University of Ottawa

While I was in Ottawa I met with Kyli Robertson and Claire Cayen who are both career counsellors at the University of Ottawa. I’ve spent a lot of time in university careers services so it was really interesting to find out a bit more about how Canadian services compare to those in the UK.
The University of Ottawa is a major Canadian University which has been around since 1848. The institution has created an interesting online history for those that are interested. But, I was there to find out about how the institution deals with careers. I discovered that in addition to the main Career Services there are also services within certain academic areas e.g. management, law, medicine and education.

University of Ottawa Career Services is a small but welcoming service which is part of a multi-service Student Academic Success Service (SASS). The overall blend of services that is offered by SASS seemed very similar to that offered by a similar service in a UK University. However, as ever, different services are located in slightly different places.

Career Services itself is comprised of a team of eight staff counsellors, but the service used a lot of part-time student workers to fulfil many of the para-professional roles that might be filled by information staff in a UK University e.g. reception/triage, job posting and CV/resume checking. The staff that I met with were impressive and professional, combining good knowledge of the local and national labour markets with strong counselling skills. I got the impression that both the career counsellors and the service itself were more focused on one-to-one counselling than might be the case in a UK university where curriculum based work seems to have increasingly high priority.

The services offered by the Career Services included:

  • One-to-one career counselling (typically a series of 2-6 one hour sessions)
  • Workshops (CVs/resumes, Mock interviews, information about employers or sectors)
  • Psychometric testing and interest inventories (MBTI, Career Cruising and Access Bridges)
  • Employer talks
  • Careers fairs
  • Work with academic staff to subject specific groups of students
  • Occasional work with community groups and schools both to offer out expertise and to help join up services

Staff talked about accessing LMI from a range of sources including Brainstorm (which I can’t find – can anyone help?), Working in Canada and the University of Ottawa’s own institutional research.

We had an interesting discussion about the Career Services use of technology. While the service uses email and the web for marketing to students and for dealing with quick follow up queries they have some reservations about the viability of online counselling. The employer liaison service is using Facebook and LinkedIn and the service provides information via its website. We discussed some of their ethical concerns with online counselling and concerns about what is lost in the face to face experience from a move online.

We also talked about what national frameworks and organisations that they looked to. They were not aware of the Blueprint for Life/Work Design but did use the Essential Skills framework that I blogged about earlier. However, like other counsellors I have talked to they also noted that the occupational Essential Skills information was still far from complete. The Essential Skills agenda continues to interest me and I remain keen to find out more about it. In terms of national organisations they talked about working with the National Association of Colleges and Employers in the US and the CACEE (the Canadian equivalent). They also talked about attending Cannexus and Nat Con.

It was a very interesting visit and I’m really keen to visit another university careers service while I’m here. As with much of this trip I’m finding similarities and differences in pretty much equal measure and I’m still trying to spot the patterns in what I’m seeing.


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