Professional counseling associations, from the National Career Development Association (NCDA) to the American School Counseling Association (ASCA), recommend career-related learning and activities be provided to youngsters (ASCA, 2019; NCDA, 2011). The elementary school years offer significant opportunities to establish the solid foundations upon which later occupational choices can be built. At a time when children are busy taking in information about the world around them, and developing their future selves, counselors have unparalleled opportunities to promote healthy development by addressing and countering the powerfully limiting gender, racial and cultural stereotypes that pervade our social world (Broems & Jackson, 2020).
During elementary school, most children begin to narrow their range of perceived future possibilities (Gottfredson, 1981), and insidious social biases close doors and cut off the opportunities hidden behind them. This reality is brought to life in a compelling two-minute video created for the UK-based charity Education and Employers (2016). In the film children are invited to make drawings of people in three different careers: firefighter, fighter pilot, and surgeon. When real-world representatives of each career step into the classroom the children are clearly shocked, because all of these professionals are women. The surprise registered on their faces brings home the reality of social bias. At the same time, the voice over notes that of the sixty-six drawings created, fully sixty-one depicted men. Broems and Jackson (2020), in their chapter “Antibias career development for evolving identities in elementary school children” issue a call to respond early, and to actively combat stereotyped assumptions.
Elementary school counselors are dramatically underrepresented in the present educational landscape (Curry & Milsom, 2017). Although providing career development services is central to the school counseling role, these activities can be lost in the mix as overburdened counselors focus on immediate, visible, and urgent behavioral and social emotional needs of elementary children. In disadvantaged schools, where so many students bring trauma histories to school with them, the problem is worse. Putting out fires takes precedence to helping children develop and expand a sense of their future occupational possibilities. For children at risk, the need for early career development is deceptively urgent (Bandura, Barbaranelli, Caprara, & Pastorelli, 2001). With few career role models and limited exposure to a range of future occupational possibilities (Gomez & Beecham, 2019) both social and economic factors block young disadvantaged children from the services they need to imagine a hopeful future.
Discovering Untapped Resources
Collaborative initiatives between counselor preparation programs and impoverished schools can be used to fill current gaps in the delivery of essential early career development to disadvantaged children. At the same time, graduate students gain incomparable opportunities to learn, and importantly, be richer as counselors, in understanding the developmental nature of early career development.
There are many opportunities to integrate early career development initiatives via personal or virtual contact into the existing graduate counseling curriculum, such as folding into existing internship expectations. As collaborative relationships develop and blossom, the needs of these youngest students inform and drive type of intervention that will best fit. The possibilities presented below offer an initial preview of successful ways in which a counselor education program and its counseling graduate students are able to both provide something incredibly useful to disadvantaged children, and gain enormously from the experience of doing so.
The current COVID-9 health crisis facing our nation, with millions of Americans sheltering at home, could offer opportunities to embrace collaborative initiatives between higher education and K12 schools. For example,
From the perspective of any counseling student, the opportunity for school collaborations and in-vivo practice is valuable, particularly for graduate students who have not experienced a school of poverty. In engaging with real world challenges and needs, the counseling student can feel orientation to a profession that embraces social justice advocacy and commits to walking its talk- intentionally taking on bias so as to make a profound difference in the kind of tomorrows a child can believe are possible. This article hopes to inspire counselor preparation programs to embrace collaboration with their community's schools, particularly with disadvantaged schools where their help is needed greatly. Adapting training expectations for counselors planning to work with children in school or clinical settings to include delivery of early career development services has potential to result in both better prepared counselors and countless young children receiving decidedly antibiased occupational information and career focused interventions just when their developmental windows of opportunity are most open. It is a powerful opportunity and a compelling call.
American School Counselor Association. (2019). ASCA National model: A framework for school counseling programs (4th ed.). Alexandria, VA: Author.
American School Counselor Association (2014). Mindsets and behaviors for student success: K-12 college- and career-readiness standards for every student. Alexandria, VA: Author.
Broems, V., & Jackson, M. A. (2020). Antibias career development for evolving identities in elementary school children. In M. A. Jackson, A. K. Regis, and K. Bennett, Kourtney (Eds), Career development interventions for social justice: Addressing needs across the lifespan in educational, community, and employment contexts (pp. 3-22). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
Curry, J. R., & Milsom, A. (2017). Career and college readiness counseling in P-12 schools. New York, Springer Publishing.
Gomez, K., & Beecham, F. D. (2019) The “Voice” of children of poverty: Candid insights to their career aspirations and perceptions of selfefficacy. The Urban Review, New York, Springer Publishing.
Gottfredson, L. S. (1981). Circumscription and compromise: A developmental theory of occupational aspirations. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 28(6), 545-579.
Education and Employers. (2016). Inspiring the Future: Redraw the balance [Video]. Retrieved at https://www.inspiringthefuture.org/redraw-the-balance/
National Career Development Association. (2011). Career development: A policy statement of the National Career Development Association. Retrieved from https://ncda.org/"mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org" target="_blank" rel="noopener">email@example.com