The private sector in careers work in Toronto

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 I’ve spent the last few days in Toronto and have been talking in the main to people associated with the private sector in careers work. I’ve been lucky to meet with Mark Venning of Change Rangers, Rhonda Singer of Chemistry Culture, Mark Franklin of Career Cycles and Lucy Vasic of Knightsbridge. Each of these people had a very different take on careers work and I’m hoping to blog about all of them over the next few days, but I thought that it might be useful to stand back and think about what I’d learnt. These meetings have been really interesting because they have focused on a section of the careers workforce that is often less evident in discussions about career development systems.

What is clear is that, at least in Toronto, there is a vibrant private sector in careers work. Broadly this private sector is engaged in three main activities:

  1. Providing individual counselling services which are paid for by the individual.
  2. Providing services to organisations (e.g. around recruitment, executive development and transition/outplacement).
  3. Providing services back to the careers sector (e.g. training, development of resources, provision of specialist expertise).

This echoes what we found in the UK whilst we were researching the Enhancing Choice report. In that we argued that although there was an individual pays market in the UK, it was relatively small and we noted that many of the freelancers we talked to were also involved in embedded or organisational careers work. I think that the pattern looks similar in Canada but my gut feeling would be that the individual pays section of the market is a little larger than in the UK. How one would go about quantifying this I’m not sure.

What does seem to be the case is that the private sector element of the market is better networked than in the UK. The Association of Careers Professionals International exists in both the UK and Canada, but my sense is that here is organise and mobilise a greater number and probably a greater percentage of practitioners. Having said that it is also notable that the bigger organisationally focused organisations such as Knightsbridge tend not to get involved with ACPI and rather look towards HR focused networks such as the Human Resources Professionals Association.

Many of those who work in the individual pays end of the market seem to have learnt their trade in the public sector before moving out to set up their own practices. Conversely the organisationally focused practitioners have much weaker ties to public sector careers practitioners and seem less likely to see themselves as part of a common profession. Most would probably consider themselves as doing a specialised HR role rather than a careers role. However, what I heard about practice suggests that all of the people that I spoke to and those they were discussing were undertaking careers work that drew on common approaches with public sector careers workers. Often the private sectors practice was more developed as they often has greater resources to deliver programmes.
One of my original interests in the Blueprint for Life/Work Design was whether a policy document of this kind could function as a rallying point for careers professionals working in a range of different parts of the sector. People who I spoke to were generally positive about this as a possibility, but concluded that it wasn’t really happening in practice. The Blueprint isn’t really a document that many in this part of the sector actively work with at the present time.
I was left with a positive impression of a section of the sector that was filled with highly competent people delivering excellent services. There does however seem to be a continued role for professional associations and other linking bodies to play in bringing public and private sector careers work into greater levels of dialogue and understanding.

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