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Standards on Career Guidance Sought For School, Job-Training Counselors

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St Louis--For the first time, guidance counselors are working to develop national guidelines for how they advise students and others about the career choices they face.

The proposed career-development guidelines are currently being tested in four states.

Developed under the direction of the National Occupational Information Coordinating Committee, a federal interagency panel, the guidelines are intended to serve as a blueprint for career counselors in schools and human-service agencies.

The project was a topic of discussion here this month at the annual convention of the American Vocational Association.

"We are very aware that there is a real problem with kids coming out of high schools and not knowing anymore than the man on the moon what they want to do," said Dan Marrs, coordinator for the North Dakota occupational-information committee, in an interview last week. The state has developed the guidelines and served as a test site for the project, which began in 1986.

A number of organizations, including the ava's guidance division, the National Career Development Association, and the American Association for Counseling and Development, have helped in the preparation of the project.

North Dakota, California, Mis4sissippi, and Pennsylvania have been awarded two-year federal grants totaling $50,000 each to design and implement comprehensive career-guidance and -counseling programs based on the guidelines.

Sponsors hope to use the programs developed at eight schools and two community colleges in those states as case studies of using the guidelines.

Officials of noicc "also hope to use the national guidelines to help states develop their own standards for career guidance.

Six states--Iowa, Missouri, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Washington, and Wisconsin--currently are receiving demonstration grants to that end.

The state standards will be used to establish or revise counseling programs at state employment-service and job-training agencies, as well as at a number of schools.

Outcome-Based Guidelines

The guidelines identify desired outcomes of comprehensive career-guidance programs at each level, from elementary school through adult education.

The guidelines suggest, for example, that elementary students understand the importance of educational achievement to career opportunities, the relationship between work and learning, and the ways in which different careers fill the needs of society.

An adult in a career-develop8ment program should come away with the skills required to make decisions about career goals, undertake significant career changes, and plan for retirement, as well as an understanding of the impact of careers on individual and family life.

The guidelines also broadly define the skills counselors need to have to provide high-quality assistance.

A counselor must have accurate and timely occupational information, the ability to assess both individuals and groups, and some management skills, the guidelines state.

"This program should not happen just in the counselor's office, but throughout the school," Mr. Marrs observed.

He emphasized that the guidelines were not intended to be "standards," but rather "something local schools can latch onto in developing their counseling programs."

"We stayed away from developing something that the counselor would take into the principal's office and say, 'It says here I need a 14-by-20-foot office,"' Mr. Marrs said.

Copies of the guidelines, along with suggestions for implementing them at the local level, will be available next month. The publications are targeted to specific educational levels. A trainers' guide will also be available.

For more information, contact Mary Beth McCormac, noicc, 2100 M St., N.W., Suite 156, Washington, D.C. 20037, (202) 653-5671.

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