Interview Project Assignment For Career Development

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Interview an appropriate practicing counselor that is in concert with  desired area in which to work after graduation ( school counselor or a college counselor).

Focus on the following things:

  • The counselor’s activities in providing career information, assessment, and career counseling.
  • Strategies used for advocating for diverse clients with regard to career, educational development, and employment opportunities in the global economy.
  • Strategies used to facilitate client skill development for career, education, and life-work planning and manage.
  • Strategies employed to advocate for people with special needs.

The paper must be submitted in Microsoft Word; Times New Roman font; 12 pt. font size; margins 1” on all sides; double-spaced.  The assignment should be written on a graduate level and references used should be cited within the discussion and documented in a reference list using APA styling.

Post your paper, as a single document, to the grade book through Turnitin.com.  An originality score greater than 25% will result in a severe penalty.

Running head: COUNSELOR INTERVIEW PAPER 1

 

 

 

 

Student Name

Counselor Interview Paper

CO 542

Term and Year

Professor Name

Date

University of West Alabama

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abstract

Provide a brief overview of this project on this page.

 

Introduction

The counselor interview paper is designed to provide CO 542 students with an opportunity to dialogue with a counselor currently working in the field, so that students can learn more about a desired area of practice in which they might choose to work after graduation. This paper looks at the chosen counselor’s background, educational attainment and training, work history and current work environment. Additionally, discussed in the interview are the topics of job responsibilities and duties, the current population the counselor works with, the counselor’s personal counseling philosophy, along with day-to-day activities and the theory that guide her practice. Finally, assessments that are used in her work and how, professional development activities engaged in, as well as the rewards and frustrations of the job will also be covered.

Throughout the interview, the discussion will center primarily on the counselor’s activities in providing career information, assessment, and career counseling; also discussed will be the strategies used for advocating for diverse clients with regard to career, educational development, and employment opportunities in the global economy; the strategies that are used to facilitate client skill development for career, education, and life-work planning and management; as well as the strategies she employs to advocate for people with special needs.

Mary Ann Cummings: Career Counselor and Program Instructor

The counselor chosen for this interview was Mary Ann Cummings, who is a program instructor and career counselor with Career Bridges (a career guidance and assessment service offered to people in the county of West Prince, Prince Edward Island, Canada), a career she has held for the past 21 years. This service offers vocational assessment and career guidance programming for people considering a career change or further training. The services provided by Career Bridges are first, to identify the client’s interests, aptitudes, and abilities. Then, upon understanding these aspects of the client better, individual and group career facilitation is provided. The program facilitator arranges career exposure, as well as establishes the goal setting process and guides future employment paths for the clients. Career Bridges as a service also assists clients with resume and cover letter writing, interview strategies, as well as assistance with honing their job search skills.

When Cummings does an information session about Career Bridges, she discusses the following pertinent topics, as each is applicable to the importance of Career Bridges and what it offers the West Prince clientele: she covers the assessments which will be offered, the interest inventories (personality types, ability, aptitude) offered, the variety of speakers that will present, the ideas of self-image/self esteem (as important to growth), the conflict resolution training and anger management training to be held, and the idea that communications is essential to work life. She further covers employer/employee expectations and rights, the importance of confidentiality, the importance of believing in oneself, what the work stations will entail (in the second half of the program), how plans of action will be rolled out, the importance of employability skills (resumes and cover letters), the different learning styles people can have, along with the success of past clients. Each of these various components provides impetus for the incoming clients, convincing them that Career Bridges is really designed with them in mind. The various topics listed above are written out in a brochure-format which is used to guide the information session (M.L. Cummings, personal communication, May 28, 2018).

The following interview paper will be divided into sections that include pertinent aspects of Cummings’ career and day-to day functioning as a career counselor.

 

 

Background (Work Experience and Work History)

For this current position as instructor and counselor at Career Bridges, Cummings says she was ‘grandmothered’ into the system. She uses this term because she was not trained formally, as those counselors are required to be today. She also uses this phrase because each step along the way was a gradual move toward the next step in her career.

