Career Development Education In An Emerging Knowledge

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This paper proposes a career development education program that is suitable for implementation at tertiary level institutions in the United Arab Emirates. A number of reports highlighted the need for such a program. Issues that needed to be considered in the development of the program emerged from interviews with stakeholders at UAE institutions and from a study of published research. It was determined that a very comprehensive program was required as students had no prior exposure to career planning and had little knowledge of career options. The proposed program is designed to run over a three year period and is a compulsory program taken concurrently with students' main field of study.

Keywords: career planning, career development program

1. Introduction

The United Arab Emirates is one of the wealthiest nations per capita in the world due to its vast oil reserves. In 2010, the population of the country was estimated at around 8.19 million of which less than 20% were nationals (known as Emiratis) and more than 80% were foreigners [1]. The UAE is considered to be an emerging knowledge-based society and this has been discussed in a number of reports including the United Nations sponsored Arab Knowledge Report 2009 - Towards Productive Intercommunication for Knowledge [2], and Arab Human Development Report 2003 - Building a Knowledge Society [3]. Some of these reports have suggested that deficiencies in the education system is an inhibitor to the successful development of knowledge societies in the Arab world. They have found that students were not adequately prepared for the work environment. Other inhibitors are the high level of unemployment among Emiratis (estimated at 14% in 2009)[4] and the low level of participation by Emiratis in the private sector. Emiratis work almost exclusively in government positions with just 7% in the private sector [4] A report on youth unemployment in the UAE released in February, 2010 by the International Council on Security and Development [5] made the recommendation that career development programs need to be initiated at both secondary and tertiary education levels in the UAE.

Some years ago, the Government initiated a program known as 'Emiratisation' to address the unemployment rate among Emiratis and increase the number of nationals in private sector. An organization known as Tanmia, the National Human Resource Development & Employment Authority was set up to carry out the Government policy. However, to date it has not been successful either in increasing employment among Emiratis or in increasing the percentage of Emiratis in private industry [4]. In actual fact the rate of unemployment in 2009 was the highest in the history of the state.

Currently career education is not incorporated in the curriculum at most educational institutions although it normally is addressed in an informal manner such as by providing career advisory services. The framework described here is the result of a project that researched how career education could be incorporated in the curriculum at tertiary institutions in the United Arab Emirates.

2.0 Considerations

2.1 Interviews with Stakeholders

Interviews were conducted with stakeholders at tertiary institutions to obtain information on the key issues and considerations. Some important points are summarised here and include explanations provided by the interviewees:

There is a high attrition rate among male students. This is generally because they do not like studying and they can get a job in Government whenever they like.

Typically career education programs do not exist and no aspect of career education is taught in the academic programs.

There are career resource centres which normally consist of just one career counsellor. Students come for assistance on an "as-needed" basis.

Students do not understand the need for career planning. Students rarely attend optional workshops in career development.

Students are not "worldly-wise" compared with their counterparts in other countries. They do not know much about the types of careers that people follow.

The students have little interest in careers. They just want a job in the public sector and a degree ensures that they start with a very high salary. They do not understand the concept of choosing a career that gives them job satisfaction. They appear in general to be primarily interested in earning a high salary.

Students are generally unwilling to start at the bottom of the ladder in a career and work their way up. They generally want a management level position. They believe that a university degree will allow them to start at that level.

Emiratis will not perform service industry jobs - it is socially unacceptable.

Some Emiratis feel that they would not be comfortable working with foreigners because they feel that they would not be able to perform at the same standard as a foreigner and that the foreigner would look down on them.

2.2 Published report findings

There have been a number of studies conducted on the education system and unemployment in the UAE. A significant report presenting the findings of a study on the issue of youth employment was released in February 2010 by the International Council on Security and Development [5]. The findings support the points made above by stakeholders. Some points made in the report are:

Emirati males have an attitude of indifference towards education and career planning and have the ingrained habit of drifting into a public sector job.

Emirati females, in contrast to males, work hard for their educational advancement. This is because females seek to overcome the social constraints of their gender role in society.

The level of English language instruction in secondary schools is inadequate to prepare students for the workplace or for further education. It acknowledged that the Government has taken steps to improve English language teaching.

