Summary of Lynne Bezanson S Key Note Presentation

Summary of Lynne Bezanson S Key Note Presentation

Summary of Lynne Bezanson’s Plenary Presentation at the 2004 National LMI Forum

Working Connections: Reporting on Canada’s First Pan-Canadian Symposium
The Symposium was an inaugural event – the first forum on career development, lifelong learning and workforce development with three target audiences - policy developers, career development leaders and workplace representatives. The objectives of the presentation were to:

  • Explain the Symposium as part of an international movement in which Canada has played key leadership roles;
  • Examine Canada’s current response to the OECD Study of Career Guidance Policies (a key component in the movement) relative to other international responses; and
  • To suggest important ongoing leadership roles for national policy bodies including the FLMM.

The Symposium had its origins in 1997 when representatives from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the UK recognized challenges in common such as:

  • Lifelong learning is at the centre of public policy in many countries
  • Lifelong learning is essential to economic growth and progress.
  • Active labour market policies are being tested in many countries to encourage fuller workforce participation
  • Many countries are facing skill shortages in critical areas

Also in common was increasing recognition that career development services have strategic contributions to make in producing:

  • Effective learners (learners who know what and why they want to learn)
  • Effective employees (motivated workers whose skills and interests match the work they do)
  • Reductions in social exclusion (returning marginalized workers and learners back to the mainstream of learning and work)
  • A foundation for an effective skill development and learning system (supporting individuals to make well considered training and educational decisions).

However, while labour markets are increasingly complex and dynamic and require a strong skills development and learning system, the strategic contributions of career development services to such a system remain under-utilized and/or untested.

This quite small beginning culminated in two International Symposia on Career Development and Public Policy, hosted by Canada (HRDC), in 1999 and 2001, also inaugural events and led directly to the decision by OECD member countries to undertake a comprehensive Review of Guidance Policies. This occurred from 2000-2003. Canada participated in the review at the federal level as did the provinces of British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Quebec and P.E.I.

The aim of the study was to look at career guidance policies and services and workforce issues and challenges as a strategic response to lifelong learning. A Country Note containing observations and recommendations was prepared for each participating country.

Canada Country Note: What the OECD Observed:

  • Praise:
  • Extent and quality of career and labour market information is strong
  • Development of creative resources (such as the Real Game)
  • Development of strategic instruments (Standards and Guidelines; Blueprint)
  • Creative support for partnerships and third sector initiatives (CCC; Canada WorkInfoNet; Career Circuit; Edge)
  • Canadian Challenges:
  • No national body providing overall coordination and leadership
  • No policy to ensure access to career development services as portals for learning and work across the lifespan
  • Focus on producing information rather that effective use of information
  • A crisis model of service delivery for adults
  • No coherent and consistent career development framework in education
  • Standards for services do not exist

The intent and hope of the OECD study was to reflect back to participating countries constructive observations, which would result in serious consideration, study and a basis for action.

A total of 36 countries participated in the OECD Study including all EU (European Union) countries and several emerging economies under the leadership of the EU and the World Bank. This OECD quote demonstrates the importance accorded to the Study:

“Never before have such powerful organisations, simultaneously, had the current intense interest in guidance policy and its links with practice. This is not by accident: Guidance is a pivotal part of lifelong and lifewide learning.” (OECD Newsletter).

A strong recommendation from the International Symposia delegates, and from the Study itself, was that countries undertake national symposia on career development and public policy themes and issues in order to both study and advance the observations of the OECD Study as well as other issues not identified in the Country Report itself. The pan-Canadian Symposium titled “Working Connections” and held in November, 2003 was a direct result of these recommendations.

Key features in the vision for the Symposium included:

  • Its success would be determined by pre-work and follow-up action more than the event itself;
  • It would be a working session, not a conference;
  • Attendance would be by self-organized teams, as representative as possible of policy developers, employer and labour representatives and career development leaders;
  • It would be connected to the international guidance movement;
  • Each team – provincial/territorial/national organizations would prepare a pre-Symposium paper outlining key strengths and challenges in their career development, lifelong learning and workforce development policies and systems;
  • It would not be a “one-time” event but the beginning of a sustained strategy.

The pre-Symposium papers have provided the single largest database ever available in Canada on career development services. Fifteen issues emerged consistently from careful reading of all papers in advance of the Symposium. These became the core of the Symposium deliberations.

The issues most central to labour market information included the following:

  • While LMI is strong, there remain important voids including not enough forward thinking LMI including information on labour shortages and emerging opportunities;
  • Information giving needs to go further than giving and include teaching users to evaluate, interpret, personalize and make informed decisions using information;
  • LMI needs to include attention to attitude change – specifically in educator and parental attitudes toward what careers are OK and not OK.