At the beginning of her career, Cummings primarily worked in adult education at Holland College, coming into this job shortly after high school. She started in the office doing administrative work, after which she took some training for being a lab assistant (which is the equivalent of today’s educational assistant in the classroom). Cummings says the lab assistants were complementary to the facilitators teaching in the lab-setting, the latter of whom were certified teachers. Cummings adds that the lab assistant’s job was to support the students with their academic work.

Cummings eventually left behind the lab assistant job to become the coordinator for the West Prince Center of Holland College; in doing so, she became interested in helping the Center start funding programs for job entry and re-entry for women. Cummings was the individual who would put in proposals for such projects, searching for monies that would fund these programs. She was involved in the classroom portion of the proposal, as well.

To provide some context for the above, this adult-continuing education program that Cummings’ worked within was started as an initiative of the provincial government’s Department of Education (Division of Vocational and Continuing Education); however, programming eventually came under the umbrella of Holland College in 1979. Cummings says that prior to 1979, the Department was using the elementary wing of the West Prince O’Leary Elementary and High School. The Department had Kindergarten-Grade 12 academic support and learning opportunities available for adults, with up to 120 students enrolled at high points.

The Department moved the program to the O’Leary Lions Club in 1976, and at that venue, it had four classrooms downstairs and three classrooms upstairs. The Department remained at that location until finally relocating to Westisle Composite High School, when the high school opened in 1979, having been given the whole back wing of the high school for the program. In 1979, this move to Westisle was also a transfer of the program to Holland College.

In 1993, the adult-continuing education program made another physical move to a local hotel and resort called the Rodd (located in West Prince county), this move due to the air quality at Westisle Composite High School. At this time, Holland College had four classes there, specified for adults and post-secondary students. When the Charlottetown-based Tremploy Inc. (a non-profit, registered, charitable, community-based organization that provides vocational training and support for individuals with intellectual disabilities) decided to open a center in O’Leary, P.E.I. (also located in West Prince County), they approached Holland College with the proposal, as they wanted to start a pilot project in the western area of P.E.I. In January of 1993, Tremploy Inc. also invited Cummings to come and head up the project. She opted out of this position, as she had full-time work at the time with Holland College (and this offer pitched by Tremploy Inc. was for a pilot project, which did not interest her).

Cummings recounts that at different times, Tremploy Inc. would call her and ask if she had anyone she could recommend to be the start-up person for their proposal. As she was not available or interested, she would always say ‘no’. However, when the Holland College adult education program moved back to Westisle in 1996, it was at this time that Cummings was pursued again by Tremploy Inc. to facilitate the Career Bridges, which she decided to do…leaving behind adult education for good (M.L. Cummings, personal communication, May 28, 2018).

Current Work Environment

When the West Prince Center of Holland College was no longer existing as a career service center (due to centralization of services in Charlottetown, P.E.I.), Cummings was left with no employment. She contacted Tremploy Inc., not realizing that someone was retiring from a position there. In November of 1996, she had begun travelling to Charlottetown to see what the program was all about. By January of 1997, the West Prince Center (formally under the umbrella of Holland College) became known as Career Bridges (which it is still known as, today), begun with the support of Tremploy Inc. In January of 1997, Cummings started facilitating that program in O’Leary, P.E.I., a job which she still holds today.

The focus in the new program was different than the focus in the programming offered at Holland College (which was dedicated toward helping students upgrade academic coursework in preparation for more formal training through post-secondary institutions). Career Bridges, on the other hand, was (and is) focused on providing vocational assessment and guidance for people considering a career change or further training. The services that Career Bridges provides are: identification of the client’s interests, aptitudes, and abilities; provision of individual and group career facilitation; arrangement of career exposure; establishment of goal-setting and future employment paths; and assistance for clients with resume writing, cover letter writing, interview strategies, and job search skills. The 12-week program (broken into two 6-week cycles) is focused on three distinct phases:

1. Phase 1: Diagnostic/ Self Assessment/Skills Enhancement (happens within the first 6 weeks)

-this phase identifies the client’s interests, aptitudes, and abilities. It also provides information regarding career choices, career options or planning career development. Group and individual career guidance assists the client at this time to gain a higher level of self understanding and to plan a career path based on informed decisions.

