Top 10 Challenges
Having been assigned to the Careers Provinces occupational monographs project as a Program Manager with Employment and Immigration Canada, I realized that with the current team of occupational researchers it would take roughly 17 years to produce 700 monographs in English and French in provincially-specific sets (700 x 2 x 10 = 14,000 monographs).
Your Actions: With an idea ahead of its time then, I suggested computerizing the process. I then developed the process and forms to input data in either English or French and have the computer handle translation and printing. The entire series was completed and deployed in schools and employment centers across Canada in under 3 years at a fraction of the original budget.
FLORIDA ADOPTS CHOICES
The Florida Department of Education wanted a computerized career exploration system for its schools in 1977. They invited the authors of 5 U.S. and 1 Canadian system (CHOICES) to an event they called the ‘Super Bowl of Computer Systems.’ The judges were 350 administrators and educators from every school district and college in Florida.
As CHOICES’ author, I presented it in an auditorium to all 350 educators, then assisted them with hands-on interactions with the system in an adjacent gymnasium. The authors of the five U.S. systems did the same. When the final vote was tallied, 93% voted for CHOICES. The system was deployed state-wide and has been used there since.
UNIQUE SALES FORCE
As Director of CHOICES Sales for Canada Systems Group, I was asked to build a North American sales force to sell an expensive computerized career system to counselors and educators with zero tech-savvy and budgets far too small to cover the cost. I recruited reps from among career development ‘stars.’ I asked the leaders of provincial and state professional career development associations to nominate candidates who would be known and respected by their prospects. When I determined my pick for a territory I insisted he or she negotiate a one-year leave without pay from their school district/college. Worst case, my company would be committed for only a year and the rep could step back into their previous job more knowledgeable and valuable to their employer. I offered a 1-year contract that guaranteed their current salary plus 10%, all travel and business-related expenses, plus 15% of over-achievement on an agreed revenue target. I created a network of reps covering Canada and the U.S. that generated $10 million in annual sales. None of them ever returned to their previous employer.
BLUEPRINT FOR LIFE/WORK DESIGNS
I was impressed with the National Career Development Guidelines in the United States and convinced that Canada needed a similar common language learning framework of career development competencies citizens of all ages should master. After years of trying, I finally convinced the federal government and all provinces and territories to undertake a similar project. As Vice President of Global Partnerships at NLWC, I assembled a national advisory committee representing all jurisdictions and major stakeholders, co-wrote the Blueprint for Life/Work Designs, oversaw national training and piloting, and deployment nationally. The Blueprint was adopted and embedded in curriculum and case management systems across Canada. The Americans subsequently rewrote their National Guidelines to incorporate Canadian enhancements, and Australia, the United Kingdom, and Kuwait developed career management learning frameworks modeled on the Canadian Blueprint.
WRITING ONLINE EDITIONS OF REAL GAME
Strong demand was evident for online editions of The Real Game. Although not in my job description as Vice President of Global Partnerships at NLWC, I volunteered to create a digital edition for middle schools and another for high schools. Working very closely with a technical project manager and team, I conceived and wrote over 500 pages of interactive game content with graphics and pictures, including 32 lesson plans for teachers for The Real Game (Grade 7-8) and The Be Real Game (Grade 9-10). These programs are in schools across Canada, the United States, The United Kingdom, Australia, and Greece to this day, and are marketed and promoted by Xello.
When I was a Program Manager at Employment and Immigration Canada I was asked to develop an online computer application to help students and employment center clients explore their career options. I researched existing computer systems, developed specifications for a new interactive system called CHOICES, wrote the scripts for the computer program and the counselor and user manuals, and built and led the team that developed, translated, pilot-tested and deployed the program across Canada. CHOICES was adopted in English and French by hundreds of employment centers, almost all secondary and post-secondary schools in Canada, and thousands of sites in the U.S, including 15 statewide adoptions, and by the national governments in The Netherlands and Turkey. It remained a ‘gold standard’ of computerized career systems for decades and is still in use over 40 years later.
NORTH CAROLINA SAVES CHOICES
When Employment and Immigration Canada realized the strongest demand for the CHOICES computer-based career exploration and planning system was coming from the public education system, which is beyond federal jurisdiction, it was decided to terminate the project. I had recently worked with the Governor’s office, the North Carolina Occupational Information Coordinating Committee, and the NC Department of Education in deploying CHOICES state-wide. I asked the NC CHOICES Coordinator, a personal friend of the Governor, to see if Governor James Hunt would call Minister Cullen and simply thank him, and Canada, for CHOICES. Two days later he did, from California as it happened, and the following day the CHOICES project was back on the rails.
THE REAL GAME SERIES
After keynoting a provincial career development conference in St. John’s, NF the coordinator, Phyllis Mullowney, took me to a small school to see a Grade 7-8 classroom-based experiential learning program called The Real Game. I witnessed students in totally engaged in role-playing adult characters with diverse careers and disparate incomes. The goal was to optimize their character’s lifestyle and happiness and learn the relevance of education to life beyond school. The students were totally engaged and their conversations very adult.
I persuaded all provincial and territorial departments of education of the program’s potential and secured their commitment to collaborate. I mobilized a national advisory committee that transformed The Real Game from an embryonic 8-hour program to a 15-18 hour prototype that was then piloted in 100 schools across Canada and the U.S.A. I led the partnership development and deployment of The Real Game in 15,000 schools across Canada, 30,000 across the United States, and thousands more in the United Kingdom, France, Australia, New Zealand, The Netherlands, Germany, Ireland, and Greece. As many as 2,500,000 students in 100,000 classrooms played The Real Game over a period of several years.
AUSTRALIA JOINS THE REAL GAME NETWORK
Despite my focus on Canada and the United States as NLWC’s Vice President of Global Partnerships, I was approached by other countries seeking rights to The Real Game. For example, when I was presenting at a conference in Wellington, NZ, the person responsible for career development with the Commonwealth Department of Education in Australia asked me about the possibility of bringing The Real Game to Australia. I told her if she could mobilize the states and Northern Territory, with leaders among Australian educational stakeholders, I would be pleased to come and present to them. I was introduced by the Commonwealth Minister in Education, Dr. Foster, to 350 representatives of all educational jurisdictions at an event in the Australian Parliament in Canberra. Within 5 years, all elementary, middle, and high schools in Australia were using ‘Aussi-ized’ editions of all programs in The Real Game Series.
TRANSITIONS CANADA COALITION
Having led national education projects, I know transformative change in K-12 education can only be brought to scale through multi-jurisdiction collaboration. But Canada has 13 autonomous education departments. They share information but very rarely collaborate at the national scale. And the Canadian Government has no jurisdiction over K-12 education. I argued that the federal government could play legitimate convening and funding roles in support of initiatives agreed by multiple provinces and supported by key national organizations. With leadership from the New Brunswick Department of Education, my proposal to create a not-for-profit national coalition, Transitions Canada, was presented to all Canadian Ministers of Education through the Council of Ministers of Education of Canada. Provinces reacted with interest, even intrigue. Still, after two subsequent years of encouraging meetings and presentations, federal support waned with an election, changing personalities, and policies. Employment and Social Development Canada’s Youth Employment and Skills Strategy excludes proposals for youth in the K-12 system. Despite deep disappointment, I’m proud of the effort and remain hopeful that coherent national action will eventually be brought to reimagining learning for Canada’s 5 million K-12 students.