Improving Career Studies in Ontario

Career Studies Course

Summary of Feedback

Background

The Grade 10 Career Studies course is a key contributor to the education and career/life planning program in Ontario’s schools. Creating Pathways to Success (2013) describes the vision of this program that sees students as the architects of their own lives, who will leave secondary school with a clear plan for their initial postsecondary destination and the confidence to implement, adapt or revise that plan.

The Premier’s Highly Skilled Workforce Expert Panel’s report, “Building the Workforce of Tomorrow: A Shared Responsibility,” included recommendations that the Ministry of Education “review the Guidance and Career Education curriculum.”

The September 2016 mandate letter directed the ministry to review “the Guidance and Career Education curriculum to ensure that it exposes students to a variety of learning pathways.”

In November of 2016, Minister Hunter publicly stated that financial literacy will become a mandatory part of the Career Studies curriculum.

Career Studies projects ran in second semester of the 2016-17 school year. Twenty-nine teachers in 28 schools customized activities focusing on digital literacy, financial literacy, pathways planning and entrepreneurship. Feedback from the participants was collected through an online survey and associated resources were shared via the province’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).

Feedback collected from the Career Studies project participants emphasized the value of the learning associated with the four content areas and the need for further professional learning related to assessment and student inquiry.

Starting in spring 2017, the ministry conducted engagement sessions with educators, students, and stakeholders across the province on the future of the Career Studies and Civics and Citizenship courses.

Key Findings – Students

Through these engagement sessions, students were asked to provide input about the knowledge and skills they need to prepare for the future and the learning strategies that best support their learning. Responses indicated a need for more opportunities to learn soft skills, basic information about finances, and knowledge that would support their pathways plans.

Students also emphasized an interest in having more opportunities for experiential learning and advocated for more individual choice through teaching methods such as inquiry-based learning.

There were four main themes in the feedback that the ministry received from students:

  1. Students stated that they wanted to gain more knowledge and develop skills, in areas such as:
    • Soft Skills: responsibility, time management, and respect
    • Financial Literacy: taxes, buying a car, saving, mortgages, basic banking tasks like opening an account and paying bills.
    • Career Path Knowledge: the steps needed to find a job, including writing a resume, applying and interviewing, as well as knowledge about a variety of available career paths.
  2. Students expressed a desire to learn through:
    • Experiential education: more opportunities for job shadowing, volunteer experience, and field trips to colleges, universities and workplaces
    • Individualized learning: methods that more explicitly address individual learning styles such as inquiry-based learning.
  3. When asked if the Career Studies course is most relevant in Grade 9, 10, 11 or 12, student opinion varied:  
    • with equal numbers suggesting that there be no change;
    • some suggesting that there be Career Studies options available in multiple grades; and
    • many suggesting that a single half credit was not enough.
  4. When asked to share other relevant information, most students expressed a need for:
    • more exposure to different pathways;
    • specific information about college and university options, such as OSAP, scholarships, and prerequisites;
    • information about how to navigate postsecondary course selection and how these decisions impact future career pathways; and
    • advice on how to job hunt, network, and how to create a resume, cover letter and portfolio.

Key Findings – Educators and Stakeholders

Engagement sessions were also held across Ontario to collect feedback from educators and stakeholders on the content, structure and credit value of the Career Studies and Civics and Citizenship courses.

The participants completed responses to the following questions individually, and in both small and large group settings.

There were four main themes in the feedback that the ministry received from educators and stakeholders:

  1. The strengths of the Career Studies course include:
    • pathway planning, job search, and self-discovery components;
    • the focus on skills and competencies; and
    • the inclusive design of the Open-level course because it is not designed with the specific requirements of university, college, or the workplace in mind.
  2. Areas that could be improved were:
    • the curriculum’s narrow focus on knowledge and facts and duplication of  strands and expectations;
    • the focus on transferable skills for many pathways rather than on one job/career; and
    • the need for greater teacher capacity.
  3. The content and learning that teachers would like added to the course are:
    • financial literacy;
    • transferable skills and global competencies (such as critical thinking, innovation and creativity, collaboration and communication);
    • more diverse pathway destinations (such as skilled trades, entrepreneurship, and the role of entry-level jobs in career exploration).
  4. The content and learning that teachers would like removed from the course are:
    • dependence on Career Cruising and National Occupation Codes;
    • adjusting the curriculum delivery to focus less on teacher or technology guided lessons and more on an inquiry-based approach.

Moving Forward

Based on the results of these engagements, the vast majority of respondents indicated a need for revising the course. Therefore, the ministry is moving forward with a new and improved course that will be implemented beginning in September 2018.

Feedback collected from the 29 Career Studies project participants emphasized the value of the learning associated with the four content areas (digital literacy, financial literacy, pathways planning, and entrepreneurship), and the need for further professional learning related to assessment and student inquiry.

The Career Studies projects for the 2017-18 school year will begin in January 2018 to include representation from all school boards and will continue to explore relevant topics that support students as they prepare for life after high school. 

In addition to feedback collected from these projects, feedback collected through engagement sessions with educators, students, and stakeholders across the province will inform the development of the revised Career Studies Course which will be released for implementation in September 2018.

The enhanced course will include new, mandatory learning on the following key components:

  • financial literacy;
  • career pathway planning;
  • innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship; and
  • digital literacy.

The revisions to the Career Studies Course will help to ensure that Ontario`s students are equipped today and in the future to compete in a rapidly changing and highly competitive global economy. With an emphasis on 21st century learning opportunities, students will be exposed to innovative learning experiences enhanced by technology, and global competencies like creativity, collaboration and global citizenship.

The ministry is grateful for the input from all of the students, educators and stakeholders who supported the work of revising this important course.