Phase 2: Job Search/ Employability Skills (also happens within the first 6 weeks)

– this phase uses group activities, audio visual resources, computer programs and resource materials so as to assist the clients in gaining skills needed to find and retain a job.

Phase 3: Work Exposure (happens during the last 6 weeks of the program)

-this phase provides clients the opportunity to confirm their occupational interests.

Cummings says that the clients and program instructors work together to identify an appropriate work environment, merging the diagnostic/self-assessment phase with work exposure experiences, so as to allow the clients to finalize their career plans (M.L. Cummings, personal communication, May 28, 2018).

Career Services Offered

Cummings reports that there are eleven different activities and assessments that Career Bridges offers in the first six weeks so as to provide the clients with their Holland Code. This experience enables clients to then use their aptitudes and interests to try out two to three different work environments that might be suitable for them (in the last six weeks of programming). She indicates that this work experience will help clients determine if that chosen job/occupation is something they would like to do. If the clients have a common theme coming through with their Holland Code, they can plan out the work exposure experiences they want to try. The work exposure is designed to determine if that job is for them. Cummings adds that the fifth week of the program is when the plan would be drawn up, but the clients go to their work sites the sixth week. The work exposure might not allow for a work station, but Cummings says that there is the opportunity to set up several interviews in more than one place, so as to show different aspects of a job that might interest the client.

Cummings also says that information interviews are also part of work exposure; several of these are needed to give the client a well-rounded view to the job they are investigating. When Holland College is in class, Cummings says that some clients can go to sit in on classes for a day. If someone is interested in going to the hospital, they can do a job shadow. Cummings adds that office, business management, retail stores and other job stations are workable as long as the employer is satisfied with this. She says this helps the client determine if “yes, this is the career for me” or “no, this is not what I want to do”. Cummings notes that the client might have the work skills, and they might get an opportunity to have long-term employment with the work station they were given exposure to during Phase 3. She adds that the last week of the program (week 12) is when the client would put into place (with help from Cummings) an action plan for how the goals of the career training experiences will be achieved, as well as how these experiences will be funded. She says that some clients go on to work at the site where they carried out their work placement, while others start up their own businesses. Cummings states that every client is different, as is every situation.

Cummings explains that Career Bridges runs its group sessions three times a year, in three 12-week blocks: one block being held from October-Christmas, another held from January-March, and the last one held from April- June. Thus, Career Bridges’ contract/work year spans from October to June each calendar year (M.L. Cummings, personal communication, May 28, 2018).

 

 

Training

Cummings has been working in the field for over thirty years (she is nearing retirement and fully acknowledges she is older than other colleagues in the system). With her limited formal education, she admits that her educational attainment and formal training would not be enough to get her foot in the door today. However, as has been already mentioned, she refers to herself as being ‘grandmothered’ into her position, due to her experience and work ethic, all along the way.

While she was still employed with Holland College, she took the Full Life Skills training course with the University of Prince Edward Island. She had to put in 500 hours toward this certification. As far as other formal training goes, she has taken some counseling and conflict resolution courses at the University of P.E.I., and she also has the Colours Personality-Types training (a university level credit), as well. She has acquired some training with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and has conducted the Myers-Briggs in the office, on occasion. She has also taken different university-level courses over the years to deal with the diverse clientele she works with.

Because of her work with the Department of Education, she became the contact for the GED (General Education Development) on P.E.I., covering the geographical area from Crapuad-West Prince. Sister Margaret Kelly, a Catholic educator on P.E.I., was the person responsible for the GED program before Cummings; Cummings was hired by her because of her work ethic (her lack of training withstanding). She had left Holland College at this point (no longer involved in adult education) and was now working with Tremploy Inc.to coordinate the program now known as Career Bridges. Some formal training was required for this new aspect of her work life (M.L. Cummings, personal communication, May 28, 2018).

 

Current Client Population

Cummings identifies her clients to be 19 years of age and out of school for at least one year (or, if they have taken any post-secondary training, they need to be out of school for at least two years). Cummings says that clients come with varied backgrounds: some clients are diagnosed as bipolar, while some others have various kinds of disabilities. She says that still other clients have various kinds of injuries and cannot continue working at the job they have been doing.

