career path of this position.
The second is to identify a competency model for settlement counsellors that can form the foundation for effective and affordable training.
The authors of the report believe the complex challenges of settlement will require government funders, educational institutions and settlement providers themselves to support training that develops these competencies and carves out career paths in the sector. Given the critical role settlement counsellors play in improving integration for newcomers, increasing the capacity of welcoming communities and enhancing public support for immigration, the value of the services provided by these workers will only continue to rise as immigration levels grow.
Learn more about this project and access the reports at ceric.ca/settlement. Also watch for an announcement of a free webinar and roadshow that will share the report findings.
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