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Increasing inclusion and engagement in virtual career workshops

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

Gena Hamilton

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

Universal Design for career education

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

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

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Applying universal design as a pathway to inclusive career education

Applying Universal Design in a career education workshop

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

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

Liberating Structures for career education

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

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

Applying a Liberating Structure in a career education workshop

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

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

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


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

Looking for more UDL and LS resources?

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

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

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

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

Katie Williams and Jessi Haley

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

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

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

1. Encourage on-the-job learning

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Create structured opportunities to learn from others

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

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

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Career development helps people and organizations thrive

Resources to support employee career management

Effective public sector career management serves all Canadians

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

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

3. Provide supplemental learning that meets employee needs

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Lorraine Godden

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

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

IPAF 3800: Managing and Developing Your Career

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

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

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

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

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

Rooted in worthwhile practices

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

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

My key learning

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

Student responses 

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

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

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

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

In summary

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

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

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

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

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Editor’s note

Lindsay Purchase

Author headshotIn your wildest dreams, what would you want career development to look like in Canada? What is your vision of an ideal system, mindset, approach or resource to support people as they navigate all stages of their careers?

As we move through our day-to-day work, this kind of big-picture imagining tends to fall by the wayside. Visualizing what could be doesn’t always feel practical when we have to work within the confines of what is. But with this issue of Careering magazine, on the theme of “Career Development Reimagined,” we hope to spark questions and dialogue about the changes people want to see in the sector. You can’t do it if you can’t dream it.

Eighteen months into a disruptive and often devastating pandemic, we are in a moment that feels ripe for reflection. This issue of Careering both examines where we have been – the changes the field has made, by choice or by necessity – and where career development needs to go in Canada. The strategies, case studies and ideas this issue’s authors present reflect an inherent belief that we can do better than just going back to “normal.”

There’s something for everyone in this issue – available exclusively online at ceric.ca/careering – with articles on career education in K-12 and post-secondary; re-envisioning approaches to workforce development; hybrid career services; inclusive workplaces; measuring and communicating the value of career development; and much more.

You also won’t want to miss our multimedia feature sharing reader responses to the question, “What is your ideal vision of career development in Canada?” Your ideas for the future of the field fill us with excitement and hope about the many possibilities that lie ahead!

As you navigate busy schedules and new challenges this fall, we hope you’ll also take time to reflect and have conversations about how we can all reimagine career development.

Happy reading – and dream big!

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What is your ideal vision of career development in Canada?

Ahead of the release of the Fall 2021 issue of CERIC’s Careering magazine, which explores the theme of “Career Development Reimagined,” we asked readers to send us their answers to the question: What is your ideal vision of career development in Canada?

Through text and video responses, readers representing seven different provinces sent us their ideas for what career development could look like in this country. They shared their desire for greater awareness of the life-changing potential of career development; the importance of beginning career education in the early years; the need for individualized supports that shift to reflect and anticipate changing labour market realities; and more.

We’ve shared excerpts from your responses in the following video. They are also available at full length in the transcript below.

As we watch, we encourage you to think about what career development means to you – and how you want to see the field evolve.

“I’d like to see career development recognized as a sustainable and renewable public good. When Canadians need career guidance throughout their lives – and they will – they will have the awareness to seek help from trusted professionals. When that vision becomes a reality, our future generations will thrive – including Spider Boy here.” – Candy Ho, University of the Fraser Valley

“Career development should promote the idea that as individuals we are the CEOs of our own careers. Knowledge, visibility and connections are the three pillars that guide career success. Therefore we must increase knowledge, create visibility and build connections in order to achieve career success. Utilizing this model will align with Canada’s move to be more inclusive and diverse.” – Nordia Bogle, www.nordiabogle.com (NB)

“It would be nice to have a recognition of the profession and of the workers in the field. That in Quebec, there would be more tools for the English-speaking clients. Also in Quebec, if the organizations and Emploi-Quebec could have a real partnership, as if they would with the private sector, for example.” – Roxane Stonely, Centre de recherche d’emploi Côte-des-Neiges

“I imagine a day when all Canadians understand that they have a career, and that it consists of life, learning and work. Also understood is that during career, there are times of anxiety and change, and that during those moments, career development is the go-to response.” – Lorraine Godden, Carleton University

“My vision of career development in Canada is broad. I would like to see everybody in the country recognize the importance of understanding and addressing their own career development processes and to recognize the impact that this understanding has on their identity, relationships, mental health, and social and economic standing in the world. We need to steer our ships.” – Jeff Landine, University of New Brunswick

“Career development cannot be a one-fit-all model. With increasing awareness of discrimination and racism in hiring and advancement practices, career development needs to recognize the issues of exclusion and tailor a model that shifts the thinking towards success in marginalized populations. The model should include advocacy with outcomes reflecting diversity in positions of higher levels of responsibility and pay.” – Ann Clarke, career development professional (ON)

“I would like to see a trauma-informed approach to career development that will empower all refugees, immigrants, racialized and marginalized groups – in fact, all Canadians – to find their purpose and passion and to turn that into a productive and rewarding career.” – Helena Prins, BCcampus

“While societies embrace diversity and inclusion, this is a vision for career development to guide neurodiverse Canadians in the workplace.” – Soon-Lan L. Switzer, Douglas College

“Career development is a lifelong pursuit that begins in K-12 schools. As youth explore who they are, which skills they possess/hope to acquire, and those workplaces and organizations that connect with their values and interests, they build their capacity to make purposeful and relevant career decisions. When people engage career dev, they build a life that matters and resonates.” – Adriano Magnifico, Louis Riel School Division (MB)

“I believe Careers Education is (or should be) one of the most important subjects taught in our schools K-12 along with Literacy and Numeracy. Done correctly, Careers Education can open students to a world of possibilities effecting their future. Currently many students must rely on the limited information they receive from employers, parents and friends.” – Derek Beeston, Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools

“Many individuals have limited exposure to career development concepts until they reach post-secondary or even after they graduate. Ideally, people would have a foundation of career development skills to make informed career decisions, such as choosing educational paths. This foundation can start in high school, or with more robust advising services for prospective students.” – Amy Smith, BCIT Student Association

“My ideal vision for career development in Canada is that of experiential learning. We are asking our young people and those transitioning between careers to pick an education before understanding what the actual career looks like. We need more opportunities for young people to get workplace-integrated learning opportunities, whether that is through my personal favourite, gap years, or co-ops or internships, we need to find more ways for people to get some hands-on experience to confirm that they are on a path that will resonate with them. With all the training and reskilling that is going on, having that clarity that is a personal fit with your personal interests, desires and skills is going to be key to helping our labour force enter into educational programs that are going to put them on a track that will be personally fulfilling and that they will enjoy and be able to be successful in.” – Michelle Ditmer, CanGap

“We will have ‘arrived’ at an education system reimagined through a career development lens when essential elements of traditional academic curriculum have been absorbed into collaborative learning projects and school is nothing but engaging, challenging, meaningful, supportive, collaborative learning projects.” – Phillip S. Jarvis, ReimaginED (NB)

“A school staff that shares a common vocabulary about talents and strengths and that are on the lookout to notice and communicate them to their students; Students who realize that their value and self-concept don’t rely only on their learning capacities and school performances; This is my career development practice reimagined!” – Catherine Carbonneau-Bergeron, École secondaire Massey-Vanier (QC)

“Ideal visions for career development in Canada include a renewed focus on equipping the next generation of young talent with future-proof skills they can leverage amid market transformations. As economies turn towards post-pandemic recovery, we must commit to investing in skills development training, meaningful work-integrated-learning opportunities, and improved policy responses to adequately facilitate sustained youth workforce development.” – Theresa Jones, Intern, World Education Services (ON) 

“Metamorphosis is the word I keep coming back to lately. Metamorphosis because the pandemic has changed how we look at things and allows us to continuously reimagine what’s possible, whether on an organizational scale or individually. Transforming, adapting, innovating, and pivoting our career journey will enhance our responsiveness to an ever-changing labour market.” – Shelly Drefs, Career Services, Medicine Hat College 

“My ideal vision of career development in Canada focuses on the equal alignment of ambitions, goals and skills of the workforce with current labour market demands. Due to the pandemic, there has been a massive shift in the skills in demand and we will need to focus on training for and obtaining these skills to achieve balance in the workforce.” – Edwyna Laughton, Sheridan College

“Career development needs to be nimble and adaptive, recognizing how the concept of a career is evolving in the face of technology, societal expectations, and the growing impact of climate change on migration and living standards. Career developers need to be able to advise based on what they see coming, not on past experiences that don’t reflect changing realities.” – Paul Brinkhurst, Futureworx

“I think that career development, educational institutions and the workforce would have to work together or have a method of communication to enhance the process of career development. I think the process would need an organizational structure to efficiently get what the needs are out there and how to get the skills out there without so much red tape.” – Sandra Costanzo, English Montreal School Board

“Career development in Canada is a process that changes and adapts to the individual’s needs. It’s about helping a client along their path to their ideal future, it’s about support, and reminding the client that they are worth every small step they take. It’s celebrating the small victories and advocating for your client. It’s about watching someone find their way.” – Ashley Christopher, YMCA of Western Newfoundland

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