Cummings adds that often clients have a lot of issues to deal with, some of which include mental health issues like bipolarity and brain injuries. She says three people in the last number of years have had serious health issues (i.e. loss of memory, learning deficits, etc.), while others have colourful histories, having been slated with a bad reputation due to run-ins with the law. Some have no confidence (due to family background, or the situation the person was in, which might include not have been told they were worthy); some clients come with a complete lack confidence, which could be caused by any number of reasons; some lack social interaction with others, while others have not finished school yet; some feel ‘stupid’, which is a word that Cummings says is not ever used in the Career Bridges building or program. Still others have multiple physical and mental health issues which impact the client. Cummings notes that many clients come not seeing their value as a person. She says this defines her current population right now.

For a few years, Cummings says that Career Bridges did have a lot of clients who had acquired post-secondary education and wanted retraining. Some of her past clients had graduated from high school (with an academic degree) or graduated from a post-secondary institution but were unsure of what they wanted to do. They wanted to try things out first before they headed off to college or university to be trained for something they did not feel well-suited for. Cummings notes that the clients have to discuss their flexibility in terms of ‘if they are willing to move away’, as West Prince County is remote and isolated from other major city centers. Cummings says the reality check does not happen until they go out and try the job (which happens around week 5 and 6). By this time, they will have done their research and are more agreeable to whether they will move to Charlottetown and do the training or be willing to move to Charlottetown and live there for good. {Note: Charlottetown is Prince Edward Island’s capital city and a two-hour plus drive from West Prince County. This can be an obstacle to work and training for many clients, as some do not have transportation and most are in difficult financial situations}. Cummings admits that this ‘coming to realization process’ is a slow one for most clients. She adds that three clients in the last two years had really major issues that required more one-on-one time, in terms of personal counseling, making an already slow process, even slower. In Week 1, Cummings says she can determine whether or not the client needs mental health counseling, which might extend the programming longer than twelve weeks (M.L. Cummings, personal communication, May 28, 2018).

Counselor’s Role

Cummings notes that her role at the beginning of each 12-week program is to assess each client’s needs. Cummings says an additional counseling role for her at Career Bridges includes facilitating the growth of the clients from the referral process, forward (as these referrals come in from specific agencies); other responsibilities include: facilitating the program, teaching the clients, meeting one-on-one with clients, doing initial and further assessments, trying to encourage clients to try new things, and carrying out all the services that Career Bridges provides, among other unexpected roles that might crop up (i.e. attending graduations, wakes and funerals, if need be). Cummings’ counseling role is further expanded upon in most of the other sections of this paper (M.L. Cummings, personal communication, May 28, 2018).

Personal Counseling Philosophy

When asked what her personal counseling philosophy might be, Cummings replies: “I want to do the best I can for each client. I think, “Okay, one day ‘so-and-so’ said ‘such and such’. I think to myself, “Did I do enough for that person?” (M.L. Cummings, personal communication, May 28, 2018). Cummings adds to this reflection that she has to be honest with clients, so “it’s not always easy” (M.L. Cummings, personal communication, May 28, 2018). She says, “but if I don’t give 100%, I am not giving the client my best” (M.L. Cummings, personal communication, May 28, 2018).

Cummings describes herself as very client -focused. She says her work is for the client, not necessarily to always work solely with them within the group setting: sometimes they need one-on-one. She realizes that everyone has different issues. Some of those issues dealt with as a group include anger management and conflict management. The latter topics are ones which Cummings discusses with a group; however, she says she will provide individuals one-on-one support for such issues, if need be. Cummings says there is a core curriculum to cover that is adjusted each time a program is run, but her focus is on the client and what she can do to help them achieve and succeed (M.L. Cummings, personal communication, May 28, 2018).