The lack of preparation of students for the labour market by the secondary and tertiary education systems decreases the employability of many young Emiratis thus resulting in high unemployment.

There is little incentive for Emiratis to work in the private sector. It mentioned that Emiratis want to work in the public sector because of: high salaries, shorter working hours, less pressure, working with other Emiratis and job security.

Unemployment among young Emiratis may be much higher than the average for Emiratis, though no data is available

Unemployed youth have feelings of low self esteem, insecurity, sadness or depression

A key recommendation of this report was that career development programs need to be initiated at both secondary and tertiary education levels.

3.0 Aims of the proposed program

From the interviews with stakeholders and the review of literature key issues emerged that needed to be considered in the development of a career education plan.

As the university students have no prior education in, nor knowledge of career planning it is important that a very comprehensive program be developed. Students need to be made aware of the range of different career paths that they could follow and they need to be motivated to investigate for themselves the various career options that are possible. Students need to learn how to explore their inner selves and how to develop an understanding of their personality types and how that links to career choices. They need to understand the concepts of job satisfaction and fulfilment and that work is more than just a way to obtain money.

One important aim of the program will be to change the mentality of Emiratis of only wanting to work in the public sector. Students will learn the importance of the role that they will be playing in the development of their country and the need for many of them to pursue careers in the private sector.

Other aims of the program are aligned with suggestions of published research. It is important to consider that the nature of work has changed over time. In today's society, jobs are no longer permanent and university degrees no longer provide people with jobs for life. Students in the tertiary institutions should understand that their degrees are not just their tickets to getting a job for life with high pay. People should generally expect to have more than one job, if not more than one career, during their working lives. It is important that students understand about flexibility in careers and retraining and that they be aware that as demand for products fall, so does demand for careers. (Quan, 2003)[6]

According to Nardo (n.d.)[7] implementing a flexible career plan involves a variety of personal characteristics such as flexible thinking. At the same time, discipline should still be imposed in going through career decision making and planning. [7] enumerated a number of skills that individuals should have in order to implement flexibility in career. One of the skills is resiliency. This is an important skill because people should be able to handle all the ups and downs of the road towards a successful career. Another skill is consistency - individuals must be consistent with their career plans. One must also have patience since achieving flexibility requires a lot of planning. Individuals should also be organized, systematic and structured in their approach. Self awareness is also of great importance and a key skill is the ability of a person to analyze himself or herself.

Program Outline

Core Constructs

A comprehensive career development program should be built upon core theoretical constructs. In accordance with the well-accepted DOTS model by Law and Watts [8, 9] the following four constructs form the core of the program:

Self Awareness: the program must include activities to get the students involved in identifying their own personal traits such as physical, intellectual, emotional characteristics, skills, interests, and values.

Opportunity Awareness: students need to have activities to motivate them to investigate and explore different working environments.

Decision Making: students need to learn how to make decisions and the various strategies that could be employed.

Transition Learning: The program must include activities where students learn how to cope with new situations that are both desired and undesired. These situations include work transitions and identifying support networks.

The career education program proposed in this document follows the guidelines presented in the Australian Blueprint which is published by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations in Australia [10]. The Blueprint was studied together with various other references (e.g. Rivera & Schaefa [11], Career Development of Ohio [12]; University of Calgary, Career Services, [13]; Department of Education and Training, Queensland Government, [14]) that give guidelines for program development. The Australian Blueprint was chosen as the primary guide as it provides a comprehensive approach that is required for the proposed program. Additionally, the Blueprint is a well structured and comprehensive document and thus would provide a good reference for those subsequently working with the program.

The terminology in the program proposed here is the same as that in the Blueprint in order to provide easy cross referencing with the Blueprint. The Blueprint provides for eleven competences in three areas which are Personal Management, Learning and Work Exploration, and Career Building. The Blueprint suggested that competencies should be selected to be implemented depending on the particular needs of the setting. As the university students are lacking in all of the competencies the proposed program will implement all eleven. The eleven competencies are:

Build and maintain a positive self-concept

Interact positively and effectively with others

Change and grow throughout life

Participate in lifelong learning supportive of career goals

Locate and effectively use career information

Understand the relationship between work, society and the economy

Secure/create and maintain work

Make career-enhancing decisions

Understand the changing nature of life and work roles

Understand, engage in and manage the career-building process

The proposed program presents each of the eleven competencies as objectives with an explanation of each. The writer designed a series of activities and a list of expected outcomes for each objective. The detailed statement of the expected outcomes related to each objective will be used in assessing the degree of achievement of the objective.

