Visit to the Canadian Career Development Foundation (CCDF)

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Sareena Hopkins, Donnalee Bell and Krista Benes from the CCDF

Last Tuesday I went to visit the Canadian Career Development Foundation (CCDF) in Ottawa. The CCDF is one of the main thought leaders in Canadian career development and effectively function as a research and development hub for the sector. They undertake a huge variety of different projects, which it is impossible to list in full. However, some that struck my eye were:

As a project based organisation with no core funding and a base in Ottawa, the CCDF is extremely sensitive to the current policy themes and directions. As we’ve found at iCeGS the money follows where the politicians lead and the skill for organisations like us and the CCDF is in being able to develop useful strands of work within the tumult of ever changing policy. The CCDF seem to have been particular effective in this, both in terms of continuing to guarantee long term funding and in terms of achieving sufficient influence to actually lead the agenda in many ways.

Given the CCDF’s position I found it interesting to reflect on some of the main policy themes that they described emerging.

The movement of funding to the provincial level. Like many of the other people I’ve spoken to on this trip so far the staff at the CCDF described how funding has moved to the provincial level. Education has always sat at this level, but responsibility for employment and the management of the labour market has increasingly moved to this level. They were more positive about the possibility of local action than others I have talked to and felt that it was still possible to achieve things around career development working with provincial governments.  However, like others I have spoken to they reflected on the recent closure of the Forum of Labour Market Ministers with some regret. This body had the potential to act as a national co-ordinating body around labour market policy and the decision to close it down seems shortsighted.

The decline of youth as an issue.  Staff at the CCDF described how in the past youth transitions to the labour market had been a major policy theme. Much of the CCDF’s work had focused on school based guidance counselling and with young people outside of school. However in recent years with a declining birth rate the youth issue was attracting less attention (and funding). One place that this issue had remained prominent was Newfoundland which is struggling to address mass outward migration of its young people.

The growth of policy interest in aboriginal career development. Interest in aboriginal careers essentially derives from a recognition that this group of Canadians are poorly integrated into the labour market and that they experience a variety of the negative outcomes typically associated with low labour market participation (poor health, drug and alcohol dependency, criminality, low levels of education etc.). Career development is therefore advances as a possible way to re-engage and to provide some level of social mobility.

The growth of policy interest in the career development of immigrant populations. Canada has been fairly open to new immigrants and has typically used immigration to meet demands for both labour and skills. Current predictions suggest that the country will continue to have skill shortages and to utilise immigrant populations to meet this shortfall. However the process of integrating new populations into the Canadian labour market is not straightforward and there is clearly a space for career development to help migrants to deal with the challenges of operating in a new labour market environment.

The development of a culture of evidence based careers practice and policy. One of the most encouraging themes reported by the CCDF was the increasing support for evidence based policy and practice. They described a situation where policy makers were increasingly interested in the evidence base, willing to support its development and crucially willing to listen to what the evidence suggested. In addition they described the development of professionals who were willing and able to support the development of the evidence base.

Professionalisation. As in the UK the career development profession in Canada is currently going through a process of professionalisation. A key element of this is detaching professional associations from therapeutic counselling associations and creating professional bodies devoted to career development. Another key element has been driving the development and implementation of professional standards and guidelines. I’m increasingly forming a picture of the profession in Canada and I’m noting that although there are many similarities with the UK it is much bigger (both relatively and absolutely), that there is generally a higher level of qualification (although as in the UK there is consideration variation) and that the roots of the profession are more squarely within the field of therapeutic counselling.

I found my visit to the CCDF absolutely fascinating and I have much more to write up from it. But hopefully the above observations will prompt a bit of discussion as to whether I’ve got it roughly right or not. 

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