Theory Guiding Cummings’ Practice

Cummings’ is guided by Holland’s Theory of Vocational Choice, a theory which is based on the following assumptions: that an individual’s personality is the primary factor in vocational choice; that interest inventories are personality inventories; that individuals develop stereotypical views of occupations that have psychological relevance and these stereotypes play a role in occupational choice; that daydreams about occupations lead to insights about occupational choices; that identity is connected to having a small number of focused vocational goals; and that to be successful and fulfilled in one’s career, it is necessary to choose an occupation that is congruent with the individual’s personality, congruence being a similar ‘fit’ with others to the work environment (Brown, 2012).

Holland’s theory also supports personality development as being the result of interaction among inherited characteristics, the activities to which an individual is exposed, and the interests and competencies that grow out of those activities (Brown, 2012). Holland is best known for his six personality types which are: realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising, and conventional. These six personality types are connected to Holland’s six work environments, which follow a similar coding system (based on the personality of the workers in those work environments) (Brown, 2012). Cummings made frequent mention to Holland’s six personality types throughout the interview, indicating that these are a primary focus of her work with clients (M.L. Cummings, personal communication, May 28, 2018).

Career Bridges’ Assessment Services

According to Holland’s theory, a person can be typed into one of six categories (realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising, and conventional), done by way of expressed or demonstrated vocational or educational interests, by way of their employment, or through scores provided by an inventory or similar assessment (Brown, 2012). For Cummings, Holland’s types are what aid her in guiding the initial assessment for clients, supporting them in understanding what types of work are best suited to their personality. Within the first week of the program, Cummings introduces Holland’s My Vocational Situation instrument to assist clients in measuring their identity (i.e. their goals and self-perceptions), along with introducing various other assessments.

Cummings is trained to use the Strong Interest Inventory (SII), which was originally developed to help people identify career options. The SII is now often used in adult counseling centers (like Career Bridges) to help people making career changes, as well as to assist those launching their initial career. Along with this interest inventory, Cummings uses other forms of counselor-led assessment, including adult achievement testing (Canadian Adult Achievement Test—CAAT), aptitude testing (Differential Aptitude Tests—DAT), True Colours Personality Assessment (a personality profiling system), and other specific interest inventories (i.e. O*NET Interest Quiz). Complementing this formal assessment are more client-led self-assessments (additional to My Vocational Situation) utilized so that the clients can assess their own transferrable skills, employability skills and self-esteem. Two further self-assessments used at Career Bridges are the Career Interests Inventory (CII) and the Character Strengths Index (CSI). The CII is used to assist people in exploring areas of work that tap into their interests, values and motivations, while the CSI is used to aid in developing awareness of one’s personal character, strengths, and challenges (http://www.midasgroup.ie/career-interests-inventory-cii/ and http://www.strataleadership.com/csi-faq).

Above all, Cummings uses assessment as a diagnostic tool to identify the client’s interests, aptitudes, and abilities, providing both her and the client information about the individual, in terms of their preferred career choices, the career options available to them (based on the findings of various assessments), as well as information used to help clients plan for career development and future work. The self-assessments carried out by clients are used to provide individuals with insight, awareness and self-understanding so that they can plan for themselves a career path based on informed decisions (M.L. Cummings, personal communication, May 28, 2018).

Day-to day Activities at Career Bridges

Cummings explained that the programming at Career Bridges runs in a six-week window (with an additional six weeks of on-site work experience). She states that a typical day would see clients arriving at 8:30 a.m. and staying until 3:10 p.m. Topics would be covered each day of the week in a systematic fashion (according to the curriculum that has been designed for the Career Bridges program). During Week 1, self-assessment tools are introduced, as are the four stages of career planning and the life/work skills components. Cummings says that each assessment is thoroughly explained and some clients work on these on their own. In Week 2, the Strong Inventory Assessment and O*NET Interest Quiz are completed, along with other self-assessment exercises. Additional life/work components are also worked on, as well as achievement testing (CAAT) is carried out. Also covered in Week 2 are work skills, research about occupations, and career planning stages. During Week 3, aptitude testing (DAT) is completed, along with the True Colours Workshop. In Week 4, the CAAT and DAT feedback from Week 2 and 3 is offered to clients. There is also a session on stress and job searching. In Week 5, possible placements for clients are being arranged. Meanwhile, clients are also continuing to work on occupation and life skills components of the curriculum. Then in Week 6, work placements are secured in two-week rotations, to take place over the next six-weeks.

