October 5, 2022

Moving careers towards the future: reimagining a more equitable and accessible career development service model for all

Given this increasingly dynamic and complex labour market, how can we help people change careers before their jobs become obsolete and it’s too late?

Michelle Zhong
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The last several years have placed a glaring spotlight on the widening gaps between our employment service sector and where people need more support. The #COVID19 pandemic has fundamentally altered the Canadian workforce, which has disproportionately impacted labour market outcomes of equity-seeking workers and jobseekers.  

The accelerated adoption of automation and digitization, along with the rise of the gig economy and green economy, mean workers and jobseekers need to acquire new skills, knowledge, and ways of working. These seismic shifts in the #economy are compelling many Canadians to re-think the future of their careers.

According to Morneau Shepell’s Mental Health Index report, one-quarter of survey respondents in Canada indicated that the COVID-19 pandemic has led them to reconsider changing their job or career, and this deliberation is twice as likely among individuals under age 40 than those over the age of 50.  

Given this increasingly dynamic and complex labour market, how can we help people change careers before their jobs become obsolete and it’s too late? How do jobseekers make informed decisions about which occupation has promising prospects? How can someone with 15 years of experience in a declining industry (such as oil and gas) transition into a future-oriented one (such as #greenenergy)? How would a single parent with extensive childcare and work obligations find an #upskilling program that caters to their schedule?

Canada’s current employment and career services are largely oriented towards helping people who are unemployed. Leaving many people to access support only when they are in crisis and their job has become obsolete.

Career Development: A Piece of the Workforce Development Puzzle

A growing number of policy experts, career practitioners and researchers see innovating career development services as a key strategy to help people transition their careers, especially for those in changing industries affected by COVID-19, #climatechange or #automation. Better supports can equip individuals for the future of work, inspire lifelong learning, and flag skills mismatches in the labour market by helping labour market participants make informed decisions about occupational, educational, and training opportunities at any stage in their life and career.  

Research has shown that career development services can reduce barriers to labour market information, increase career confidence and boost labour market outcomes. Despite these benefits, only 17% of Canadian adults over age 25 used career services in the last 5 years, compared to an average of 44% across six OECD countries. Could this be because of lack of awareness, perceived stigma around using services, or  other accessibility barriers? These barriers are disproportionately felt by equity-seeking workers, even though they are most likely to benefit from these services.

In Blueprint’s latest research brief, Guiding Careers for the Future, we outline key challenges in Canada’s career development ecosystem and present innovation opportunities to build a more inclusive, accessible, and effective system. This research brief consolidates key findings from the nine research papers developed in partnership with the Future Skills Centre.

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Innovating Career Development Services: What Will it Take?

In consolidating nine research papers on various aspects of career development services, the research brief identified three key opportunity areas for innovation in Canada’s career development system:  

  1. “Career development for all” is critical to preparing for the future of work. Furthermore, the public employment service system primarily takes a “fail-first” approach to service delivery, meaning that person-centred and case-managed career development services tend to be limited to the unemployed and folks who are more distant from the labour market. While this work is important and necessary; we also need programs that support working Canadians before they are in crisis.  
  2. We need better approaches to working with employers. Imagine a workplace where your employer actively helps you advance your career and accomplish your professional goals, or proactively supports you in transitioning within or outside the organization. There is a significant opportunity to develop public-private partnerships with employers to facilitate skills development and talent pipelines.  
  3. Well-trained and well-resourced career development practitioners are key to an inclusive system. There is a lack of professional development support for career development practitioners (CDP) who provide frontline service to workers, jobseekers, and employers. Unlike other professions, CDPs are not regulated at the federal level or in any provinces except Québec. While voluntary certification is available in eight provinces, uptake is low. More support and capacity building for CDPs will be needed so they better help clients navigate an increasingly complex world of work.

Where Do We Go from Here?

At Blueprint, we see transformative potential in innovating career development services to be more responsive, proactive and personalized. To meet this goal, we are currently leading various design and prototyping initiatives to develop a systematic approach so Canadians can better navigate their careers in an increasingly dynamic labour market.  

To improve and expand access to these services, Blueprint is working with employment service and employer partners to co-design new approaches and models that reach workers facing workforce disruption and facilitate career development in the workplace. Furthermore, we are also building relationships with career development associations to co-create training and upskilling opportunities for CDP’s s so that they have more capacity to provide high-quality services.  

While piloting and prototyping new service models is critical for testing and learning, we know that pilots will not be enough to experience lasting change. Too often, pilots — even successful ones — never move beyond their initial testing stage and we rarely use lessons from pilots to meaningfully expand or improve a service.  We will also need to pay attention to scaling solutions that work to make meaningful and sustainable change with lasting investments and capacities at the systems level.

Interested in learning more? Reach out to Natalie Conte at nconte@blueprint-ade.ca to learn more about our approach.  

This post was originally published on LinkedIn. Read here.