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Theodore Williams | Put trained career counsellors in schools

Published:Friday | August 26, 2016 | 8:00 AMTheodore Williams

Recently, Education Minister Ruel Reid said the restructuring of the ministry was near completion. However, I find it repugnant that we still do not have career counsellors in our schools, especially at the secondary level.

The harsh reality is that a significant number of high-schoolers are not prepared for life after graduation. To begin with, we have students sacrificing years in college only to realise they have absolutely no interest in their chosen careers and, in some cases, there are limited jobs in that industry. I have seen it first-hand at career fairs where students tell you they only chose their career because their parents wanted them to.

A trained career counsellor would provide evidence-based career guidance, information, vocational assessment and ensure students are ready for the world of work. In a study conducted by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica in 2013, it was estimated that 310,800, or 41 per cent, of Jamaican youths are still in transition. It was interesting to note that youths who were still in transition were largely unemployed (78.6 per cent) or unattached. The study further revealed that, on average, it took youths 33 months to successfully transition from school to stable or satisfactory employment.

 

DIFFICULT PEOPLE

 

A career counsellor would ensure students have current and accurate information to guide their career-development process. Students need to understand that school is preparation for the world of work, with assignments and deadlines mixed with difficult people. The career counsellor would reduce the if mi did know drama.

Sadly, not only are some of our youths unemployed, many are simply unemployable: ignorant to key job skills, self-branding tools, labour market information, rÈsumÈ design, job interview skills, etc. Consider the countless number of potential employees who are still at home not because jobs aren't available, but because they are not prepared for the world of work. Period.

Every student has a shot at shared prosperity. Decent work is a key part of the prosperity agenda, but how can our youths leverage employment if they are not prepared? It is a disservice for us to continue to train people in careers that have no future in the 21st century.

Some may say we have guidance counsellors, but let me make it clear, they are two distinctly different disciplines.

 

INADEQUATE

 

One of the unique benefits of having career counsellors in school is that students would have access to psychometric assessment. These standardised tools used by career counsellors would significantly influence the career-development process of high-schoolers.

In 2013, then Minister of Youth Lisa Hanna spoke about the revised National Youth Policy focusing on world-of-work readiness. On the surface, it would appear that not much has been done since in the school system. School administrators need to do away with the pale event called career day. Frankly, it is inadequate, wanting and ineffective.

We need a structured career-development programme entrenched in the secondary-school curriculum that is administered by trained career counsellors.

I commend the guidance counsellors who have tried to assist with career guidance. However, we need to get serious about the notion of holistic education. It is time we strategically position our human resources to maximise the benefit to our students. I believe we still can get it right.

- Theodore Williams is a training development specialist and youth development practitioner. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and theodorea.williams@gmail.com.