Each issue in itself could have taken a full two days. In order to focus the agenda, each stakeholder group (policy; workplace; career development) identified their highest priority issues from among the 15.

The spread and distribution of stakeholder votes was very interesting. Obviously this is not a scientific study but at the same time there were opportunities for insight into differing as well as shared priorities. These insights are helpful to establish ongoing collaboration as well as attending to differing perspectives and understandings.

Issues Emerging from the Symposium:

Establishing Priorities

The chart below shows the issues that were rated highest by the participants in the Symposium. The three categories of participants’ ratings are shown separately and then aggregated in the total column and weighted so all categories carry equal weight. Note similarity in ratings for issues 1 and 7 and the differences for issues 9, 11 and 13.



/ Career / Workplace / Total
#1 – A Coherent Strategy for Service Delivery – a comprehensive unifying vision is needed which does not exclude segments of the population / 33 / 30 / 22 / 85
#7 – Lifelong Learning and Career Development Culture – supporting learners in making “good” learning choices is a key ingredient in developing lifelong learners; much more integration is needed / 16 / 24 / 20 / 60
#9 – Skills for Employers and the Workplace – employers need support in dealing with issues such as recruitment, retention, productivity; career development has not to date been a strong enough contributor / 4 / 3 / 24 / 31
#11 – Mechanisms for Stakeholder Partnership – mechanisms to share research, knowledge, innovation and to problem solve are not available on a regular basis / 7 / 19 / 28 / 54
#13 – Career Development in Social, Economic and Community Contexts-many communities in Canada do not have strong formal labour markets; work and economic and community development need much more cohesion / 28 / 24 / 12 / 64

These issues became the focus for working groups on the first day of the Symposium.

The second day turned to a focus on the importance of applied research as a strategic tool to support the work of each stakeholder group. Two rich and vibrant academic solitudes (Francophone and Anglophone) became apparent as well as the relative isolation of both policy developers and workplace representatives from research which could support policy and work practice.

Action has already been undertake to begin to respond to this issue with the formation of a research working group from Francophone and Anglophone universities, again with HRDC leadership.

Provincial/Territorial and National Organization Teams worked together on Day 2 to determine their own next steps.

They were also asked what support at the Pan-Canadian level would be helpful to them as they begin to move their action plans forward. Their recommendations follow:

  • Increased Secretariat function –keep the connection going by communicating actions and results; share implementation models
  • National Clearinghouse– a single source for good practices, applied research, evidence-based practice; managed and sorted by stakeholder group ,
  • Continue the development of key Strategic Instruments which, support a coherent service delivery strategy, specifically the :
  • Standards and Guidelines for Career Development Practitioners
  • Blueprint for LifeWork Designs and the
  • Career and LMI Service and Product Guidelines
  • Develop Organization Quality Standards – make use of existing models such as the UK
  • Develop and disseminate a common language “glossary” so stakeholders can communicate more clearly with each other.

The full Proceedings from the Symposium will be available in June 2004. They will be a valuable and rich resource with the potential to provide direction for ongoing collaboration.This Symposium was a major event – in its ambitions, execution, in the work of teams and indications are in its impact. It of course was not perfect but it was an excellent beginning building on the international movement and bringing it home.

Meanwhile on the international level, there continues to be a strong movement to continue the periodic international Symposia movement along with sharing of effective research and practice as well and many examples of national responses to the OECD Study and its observations.

Canada continues to be recognized for its leadership in making this entire movement happen. Canada is looked to as one of the countries who will be active in sustaining it.Lynne raised concerns about whether indeed Canada would continue to rise to this challenge. She pointed out that the OECD Study had consistently observed and stressed the important role of national policy bodies in providing ongoing leadership for career development, bodies such as the FLMM, the CMEC and HRSDC in those areas where they develop policy or provide support so that policy bodies are able to come together.

Examples of concerns she cited included:

  • HRSDC appears to be moving out of active support for career development initiatives and career information products – the focus is on workforce development. From the career development perspective, career development is a key to effective workforce development; a bit like love and marriage we need to critically examine this apparent ongoing disconnect;
  • Career Development does not appear to be a priority on either the FLMM or CMEC agendas; and
  • The OECD Study appears to be receiving minimal attention at policy levels compared with follow-up action in many OECD countries.

Lynne called on all Canadian jurisdictions to take responsibility for supporting quality career development services which supports lifelong learning and workforce development goals. The benefit to jurisdictions is that quality career development services promote social inclusion. A large component of career development work concentrates on re-connecting youth and adults to learning and training so they can participate fully in the labour force. The cost of social exclusion are estimated at 12-20% of GDP (annually) for the EU countries; 1% improvement in inclusion saves100 billion annually.

