Career Counselors as Partnership Facilitators

By Guy D. Alba

The career counselor challenge of helping to bring rigor to student learning experiences requires them to have relevance. Relevance can be attained by forging partnerships with outside entities such as local businesses. Schools benefit by encouraging relationships with businesses that authenticate learning objectives and tie them to career competencies. As Charles Mojkowski and Elliot Washor (2008) stated, the new 3 R’s in education are Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships. The three R’s can be accomplished by collaborative partnerships


Many small local businesses, individual career counselors, and administrators have the mistaken idea that only large corporations and entire school districts can form partnerships. In fact, many partnerships grow in scope after starting as relationships between an individual counselor and a business (Alba, 2000, Alba 2012). Although partnerships, like most relationships, are not easily labeled, three configurations are mentioned most often in the literature. They are the project-driven, adopt-a-school, and reform model partnerships (Rigden, 1997, Alba, 2000, Alba, 2012). Project-driven partnerships are usually formed to address specific academic or social problems, and they are the most common. The adopt-a-school model usually involves a single school and a single company that concentrate on the symptoms rather than the causes of students’ needs. Reform-model partnerships address strategic systemic change. They frequently develop out of adopt-a-school or project-driven partnerships, but partnerships do not always need to become complex reform-model relationships to be effective and worthwhile. School counselors need to know that strategic planning and assessment are critical to partnerships success regardless of type. Charles Mojkowski and Elliot Washor (2010) suggested, “the missing piece is the development of a culture of relentless and purposeful learning in both the schools and the workplace” (p.5). Willie Pietersen (2002) said, “Culture is not vague and mysterious… Culture always expresses itself through specific values and observable, measurable behaviors” (p.65).


Standards and Indicators for Partnerships


The relationship between the career counselor and principal is a critical element in developing the kinds of collaborative leadership needed to facilitate effective school and business partnerships. In a joint study “A Closer Look at the Principal-Counselor Relationship” by the College Board, National Office of School Counselor Advocacy (NOSCA), the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), and the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), they suggest, “collaborative decisions take longer, but they also last a lot longer. Changing the way people work together changes results more than changing structures do.” (2009). Building on this foundation, the right partners can be attracted.


It is important to have standards and indicators for partnerships. The Partners Affecting Learning (PAL) evaluation model and assessment tool (Alba 2000) was developed to help business and educational leaders, such as career counselors plan, direct and control their collaborative efforts with a focus on teaching and learning outcomes. It is a concise tool designed to guide the partnership process from any point in the relationship. A deliberate effort was made to respect the time constraints of business and educational leaders, including school counselors.


The highest standards of ethical behavior must guide the assessment effort as well as all of the other individual and mutual activities of all partners. The PAL standards and indicators assessment tool follows a five-step partnership development plan:


Five-step Partnership Development Plan


STEP ONE: Needs Assessment – Vision and Mission

Educational leaders in schools document what learning outcomes they want to see in place for students at a given time in the future and the reasons why. This forms their base of accountability. Business and school leaders agree on a concise statement of the broad purpose for the existence of their partnership and how it complements district/school goals and vision.

  • There is a concise statement of the broad purpose for the existence of the partnership

  • The partnership mission statement complements the district and the school leaders’ vision and goals.


STEP TWO: Resource Assessment and Development

The educational leaders in schools explore and develop human, material, and financial resources to turn their vision into reality. It is not the private sector business partner’s role or duty to provide financial resources to public schools. If it is within the scope of the partnership mission, all partners participate in identifying or securing resources.

  • Partners collaborate to address gaps in resources to meet educational goals.

  • Partners carefully and systematically document and report the flow of resources between the partners.


STEP THREE: Goals and Objectives

The partnership develops and documents broad statements of desired and measurable teaching, learning, and business outcomes to facilitate.

  • The partnership has expressed and documented clear and measurable educational goals and corresponding business goals.

  • The partnership goals are communicated to the school faculty, partners, and community stakeholders.


STEP FOUR: Partnership Management

The partnership team establishes management procedures that ensure partnership compliance with board of education policies regarding health, safety, and participant activities.

  • The partnership team clearly defines the roles and participation guidelines for all business personnel who will be working with students.

  • The business partner and the school provide insurance coverage where appropriate for partnership-related activities.

  • The partnership team has an established schedule for the review and revision of management and administrative procedures to facilitate productive changes in meeting educational needs and personnel changes.


STEP FIVE: Documentation an Evaluation

The partnership activities are documented and evaluated to determine their value in achieving the intended educational outcomes. The evaluation process itself is reviewed for responsiveness to changing student needs.

  • A member of the partnership team is directly responsible for documenting and reporting on partnership activities.

  • An appropriate evaluation procedure is included in each partnership activity plan.

  • Evaluation results are reviewed by the partnership team, approved for release, and reported to the entire learning community.


Take A Closer Look

Career counselors and administrators will continue to feel isolated and sometimes even in adversarial positions relative to the business community if they are only viewing each other from a distance through the lens of test scores. School and business partnerships provide opportunities for businesses to take a closer look in a meaningful ways that benefits all. The only real qualifier that must be present in a potential business partner is a dedication to high ethical standards. Only those businesses that have at the core of their existence a dedication to success through ethical efforts and practices should be considered suitable partners in education.




Alba, G. (2012). Partners for learning, not funding. NASSP Principal Leadership, 13(1), 42-47.


Alba, G. (2000). An Evaluation Model for School and Business Partnerships. Providence, RI: Johnson and Wales University.


Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2007). The leadership challenge (4th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Josey-Bass.


National Association of Partners in Education, Inc. (NAPE). (1997). A guide for evaluating partnerships: Assessing the impact of employee, parent, family, and community involvement in education. Alexandria, VA: Author.


National Office of School Counselor Advocacy. (May 2009). A closer look at the principal-counselor relationship; A survey of principals and counselors. Available http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/advocacy/policycenter/PCT-Section-4-Full.pdf


Pietersen, W. G. (2002). Reinventing Strategy: Using strategic learning to create & sustain breakthrough performance. New York, New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


Rigden, D. W. (1997). Sustaining change in schools: A role for business. New York, New York: Council for Aid to Education.


Washor, E., & Mojkowski, C. (2010). Preparing manufacturing’s net-generation workforce through revitalized public/private partnerships. Retrieved from www.bigpicture.org/category/articles/?location=2010


Washor, E., & Mojkowski, C. (2008). What do you mean by rigor. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ766316





Guy AlbaGuy Alba is the creator of the Partners Affecting Learning (PAL) Evaluation Model and the PAL Evaluation Tool tm. He is Principal at St. Margaret School in Rumford, Rhode Island http://www.stmargaretsch.org, and an adjunct professor in the School of Professional Studies at Providence College. He can be reached at galba@stmargaretsch.org


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Phil Jarvis   on Thursday 10/02/2014 at 07:45 AM

Excellent, most helpful article, Guy! We advocate whole-community commitment to career development (See: http://public.careercruising.com/us/en/blog/bl/2014/07/it-takes-a-village!/). Our ccInspire software puts students, teachers, and parents on the same page as career development facilitators, and brings employers, career coaches/Mentors, workplace learning opportunities and diverse community partners (i.e., chambers of commerce, United Way, Junior Achievement) to the same page as well. For more see: http://www.inspirerockcounty.org/

Jodie Bedard   on Saturday 09/03/2016 at 10:31 AM

Thank you for this comprehensive step by step model of how to facilitate a partnership. I will implement this as a guide for my own work in the realm of health care.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the comments shown above are those of the individual comment authors and do not reflect the views or opinions of this organization.