Quality Standards For Career Centers?

by Howard Splete and Bill Freed

Credentialing in Career Development
Credentialing processes have become one part of our national effort to provide quality standards to career development clients. Specific programs have focused on the training and credentialing of career development service providers, as NCCCs and GCDFs. However, they deserve a working environment that is supportive and meets highly defined standards. There is much diversity in career development programs and centers. They range from independent job placement firms to educational institutions, as college career counseling centers and secondary school career resource centers and to governmental agencies as One Stop Career Centers and to unions as member services. The Workforce Development Act (WIA) (1998) assigns the responsibility of program evaluation to individual states. With the wide number of programs and evaluation procedures, is there a need to have agreement on national basic standards and acceptable certification features and factors?

Three widely recognized Excellence Certification Systems are:

  • The Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award (MBNQA)
  • International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
  • The Rehabilitation Accreditation Commission (CARF).

Common key features of these systems include:

  • an organizational structure reflecting mission and purpose
  • identified core values and principles
  • performance standards based on values and principles
  • detailed framework for self-assessment
  • a third-party review system
  • written feedback
  • technical assistance and training

It seems most appropriate that these common factors be applied to any effective and comprehensive evaluation of career centers and or career and workforce development programs (or related human capital development initiatives).

The Career Development Program Network of Southwestern Pennsylvania Pilot
The Career Development Program Network of Southwestern PA (CDPN)(www.cdpn.net) piloted use of such a detailed framework across WIA workforce programs, state one-stop community career centers, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) welfare to work Industry Initiatives, adult education programs, school to work and youth career exploration projects, and college or community based organizations. These projects served MH/MR clients, ex-offenders, dislocated workers, long-term custodial parent welfare to work programs, and industry cluster focused HR supply chain pilot projects. Through their use of High Performance Career Development Programming standards (HPCD) focusing on self-assessment and Centers of Excellence procedures, the CDPN conducted an evaluation and excellence certification pilot. The pilot initially included eight organizations and expanded to over 30 program teams.

HPCD is based on MBNQA core values including customer driven quality, strategic collaboration and results focus and has full program staff teams assess themselves and their organization and services across five domains including:

  • Vision, Mission, Values, and Leadership
  • Pre-Program: Marketing, Recruitment, Intake, Orientation & Assessment
  • In-Program: Workshops/Training/Education, Career Development, Resource Centers, Support Services, Job Search
  • Post-Program: Job Development, Transition and Exit Services, Job Retention and Advancement
  • Across Programming: HR Focus, Results, CQI, Collaboration, etc.

Participants were aided in identifying areas of strength and weakness and in development of plans for improvement. The use of the HPCD standards provided the needed framework for their efforts. Pilot evaluations indicated that career development programs can be improved by use of this systematic process. These improved programs can support staff in providing quality services for their customers.

We believe that customers of Career Development Centers deserve both - services provided by qualified staff personnel and center programs that meet quality standards. If you are interested in discussion of this topic, please join us at an NCDA Round Table at our Chicago conference on Saturday, July 8th from 4:50 - 6:00 PM. or e-mail us at hhsplete@juno.com or bill@freedlance.com. More on the HPCD and CoE is now available at http://www.cce-global.org/credentials-offered/ccde/art_ccdeoverview

Dr. Howard Splete is Professor Emeritus of Oakland University and is an NCDA Fellow. He has served as an NCDA officer and consulted in the area of Career Development nationally and internationally. He can be reached at Email: hhsplete@juno.com
Bill Freed is adjunct faculty at Duquesne University teaching g-CDF and authored the core HPCD standards and managed the CDPN.net pilot project for Workforce Connections of the PA Economy League, West. He is an Enhanced CDFI Master Level Trainer, WIA Certified Peer Trainer in MBNQA Quality Models and President & CEO of FREEdLANCE Group for Career and Workforce Innovation, CareerWired.com, and WDPN.net. He can be reached at Email: billfreed@freedlance.com

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