Career Key

Author: Career Key's President and CEO, Juliet Wehr Jones, GCDF, J.D.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Career Clusters and The Career Key™

How are The Career Key™ and the U.S. Department of Education's Career Clusters/Pathways related to the career development of students in our schools? Dr. Jones, author of The Career Key, answers:

The Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) of the U.S. Department of Education adopted 16 "career clusters" in 1999 for use in organizing career and technical education programs or "pathways". A career cluster is a grouping of occupations and broad industries based on commonalities. For example, here is a cluster with its pathways:

Law, Public Safety, Corrections & Security
Corrections Services
Emergency and Fire Management Services
Security & Protective Services
Law Enforcement Services
Legal Services

OVAE considered developing the career clusters based on career interests, but did not. Instead, they developed them based on an industrial approach: organizing them around broad industry areas or economic sectors. This was an unfortunate decision for the career guidance of students.

Research shows, and common sense tell us, that we will do best in those activities in which we have an interest -- including training programs and college majors. According to research done with John Holland's theory of career choice, people are more satisfied and successful in careers that match their personality and career interests.

All of the 16 career clusters include occupations representing different personality types. For example, in the one shown above, occupations representing the Social, Enterprising, Realistic, Conventional and Enterprising types are found. With this being the case, students cannot easily choose a cluster based on their career interests. Nor, can career tests be used to direct students to a particular cluster.

There is also a real danger that students, out of ignorance, might choose (or be advised by a well meaning parent, school counselor, or teacher), or be tracked into a cluster or pathway that does not fit their career interests well.

A far better approach is to focus on careers that fit students' career interests and personality. And, if a school requires students to choose a cluster to explore, base their choice on which cluster contains the most promising occupations they have identified.

The Career Key™ career guidance system is especially well suited to fit this role. Students,

• Measure their resemblance to Holland's six personality types using a valid career test,
• Identify occupations that match their personality/interests,
• Learn detailed and accurate information about these careers; and
• Are shown how to learn more about themselves, job skills, the world of work, making
good decisions, and education and training opportunities.

With this in mind, after identifying students' career interests and highest scoring personality types, exploring a career cluster will be more accurate and effective.

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