Earlier this week, the International Centre for Career Development and Public Policy (ICCDPP) and Kuder, Inc. hosted the seventh International Working Symposium on Career Development and Public Policy in Des Moines, Iowa.

The theme of this year's Symposium, “Building the Talent Pipeline and Providing Youth with Hope for the Future,” focused on the challenges facing governments, employers, and communities to ensure young people have economically viable futures.

“It was an amazing experience to meet delegates representing over 30 countries at this year's Symposium,” said Kuder President and CEO Phil Harrington. “It was especially meaningful for Kuder to serve as a host, as it was the first time the event took place in the United States.”

Representatives from national and international associations of guidance practitioners as well as distinguished scholars and Iowa business leaders presented on topics ranging from youth unemployment, to the state of the labor market in developing countries, to effective strategies for tapping into the talent pipeline.

Youth Unemployment

Christie Vilsack, senior advisor for international education with USAID, delivered a presentation on youth unemployment. Vilsack remarked that collaboration is critical to the success of effective career development policy and that, “transformative change requires strong partnerships” among government agencies and the education and business sectors.

Sareena Hopkins, co-executive director of the Canadian Career Development Foundation, spoke on the topic of youth unemployment. She noted that whereas productivity used to be tied to employment, it is no longer the case today, and that the total demand for workers is decreasing. She characterized it as an “unconscious decoupling of productivity and employment,” and pointed out that, paradoxically, “demand for skilled labor is increasing.”

Dr. Helmut Zelloth, senior policy advisor for the European Training Foundation (ETF) also addressed global youth unemployment: “Over 75 million youth worldwide are looking for work,” he said. “Young people are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults.”

He asserted that not only is youth unemployment at issue, but there is a dangerous mix of inactivity and high working poverty among youth, plus a vicious cycle of low productivity occupations and poor remuneration.

Dr. Zelloth continued, “Let's not make it a blame game.” He stated one source of hope is the fact that “the career guidance community is an influencing community … our challenge [as career guidance providers] is to think about how we position ourselves as providing ‘hope for youth’ and enablers in the labor market.”

Engaging Employers

The Symposium shed light on the value of a cross-sectoral approach to foster effective career development systems. A consistent topic of discussion was the need to encourage the business sector to shift its point of view on career development programs from one of charity to one of strategy, where early investment becomes a part of its long-term economic development planning.

Dr. Scott Solberg, associate dean of research at Boston University, and Dr. Tibor Bors Borbély-Pecze, senior policy advisor of the Hungarian National Employment Service, prepared a synthesis paper in which they stated, “There are a number of challenges to engaging business in supporting career and workforce development … countries struggle with getting employers to see the value and importance of engaging with schools and providing access to work-based learning opportunities.”

Mary Andringa, president and CEO of Vermeer Corporation in Pella, Iowa, shared an example of a model program in her presentation “Investing in the Talent Pipeline.” Andringa said that Vermeer, as a manufacturer, secures a steady pipeline of welders through its strong relationships with community colleges. Vermeer also offers robust internship and tuition assistance programs and operates Yellow Iron Academy, a daycare with a STEM focus and early career awareness curriculum serving the children of Vermeer employees and members of the local community.

Emerging Technologies

2015 ICCDPP Symposium Word CloudDeirdre Pickerell, vice president of Life Strategies Ltd. in Canada, presented on the disconnect between career development practitioners and end-users, asking, “Are we a tech-adverse workforce?”

Jaana Kettunen and Dr. Raimo Vuorinen of the Finnish Institute for Educational Research addressed the use of technology in career development in their synthesis paper: “The focus of career development policies is maximizing the use of ICT [information and communications technology] and providing effective client services.”

Return on Investment

“Some measures used to establish ROI have lacked adequate specificity, relevance, and quality,” said Dr. Vuorinen. He also noted that there is significant data on ROI with respect to career and employment services; however, “it does not seem to have made an impact on policymakers.”

Rob Denson, president of the Des Moines Area Community College, cited the book The Coming Jobs War by Gallop Chairman and CEO Jim Clifton in his presentation. Denson said he shares Clifton's assertion that “hope predicts academic success,” and encouraged the audience to instill and sustain hope in today's youth.

