Theoretical Models in Careers Guidance Practice

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Gysbers (2003) proposes that the value of career theories comes from providing practitioners with a framework to examine client behaviour, help understand the possible meanings of or explanations for the behaviour and subsequently, enables them to identify and respond to clients’ goals or problems. Significantly then, such theories may help explain an individual’s vocational behaviour, such as their initial career choice or later aspects of career development. This essay attempts to identify the theoretical framework that will underpin my guidance practice in the future. Initially, the guidance and client context is identified, with reference to their age group, diversity and need for careers guidance. This is followed by theories of Transitions, with Hodkinson et al’s work detailing the type of transition likely to be experienced by clients, and Nicholson and West’s ‘transition cycle’ illustrating their different phases. Subsequently, theories of career choice and decision-making are presented, with firstly the differential psychology ‘matching’ perspective exemplified by Holland, and secondly Super’s developmental psychology approach to career decision-making. Lastly, two differing Motivation theories are used: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, exploring individual motivational factors, and Law’s Community Interaction theory, from a Sociological ‘social context’ approach. Throughout, implications for my practice and strengths and criticisms of the various theories are included.

The guidance context for this essay is Connexions work, predominantly within education institutions, although it inevitably also includes some community-based work. The Connexions service for 13 to 19 year olds (up to 25 for those with learning difficulties and disabilities) was designed to provide information, advice, guidance and personal development opportunities to young people in England. Despite careers guidance being subsumed within this holistic service, the Leitch Review (2006) recognised the key importance of careers education and guidance in achieving a world-class skills base and enhanced attainment among young people. Within this context there will be several significant career-related experiences for my clients including Year 9 choices for GCSE study, Year 11 Options regarding continued education or entering employment, and further post-16 choices, for example higher education or vocational choices. However, it is important to recognise other issues or life roles affecting the client group, such as family, friends, self-esteem, religion, relationships and barriers to employment, hence the Connexions holistic approach, not simply focusing on providing careers guidance.

A transition can be understood simply as a life event causing a role change or crisis; and for my context the most significant expected transition my clients will face is the end of compulsory education. Transition theories enable me to support my clients and help them prepare for choices and change, which is vital considering the transitions experienced by young people during adolescence can have a significant impact on their sense of identity, self-esteem and their view of the world. Furthermore, Foskett and Hemsley-Brown (2001) recognise that young people now experience highly individualised, multiple transitions as a result of new paths and choices in education, for example, the new 14-19 diplomas; and more post 16 options, such as employment and other types of work based training etc.

Hodkinson et al’s (1996) ‘Pragmatic-rational-choice’ theory recognises the transition young people make from education to employment. Although not necessarily a transition theory, as they focus on career decision-making techniques, they employ the term ‘Careership’ to help describe a person’s career path, which is characterised by ‘turning points’ or transitions, and linked by periods of ‘routine.’ They have recognised three main types of transition or turning...
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