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The Five Components of Career Education

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The child progressing through a career education system during his formative years would traverse five components, each of which is equally essential but which are listed here in order of the extent to which they are a primary responsibility of the schools:

  1. The classroom in which all possible learnings are articulated in terms of the career application for both understanding and motivation

  2. The ultimate acquiring of vocational job skills, whether they are learned on the job, in a structured classroom situation, or from general life experiences

  3. Career development programs for exposure to occupational alternatives and for derivation of a work ethic and a set of work values, allowing the individual to visualize himself in various work settings and to make career decisions which appear to promise the preferred lifestyle

  4. Interaction among the training institutions, employing institutions, and labor organizations to provide more fertile learning environments than the schoolroom

  5. The home and family from which the individual develops initial attitudes and concepts
These components make varying contributions at what could be considered as four stages of vocational maturation: (1) awareness (ordinarily beginning in the elementary school) to help children become aware of the general nature of the world of work and familiar with the values of a work-oriented society, (2) exploration (a primary responsibility of the middle school or junior high school) during which young people are encouraged to visualize themselves in various work settings and their consequent lifestyles and to test the meaning of their various work values, (3) occupational choice (initially tentative, but gaining more specificity in the high school and beyond), and (4) implementation consisting of occupational preparation, placement, and job success. This is not an once-in-a-lifetime process. As new career opportunities open up or come to the attention of an individual, he may cycle through these stages many times in the course of his lifelong career development.

Career education identifies a lengthy set of prerequisites for successful careers and attempts to contribute to their attainment: good mental and physical health, human relations skills, a commitment to honest work as a source of income, and a willingness to accept the discipline of the workplace and to be motivated toward achievement in the work setting. It also requires all of the basic skills of communication and computation and a fundamental familiarity with the concepts of science and technology, as well as a salable skill in demand in the job market. Selection of that skill requires sufficient knowledge of the opportunities available in the labor market to make valid, though tentative, choices and the decision-making skills required for choices. Opportunities to use these skills also require an understanding of the workings of the labor market and an ability to compete successfully in it.

A. Role of Educators

Efforts of classroom teachers to emphasize career implications as part of good teaching are a major component in the new career education drama.  In brief, this component aims to help students see some relationships between that which they are presently studying and the possible careers they may choose to follow at some future time. As such, it represents a form of educational motivation for the teacher to use in conjunction with any other motivational devices that have worked effectively in the past.

Career education does not seek to use this form of educational motivation to replace other effective motivational procedures that classroom teachers have always used. However, this form of motivation should appeal to all students some of the time and to some students almost all of the time. If it is incorporated with all other forms of educational motivation, students could learn more substantive content. For the elementary teacher to emphasize the career implications of substantive content holds great potential for helping all students discover reasons for learning that are directly related to the world of work outside education.

This form of educational motivation is not intended to detract from the actual amount of time students spend in absorbing substantive content. Rather, the time required for providing this motivation comes from the total pool of time and effort available to every teacher for pupil motivation. Thus career education in no way seeks to "water down" the substantive content of the elementary school. Instead, it seeks to assure that more such content will be meaningfully assimilated by the individual student.

B. Vocational Skills Training in Formal Education

The goal of this component is to provide students with occupational skills required to work successfully. The phrase "vocational skills training" rather than "vocational education" is used in part to emphasize the fact that any class may be vocational skills training for one or more of its students. That is, a mathematics class is vocational skills training for the prospective engineer or mathematician or skilled worker, just as a machine shop class is vocational skills training for the prospective machinist. In part, this phrase is used to emphasize the direct and substantial contributions of basic educational skills to occupational competence. That is, we want both students and teachers to recognize that when the student learns to read, he is acquiring skills that will be required for and useful in the work he will eventually pursue as an adult.

We must rid ourselves of the false notion that students do not begin to ready themselves for work until after they leave the elementary school. Moreover, we must rid ourselves of the equally false notion that in the secondary school, only that part called "vocational education" exists to prepare students for work. Most importantly, we must rid ourselves of the false notion that only students who lack the potential for successful college completion are readying themselves for work while they are in our elementary and secondary schools.

Education as preparation for work must become an important goal of all who teach and all who learn. To provide this emphasis adds to the meaning and meaningfulness of all education without in any way detracting from any other worthy educational goal.

Since vocational skills training in the elementary school consists primarily of the acquisition of the standard substantive content of elementary education, it seems neither necessary nor appropriate to devote a chapter of this book to that component. This of course makes the component no less important in the assignment of the elementary teacher.

C. Career Development Programs

This component, involving the efforts of all educators and those of many persons outside education, aims to help students understand themselves in terms of their values, interests, abilities, and accomplishments. Moreover, it seeks to help students see relationships between these kinds of self-understandings and understandings of possible educational-occupational opportunities that are likely to be available to them. Finally, it seeks to help students make some kind of occupational or career decisions based on these kinds of understandings. In short, it represents career education's attempt to emphasize and make meaningful the inherent right of each individual to lead his own life, to control to the maximum extent his own destiny, and to see himself as the worthy and worthwhile person he is.

It should be clear at the outset that during the elementary school years, the career development component seeks no firm occupational commitment on the part of any individual. Rather, it seeks to help the student think about himself in relationship to the world of work and to try to picture himself as a possible contributing member of that world. The elementary school has a key and crucial role to play in this process.

D. Efforts of the Business-Labor-Industry Community

This component assumes that neither students nor educators can learn what they need to know about work or about the relationships between education and work by insulating themselves from the real world of work outside education. Observational work experience and work study opportunities for students and for those who educate students-teachers, counselors, supervisors, school administrators-should be an integral part of the education process.

For elementary school students, this component is implemented primarily through observations of the world of work gained through field trips and through bringing business, industrial, and labor representatives into the elementary school classroom. For the elementary school teacher, this component seeks to provide the teacher with opportunities to gain knowledge regarding the world of work outside education through actual work experience as well as through observations made in that outside world. In part, this component seeks to supply those students who are leaving school for work with the means to make a successful transition from school to work. While this will not be a major concern of the elementary school, it will become a part of career education for some students.

E. Role of Home and Family

This component recognizes both the right and the responsibility of parents to care about and to influence attitudes which their children develop toward work, toward education, and toward the relationships existing between work and education. It sees the home as a place where work values and the dignity of all honest work can be taught. In addition, it recognizes that if we help students get ready to earn money, we must also help them get ready to spend it, and so assigns a consumer education role jointly to the home and the school. Finally, it recognizes the need to help parents develop and apply means of positively assisting in the career development of their children in ways that will enhance rather than detract from the goals of career education.


The success of career education is seen as equally dependent upon each of its five major components.  Elements of each component have been present in American education for many years. Career education asks that all elements and all components now be put together in a comprehensive career education sequence that will truly make work possible, meaningful, and satisfying to each individual.
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