Denson serves on the national leadership council of Opportunity Nation, a bipartisan campaign comprised of more than 350 businesses and educational institutions, nonprofits, and civic organizations working together to expand economic mobility and close the opportunity gap in America.

He discussed Opportunity Nation's Opportunity Index, which is an annual composite measure at the state and county levels of economic, educational and civic factors that expand opportunity. Denson shared that youth engagement in education or work is a key indicator in opportunity score compositions within the Index.

He also noted that postsecondary institutions should “know job competencies and plan accordingly,” as copies of the book Advancing a Jobs-Driven Economy were distributed to the audience.

Denson asked the audience to question whether there are “clear career pathways and completion tracks for students” and emphasized the need for students to “see success.”

Integrated Policies: Creating Systems that Work

John McCarthy, ICCDPP director, addressed “Integrated Policies, Creating Systems that Work” in his presentation. He asked, “Whose responsibility is youth employment policy?”

McCarthy argued that, rather than youth engagement policy, perhaps the focus should be on youth employment policy.

McCarthy and Dr. Tristram Hooley, professor of career education at the International Centre for Guidance Studies at the University of Derby, prepared a synthesis paper in which they stated,  “Career development is lifelong and cross-sectorial policy area … an important element in the development of a national strategy is the extent to which the policy responsibility is shared with and owned by the different stakeholders.”

A communiqué prepared by Hopkins and her colleague Lynne Bezanson, co-executive director of the Canadian Career Development Foundation, addressed the need for countries to develop national career development strategies with appropriate resources to ensure cohesive policy and service delivery: “Strategies should aim to provide national coordination, benchmarks and evaluation, while respecting the need for regional/local tailoring.”

The communiqué emphasized the need for international collaboration around career development policy, as all participants benefit from “knowledge exchange and policy lending and borrowing.”

Key Takeaways

“The amazing thing about the ICCDPP Symposium is that, even though it was a meeting of career development leaders from around the world, we all came with the same purpose and passion,” said Dora Grote, director of training and professional services for Kuder.

“We came to help youth engage in career guidance programs and build skills through building the talent pipeline, engaging employers, utilizing emerging technologies, and influencing policies,” she said.

Grote, who created the word cloud featured above, explained what motivated her to do so: “I felt a visual of the major themes would be an appropriate reminder of what we, career guidance professionals and leaders, can implement in our programs, districts, organizations, and countries.”

Lester Oakes, ICCDPP acting president, reminded attendees about the importance of carrying through on the concepts and recommendations brought forth at the Symposium. “We can have all the vision, and all the strategy,” he said, “but if we can't get others alongside us, [the Symposium] has no meaning and no value.”

Many attendees echoed his sentiments at the conclusion of the working Symposium, yet were equally energized and optimistic; inspired by the best practices and ideas generated at the event, they pledged to meet his challenge with the mantra, “now, our real work begins.”

Grote, for example, said she “felt the impact of the passion and engaging in the purpose of changing lives,” and took 20 pages of notes containing takeaways she can apply to Kuder's career coaching, professional development, and training programs.

“On behalf of Kuder, I want to thank each and every presenter and attendee for contributing to the success of the ICCDPP 2015 Symposium,” said Harrington. “It was a memorable and enriching experience that will surely serve as a catalyst for national-level initiatives and policy actions throughout the world.”

Since 1999, ICCDPP symposia have served as catalysts for national level initiatives and policy actions. Initiatives created from the symposia have enabled countries to benchmark their policy development and practices against those in other countries, helped establish national career development organizations, and been used by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), European Commission (EC), and the World Bank. Learn more at iccdpp.org.

Check back soon for photos and links to post-Symposium materials on the Kuder Blog. Read the latest ICCDPP 2015 Symposium Tweets at #ICCDPP2015.

Word cloud courtesy of Dora Grote.

About Amy Khokhar

Amy Khokhar served as a workshop note-taker at the ICCDPP 2015 Symposium. She is a senior writer for Kuder, and contributes regularly to the Kuder News Room and Kuder Blog. Prior to joining the company in 2008, Amy spent 10 years as a marketing communications writer, editor, and manager. Previously, she wrote student and parent handbooks for a nonprofit college access organization and edited literary study guides for a major education publisher. Amy has served in various capacities at Kuder, including as a research editor, consultant, and vice president of marketing and communications. She holds a bachelor's degree in English from Colby College.