Career Counseling Trends in Rural America
By Cynthia Gurne
As we have seen, the federal government is a dominant driver, directly and indirectly, for expanding and sometimes changing the role of career counselors and in creating more job opportunities for counselors. Specialized counseling areas have grown to serve different populations--military in transition, disability, youth, and in support of other government mandated and funded programs.
Recognizing the unique economic and workforce challenges facing rural America, President Obama created the White House Rural Council. One of the Council’s initiatives is support of the USDA Rural Development Program, (in partnership with other agencies) to fund job growth and economic sustainability. The focus is on three areas: the job accelerator program, bio-economy, and health IT economy. Local communities working together can define additional industries and occupations that match the culture and values of the community, while at the same time expanding the strategic vision.
To take a lead role in facilitating these initiatives, Regional Counsels were created. Headed by an Executive Director, their role is to work with multiple counties to support collaboration on programs that attract new business, increase skill readiness of those currently living in these communities, and enhance the talent pipeline. At the same time their role is to facilitate infrastructure changes in housing, transportation, and education to support economic expansion. The critical questions the Council addresses are:
What businesses align with the county’s vision, culture, environment and resources?
How do we attract and retain the talent to support these businesses that are best for the county?
How do we support the growth of existing businesses?
How do we prepare our young people in the county for these jobs?
Career counselors can provide input into the planning and implementation of new career programs by communicating emerging needs of employers and skill readiness of individuals. Often on the frontline of career information, career counselors can gather and share this information to those in broad economic planning roles. For example, there is an increasing need for math and reading skills in farming in order to use highly technical farm equipment and to compete in local and global markets. Being able to communicate these trends to employers in the industry, to individuals preparing for a career, and to those interested in improving their skills is critical.
What are some of the other emerging career counselor roles and job functions in a transforming rural community?
The National Career Development Association (NCDA) has described some of the new job functions in its Career Development Facilitator Program (GCDF).
Helping to Facilitate the Career Planning Processes by working with employers, educational/training programs, industry sectors, and organizations in the public and private sectors to define emerging career paths, competencies required, skill gaps and developmental and training options.
Communicating and Informing individuals about opportunities and providing tools to actively explore them.
Collaborating with Planning Organizations by providing information on the talent pools served and their skill readiness for current and future opportunities.
Rural communities offer an alternative life style to urban areas. As these communities transform themselves to become more diverse, career counselors should familiarize themselves with these changes and be part of the transformation process as a trusted advisor to those entities responsible for planning and implementing the strategic vision.
Cynthia (Cindy) Gurne has had a long career in recruiting, career development and workforce liaison/consultant. She is also producer and host of the Workforce Show. She has authored one other article for NCDA: Promoting Federal, State and Local Incentives for Enhancing Individual Career Development. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org