For example, Objective 1 in Personal Management is "Build and maintain a positive self-concept" This is covered in Semester 1 year 1. The expected outcomes (which are each assessed) are that students should be able to:

Develop and share a personal life career diagram/model/timeline.

Define life career, abilities and interests.

Describe the various roles individuals may have as part of their life career.

Describe individual skills required to fulfil different life career roles.

Describe work-related activities in the home, community and schools.

Describe how family members depend on one another, work together, and share responsibilities.

Identify life events that have been meaningful.

Identify and understand the feelings that accompany important events.

Identify personal qualities and events that have influenced their self-concept.

Demonstrate ways to improve self-concept

While students are pursuing the educational program outlined in the plan they would meet with the counsellor once every semester to discuss and update their career development file. This is a file that is created in semester 1, year 1 for each student and is updated each semester. A reference framework has been developed to assist the counsellor. This framework has been adapted from the work of Trusty, Niles & Carney [15]. The reference framework is a comprehensive list of points that will assist the counsellor in developing the students' files over the three year period of the program. It lists points under three headings: Student Data, Parent Data and Counsellor Data. The Student Data is concerned primarily with the student's self awareness; the Parent Data is concerned with information gathered from parents and Counsellor Data is concerned with the counsellor perceptions of the student.

A successful career development program should be based on principles and concepts that will be effective once implemented in the university. The program proposed here is designed in accordance with the principles of best practice for career education as given by the Department of Education and Training of the Queensland Government [14]. According to these principles best practice career programs:

are client focused

are mainstream

are endorsed by management

involve all stakeholders

use up-to-date information

use a variety of curriculum resources

use appropriately trained personnel

are coordinated, monitored and evaluated

The program is client focused, meaning that it is based on the needs of the students. The program will continuously monitor the outcomes against these needs. It will make use of feedbacks for improvement as well as contain tangible outcomes for students. Also, the program will actively involve the students in the sense that it will gain students' perspectives on jobs, courses and careers and it will make use of students in the gathering and reporting of this information. The program should be mainstream in that the whole university community should see it as an essential component of students' education. It must be endorsed by management and they must be committed to ensuring its success. They will reschedule the academic program to provide for this new program. The program will involve not only students but all other stakeholders as well such as parents, employers, and government career planning agencies. A career resource centre with a comprehensive range of resources should be established and information should be relevant, accessible, and user-friendly. Appropriately qualified staff should facilitate and monitor the program.

Timetable or schedule

The program is intended to run over a period of three years. The implementation of the program will be such that objectives 1 to 3 will be covered in Year 1, objectives 4 to 6 in year 2 and objectives 7 to 11 in Year 3. Essentially the first year of study will cover of the area of Personal Management. The second year will cover the area of Learning and Work Exploration and the final year will cover the area of Career Building. There is more work in the program in Year 3 than in the previous two years. This fits in with some current tertiary academic programs. In some institutions students participate in an eight week internship program in Year 3. There is a period of an additional 6 weeks that is set aside for related internship activities. That time is not well utilized so the proposed career development program can use some of that time.

Program evaluation

It is critically important in any education program to have mechanisms in place to measure the degree of success of the program and to provide for its improvement. The success of this program will be determined by how well the students develop their knowledge and skills and meet the objectives.

According to Saskatchewan Education, Government of Saskatchewan, (1990)[16] evaluation of an educational program involves student assessment and evaluation, teacher reflection, curriculum evaluation, and program evaluation. All of these aspects of evaluation should be performed in the proposed program. Students should be assessed and evaluated as they progress through the program similar to the manner in which they would be assessed in their other academic courses. Teacher's reflection will include analyzing the teaching methods and identifying how they could be improved. Curriculum evaluation will involve reviewing and making judgments about the effectiveness of the curriculum and identifying areas where it could be improved. Program evaluation will be a high level analysis and incorporate all other aspects of evaluation and will aim to determine how well the program is meeting the needs of the students.