Phil Jarvis and the National Life/Work Centre


During my time in Atlantic Canada I was very fortunate to be hosted by Phil Jarvis. He managed to set up an excellent programme of people to see while I was in that part of Canada and really helped me to get a grip on Canadian career development as well as seeing the current state of the Blueprint implementation. Phil was one of the authors of the Blueprint and I probably one of the most knowledgeable and passionate people about it in Canada. On Friday I sat down with him and talked a bit more about his work. What I found out is likely to fill up more than one blog post, so I’m just going to use this one for a bit of scene setting.

Phil is a major name in international career development. He has written extensively on career development (see my CiteULike bibliography of his work). However, as ever, from afar you don’t really get the measure of someone. From talking to Phil it became clear that in addition to his writing he has been a major player in the development of policy and practice in Canada (and much of North America).

Phil leads the National Life/Work Centre which is based in Memramcook about 20 minutes outside of Moncton. The organisation has been in existence for over 16 years and specialises in work to support career development both nationally and internationally. The National Life/Work Centre is a NGO that has received a wide variety of funding to continue its work. In addition to the Blueprint the Centre has also developed the following programmes:

One of the things that is impressive from talking to Phil is the range of different strategies that he and the National Life/Work Centre have tried to get career development onto the agenda. The Blueprint represents a high level policy approach, but much of the Centre’s other work comes at it from the school level or from the level of practice. This pincer movement is a good strategy as it means that it is possible to recognise and work with the possibility for policy makers to transform career development, but not to be limited by them when they lose interest.

This complex approach is appealing, but it also makes sense of the Blueprint. When we work largely in the policy space it can be tempting to see the identification of the correct policy as a technocratic process that will eventually unlock the solution. However in reality much of what is decided at the policy level never manages to penetrate down to the ground level. Practitioners and clients have strong expectations of what they are doing when they access career support, existing infrastructure and service design mitigate against change, and many policy developments and initiative find it difficult to get a purchase on practice. What the National Life/Work Centre tried to do is to find ways to connect policy initiatives with new models of practice. This is a very interesting approach and one that seems to have been effective in developing career development practice across the country.

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