Throughout the six weeks that clients are in the group, many guest speakers and organizations/agencies are set up to come and speak to the clients. These groups include Skills PEI (a division of the provincial government’s Department of Workforce and Advanced Learning), which comes to talk to clients and introduce them to Work PEI sites available for work seekers, Employment Journey (a P.E.I. news publication that comes out in print several times a year) also comes in to Career Bridges to do a presentation, and P.E.I. Employment Standards comes to the center to talk about employees’ and employers’ rights. Apprenticeship training speakers are also invited to speak on occasion. Cummings does not regularly schedule post-secondary institutions to come to speak: rather, individual clients go to see them directly.

Cummings sometimes arranges for tours of businesses (such as the local Trout River Industries) which she says can happen during the first six weeks that clients are in session. Clients who want to tour a business will have an excursion organized for them during the first six weeks. Successful past clients come in to talk to the group as well.

Different activities are arranged to complement the special speakers and curriculum, such as reflection activities (i.e. centered on who clients are, what they want, and where they are going from here). Cummings says there is a lot of thinking involved in answering the activity reflections. She also notes that TED talks and other video presentations are a component of the first six weeks.

Cummings also runs an anger management session, as well as sessions on a variety of pertinent topics. The clients are also given time to build their resume, of which Cummings says lots of time is spent on this, including focused time spent on the writing of cover letters and reference sheets and in practicing interview techniques. In terms of mock interviews, Cummings says that clients are given 25 questions that might be asked, and then they have a mock interview. Each client has three interviews each (as there are three potential placements). She notes that a good bit of time is spent on that activity, as well. She says that the work is spread out over several days.

How these interviews are conducted is in this manner: Cummings sets offices up to resemble a real office in a business. Clients have to knock on the door and go through the whole process. Then, they get feedback on the interview from Cummings or whoever is there doing the interview. Cummings says that when interviewing a client, she gives them the questions first, so that they can prepare. Clients can take their answers in to the interview the first time they are interviewed, but not the second or third time they go through the process. They have three different types of careers to mock-interview for, and then they head out for their actual work placements (M.L. Cummings, personal communication, May 28, 2018).

Professional Development

When asked what professional development activities she was involved in herself, she responded that she participates in some of the Career Development Association of P.E.I.’s training workshops. The Career Development Association is an organization devoted to promoting career development on P.E.I. with a focus on connecting career development practitioners across the Island, as well as making connections between sectors and industries. Cummings notes that if there are courses being offered that she and her colleagues feel would help them, they approach their employer to see if they can be taken. If it is valid to their work (as would be the Conflict Resolution course at U.P.E.I., or the Colours training), then Cummings says that they are usually approved. She adds that if there are new topics coming up, they will carry out this training as a group. Cummings says that training sessions can also be held during staff meetings sometimes. She notes that all Career Bridges staff from the three centres across PEI participate in the training (M.L. Cummings, personal communication, May 28, 2018).

Rewards Within the Field of Career Counseling

Cummings says her greatest reward is seeing someone believing in themselves and moving forward. She adds that having clients believing in who they are, if that is what they wanted to achieve as their goal, is what makes her excited. Cummings says, “That’s a success. That’s my reward” (M.L. Cummings, personal communication, May 28, 2018). She adds that the success might be that the client has started a business, which is rewarding for her personally (in being that individual’s instructor/counselor). Or, she says it is rewarding for her to see former clients of Career Bridges hiring some of her current clients. Above all, seeing her clients do well is what Cummings claims is rewarding.

When asked to recount her greatest success story, Cummings says it is hard to pick one person that she can discuss: there are too many! She notes that some clients have gone on to universities to further their training, while still others have started their own businesses; some have gone back to school and then gone on to become teachers. Cummings notes that one woman could not look people in the eye and later was employed by one of her work stations (and offered work by another work station that she had to turn down). She says another client had a lot of clinical and medical treatments. This client told Cummings that Career Bridges was better than any pill she had ever taken. Cummings says there are so many stories she could tell. She adds that the successes are not always what the clients become: it is rather the growth and the process that really counts; she notes that so many of her clients have followed their dreams (M.L. Cummings, personal communication, May 28, 2018).