Education and training errors are in two main areas:

  • Type 1 errors: not choosing education and training commensurate with abilities;
  • Better choices which result in a mere 1% improvement in retention and completion of qualifications produce an annual savings of 600 million
  • Type 2 errors: choosing areas in which interest and motivation are lost (Mayston, Hughes and, York University, UK). Increasing evidence is pointing to the loss to employers from unproductive and/or stressed workers. Costs most often evidence themselves in absenteeism and health issues. Again, a mere1% reduction in health costs results in an annual savings of 800 million

A recent OECD Study on human capital is demonstrating that:

  • 40% of earning power over a lifetime is explained through conventional measures (education; gender; parents’ education) which one would expect; however
  • 60% is explained by motivation and personal characteristics (individual ability to manage, develop and use own talents). These are exactly the outcomes of quality career development services (OECD, “Rethinking Human Capital”, 2002)

It is possible that the career development community has not been clear and persuasive enough in presenting and making the case for career development services to policy developers. If this is the case, the field needs to know what evidence is needed and would be helpful; from the career development perspective, there is a conviction that the case has been made.

If the case has been made and it is a question of balancing competing priorities, Lynne asked that we question why the OECD Study is receiving policy attention in many other OECD countries. Examples she cited included:

  • Australia: $4.5 million to advance 4 specific OECD recommendations including career development on top 10 priority school reforms and national standards and reporting system under development
  • Ireland: committed expertise for 3 years to establishing the International Centre for Career Development and Public Policy (ICCDPP)
  • EU – EU Council Resolution on strengthening policies, systems and practices in Lifelong Career Guidance in Europe presented and ratified in May, 2004 pointing a direction for career guidance across Europe
  • New Zealand – Public Service announced it is undertaking to take the lead on modelling workforce career development practices

Lynne also emphasized that the career development field in which LMI is such an important component has much work to do- the OECD called for a transformation on issues such as

  • Develop the evidence base further(making the case more strongly)
  • Develop a stronger occupational structure and more consistent standards and qualifications-we continue to be fragmented
  • Transform delivery methods-more streamlined and innovative approaches reaching more people are needed
  • Respond much more directly to workplace issues and needs

The field however, most of which is in the NGO sector cannot provide the strategic co-ordination and leadership which are needed. Perhaps at some point in the future but certainly not yet and not now. The field does not have the capacity to:

  • Bring together the key stakeholders
  • Ensure that educational and employment information are integrated
  • Develop career development services as a coherent system - these are broad policy issues

The field does have the capacity, with policy support, to ensure that career development services play their role in effective strategies for lifelong learning linked to sustained employability but cannot do this alone. The infrastructure cannot come from the field alone. There are models to turn to and explore both what we have and what we are missing.

The UK has one such model for consideration. It has four levels as follows:

  • National IAG Board – brings relevant government departments together
  • Guidance Council – brings stakeholders together including employers
  • Federation of Professional Associations – brings professional groups together
  • IAG Partnerships – brings together local adult guidance providers

What we lack in Canada is the equivalent to the National Information, Advice and Guidance Board bringing together the key policy players in education, labour and social development. The Symposium is a good example of a body akin to the Guidance Council which can be sustained. This brought together key stakeholders with a common interest in the productivity of the existing and emerging workforce.

At the professional association level, we are splintered into multiple provincial associations. There is “talk” about forming a coalition so there is one voice. It is in its infancy still but must be part of the transformation. The closest we currently have is the Standards and Guidelines Stakeholder Group.

IAG type partnerships exist in Canada and can be nurtured. Career Circuit is one such model bringing together over 6000 youth serving agencies.

Some similar model with these distinctive component parts is needed in Canada. The role of strategic and sustaining leadership from policy and coordinating bodies is essential. Our closest parallels are currently the FLMM, the CMEC and HRSDC. As noted earlier career development does not appear to be a high policy priority at the moment in any of these bodies. This is a significant concern.

The OECD Report contained several observations specific to the critical need for leadership from policy and coordination bodies. All may not agree with all of their observations or the roles they propose but they merit attention and study at senior policy levels. For your consideration here are some highlights:

Snippets of OECD Recommendations:

  • LMI based more on skills and competencies; LMI to broaden access; more cross-pathing between information on learning and work opportunities (FLMM)
  • Employment Centres converted to career development centres to include comprehensive information on learning and work, with well trained information support staff (FLMM; LMDAs; HRSD)
  • Strategic leadership in relation to lifelong learning needs to embrace leadership in relation to career development (FLMM; CMEC; HRSDC; LMDAs)
  • Immediate review of current provision in colleges and universities (CMEC)
  • Capacity to monitor innovative practices such as the école orientante in Quebec
  • Programs to recognize employers/organizations that meet standards of good practice in human resource development

Lynne concluded by encouraging the consideration of critical questions: