Career development has been in practice in some parts of the world for over a hundred years. As early as the 1900s the United States and some European countries have been using assessment and evaluation instruments as a means of assisting persons with career development. (World Bank discussion paper, August 18, 2003). For many countries in the developed world policy makers have developed policies on career development and has a result, have been able to deliver career programmes in a structured and formal way.
The origin of career/vocational counselling as a speciality within the counselling profession, dates back to the vocational guidance movement of the early 1900s. Then the task of the counsellors was to match clients with appropriate occupations. This speciality has now evolved to the point where it is concerned with a lifelong process of career development, the learning of life skills, preparation for work and planning for leisure time. It also involves shifting the focus from being almost exclusively aimed at children in school settings to work with people of all ages in almost any setting. One such group is the adults in transition.
If our goal is to prepare a world-class workforce, one that can perform optimally, then we must begin to take a serious look at the way we prepare our students to enter the work place. Our schools need to become human resource development institutes with the vision of preparing all students for further learning and for employment. Career guidance and counselling must be given a place of prominence, with each student afforded the opportunity to develop a plan for life and the opportunity to understand his/her role in society.
This would result in our schools not only being seen as a knowledge, content-based education system but one where students are prepared to be independent, self-supporting and productive members of society. More focus would then be placed on the following:
- Emphasizing the importance of work and the link between education and work;
- Teaching employability skills;
- Forging more linkages between the school, community and industry;
- Examining labour market trends both locally and internationally;
- Emphasizing the role of the individual in his/her own development through the planning of one’s life generally and one’s career in particular; and
- Teaching career exploration and work preparation skills.
This has already started through the introduction of initiatives such as Resource & Technology and Computer Education in schools, but can be enhanced through a programme of career guidance, education and counselling.