 

Frustrations Within the Field of Career Counseling

When asked about frustrations, Cummings responded with this:

“Sometimes I feel there are just too many barriers and I can’t help the client work beyond that. If there were more staff resources it might help the clients. It can be frustrating when you can’t offer clients what they need. Being the only staff member in a center is hard” (M.L. Cummings, personal communication, May 28, 2018).

Cummings says she also feels she cannot do enough to help her clients. However, she says that some clients are not ready to take the step to do what it takes to help themselves. Depending on the situation, the client may not be ready to take action or take the step forward (i.e. sometimes, the timing is not right for a client to be in the program). Cummings says that the client has to be told that they are not ready, and this can be hard for her personally, as it creates stress and tension (M.L. Cummings, personal communication, May 28, 2018).

Strategies for Advocating for Diverse Clients

Cummings advocates for her diverse clients on an individual basis. She stresses that she does not know what she is getting into when she receives her client list. She says the dynamics can unfold as late as the end of the program. Cummings says to be an advocate, she first has to be aware of all the other supports that are out there for the clients and be able to share those supports with them. She adds that she has to also be able to research, think, and prepare for unexpected things everyday.

Cummings says that for herself, she has to stay informed about what is current and trending in the career development world. She recently had clients go to poverty reduction seminars (they are living this reality), and this is something she felt personally was important for her to know more about. She stresses that every client is different. She says that one has to be prepared to deal with everything, as well as be up-to-date on what resources are out there to help clients. She says she refers the client to whatever resources are out there that can help them.

For clients to get a sponsorship to be part of Career Bridges, the process gets started through a referral (i.e. through Career Development Services, Skills PEI, Financial Aid or by Canadian Mental Health). After the referral is made, then clients are able to start programming at Career Bridges. Once the referring agent does a return-to-work action plan, Career Bridges’ services are then activated to support the client’s admission to the program, thus also supporting the client’s return to work. All clients have to go through Skills PEI to document the process. Career Bridges get a contract to work with so many people per year, so each referral is done on a case-by-case basis. Cummings is able to best support her clients after the referral process is over and they are enrolled in the Career Bridges program. It is then that the real magic happens. (M.L. Cummings, personal communication, May 28, 2018).

Strategies Used to Facilitate Career Development

Cummings says that the best strategies she uses to facilitate career development are to actually visit the work sites that clients are stationed at, seeing how the clients are getting along and supporting them in the return-to-work process. She must be physically present to support the client. At the time of this interview, Cummings’ clients were currently at their works stations. Cummings says some clients are at businesses, so she then goes out to visit these work stations on a day-to-day or weekly basis. One strategy she uses to promote resilience is to remind clients that they need to give their work station time to reveal its offerings to that client: she tells the client to give the experience two weeks before making a decision whether they like it or not. However, the two weeks can go longer if the experience is going well. Cummings explains that one current client is wanting to extend their experience at a work station, as there is a possibility of employment afterwards. Cummings will then meet with the supervisor, as well as the client, to see about possibilities for longer terms. All in all, Cummings says she wants both points of views (the employee’s and the employer’s). She will set up another work station if that is what the client wants. She says it depends on what the client wants to do. The strategy that Cummings uses to help the client formalize their life plan is helping them ask the right questions and then figure out the answers. She asks them to investigate what they want to pursue for a career for the rest of their lives and to think about how they will get training for that particular career.

After the two weeks ends, if a client expresses interest in staying longer, Cummings says that the client has to be able to justify the reasons for why she or he wants to stay on at that work station. A question Cummings asks the client is “What new things do you want to try?” If an interest is shown in another work area, new stations are then set up for that client. Cummings says there are three things that she wants to clients to experience in the 6-week time frame: that is the goal. However, she does not set new work stations up until she knows what the client wants.

After completion of the work station, an evaluation form is left with the businesses the client has been at (stating what they have done, suggestions they have, constructive criticisms, what the employer thinks the client is well suited for, in terms of type of employment, etc.). Cummings says she gets feedback from the employer or supervisor at the employment site. Then, once the three work stations have been carried out, an exit interview is held, which Cummings says can take some time, depending on the client. A composite report is written and then sent to the referral agent and Skills PEI. Cummings says a copy of the report stays at Career Bridges, including a report that contains a copy of assessment results, observations Cummings’ might have noted about the client, as well as any pertinent information about issues that came up, a copy of the client’s resume, a statement of what the client feels they have gained and what Cummings thinks they gained, as well as a complete report on the three work stations (what the supervisor has suggested, as well as what the client feels about those suggestions). Cummings states that everything the client does in the 12-week program goes into their file (i.e. First Aid training, workshops, information interviews, etc.); clients do a write up about each activity and it goes in the composite report. After all the reporting is finished, Cummings does a summary report with recommendations. Then the test results and last page are completed and filed with their resume, in the report. Some reports can be up to five pages and some might be ten, depending on the client. Whoever has been their referral agency will also receive a copy of the report (as well as will Skills PEI and Career Bridges) (M.L. Cummings, personal communication, May 28, 2018).

Strategies Used with Special Populations

Cummings notes that some of her clients identify as having disabilities or as being part of minority groups (Native, LGBTQ, etc.); she says that in a few cases, the clients will have special status and access to resources. Cummings adds that she has fewer clients who identify as cultural, ethnic, and racial minorities, then those who identify with disabilities. She also says that sometimes people who move from another province to Prince Edward Island will come to Career Bridges for support (coming as emigrants). They will use Career Bridges to network.

What Cummings works on with her diverse clientele is building self-esteem and self-confidence; targeting these two areas is the biggest strategy she uses with special populations. She emphasizes that she works on this area the whole time that the group is together. She says that sometimes these lessons are built upon in the classroom. She says that the group will often notice things about other clients and support those who are struggling. She notes that they are good to each other, adding that the clients will sometimes improve in self-esteem when they see that they really can do what they have begun, through their training with Career Bridges. But sometimes, she says that the business is not appropriate for the clients, and the clients will have valid reasons for their feelings of frustration. Thus, she says it is a challenge to have clients face the reality of the work atmosphere. Cummings’ role is to try and help the client accept the situation (so as to come to terms with it).

Cummings says the most important strategy in working with special populations is to have faith in the clients. She says it is important to believe in the clients because sometimes they have never had anyone who believed in them before. She notes that they come from diverse and varied backgrounds, and at times, will feel no one had faith in them. She says she once had a client who never had anyone who believed in her prior to the program. When she finished the program, the client bought Cummings an ornament and card (which Cummings says she did not have the money for). Cummings adds that the client expressed that she had never before had anyone in her life with faith in her until this experience at Career Bridges. The card she bought Cummings made reference to faith, as the client stated to Cummings that she had faith in her. The pewter ornament she bought for Cummings said: “Faith makes it happen.” For Cummings, the bottom line is having faith in people: she says that finding someone who believes in them is what makes it all worthwhile for the clients.

Cummings notes that 702 clients have gone through Career Bridges in O’Leary since she started with the program in 1997. She says that once clients finish, it is not over for them. Career Bridges follows up on clients, staying in contact with about 80% of the clients for up to five years later. She says that every year, they contact the previous year’s clients to see how they are doing, and then every summer, they go back five years to follow up with those clients who have already moved on with their lives. She notes that one business person in West Prince owns two businesses, with four employees who all came through Career Bridges. He is one of the many success stories that make Cummings’ work so worthwhile. Cummings’ closing words of the interview were these: “I love what I do!” (M.L. Cummings, personal communication, May 28, 2018). In my conversation with her, I can clearly see that this is true. She has clearly conveyed that working in career development and guidance is a rewarding and worthwhile experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Brown, D. (2012). Career information, career counseling, and career development. (10th Ed.).

New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

Midas Group. (n.d.). Career Interests Inventory-CII. Retrieved from

http://www.midasgroup.ie/career-interests-inventory-cii/.

Cummings, M.L. (2018, May 28). Personal interview.

Strata Leadership. (2018). Character Strengths Index (CSI). Retrieved from

http://www.strataleadership.com/csi-faq.