The Asia Pacific Career Development Association was organized to provide an international forum for sharing career development ideas and experience in the Asia Pacific region with global perspectives. APCDA held its inaugural conference in Seoul, South Korea in April 2013. The conference included 25 presentations by career professionals from eight Asian countries plus the U.S. Presentations focused on settings ranging from schools to workplace to government agencies. Each session provided a glimpse into an individual professional’s practices, so it is unwise to generalize from these presentations. However, those of us who attended gained a much greater awareness of career guidance practices in Asia.
Our host country, Korea, was well represented at the conference, beginning with a tour of an impressive government-funded interactive museum called Korea Job World that helps youth through adults explore over 100 different occupations experientially. The government has been providing career guidance services since the 1980s. In the past three years there has been a rapid increase in the number of career advisors in schools and use of a computerized career guidance system called CareerNet. The government also provides centers for adults who need career development assistance. The culture places intense pressure on children to achieve a prosperous lifestyle. The population is highly educated, with 80% earning a 4-year college degree. This produces extreme competition for professional jobs.
The history of career guidance in Japan is even more formidable than in Korea. Japan currently has about 37,000 career advisors and there is a strong credentialing and continuing education process in place. A smaller group of professionals call themselves career counselors, and their practices appear to draw heavily on US theorists and practices. Several professionals have been testing theories from the US for compatibility with the Japanese culture.
Taiwan was represented by Industrial/Occupational Psychologists who reported on research studies. They looked for ways to assess work-life balance, work adjustment, and career adaptability, with an emphasis on creating tools that are useful in Taiwan. The presentations were valuable and helped to illuminate attitudes toward work in Taiwan.
Hong Kong was represented by a team that works with community college students on a cooperative education program. The goal of the program is to place the students into a summer internship in mainland China (Beijing and Shanghai). Over the years, interns from Hong Kong have experienced cultural differences between Hong Kong and Mainland China and staff have developed programs to help the students adapt to the cultural differences. One example of a cultural difference is the attitude toward copyrights. While Hong Kong students are very conscientious about copyright laws, they are sometimes asked by mainland employers to ignore copyrights in producing a product. Another example is that Hong Kong students are accustomed to a clear demarcation between workers and managers, with each group socializing separately. But in mainland China many workgroups function as communities, working and playing together. In fact, some placements are in cooperative living arrangements based on work groups, so students are expected to live with the people they work with. The internship program prepares them to cope with these differences.
In Singapore, there are two Career Development Facilitator Instructors who are training career advisors as quickly as they can. The school system, workforce development, and vocational rehabilitation have all requested training for career advisors. Choosing a career has become more complex for Singaporeans as knowledge-based industries and banking and finance have rapidly expanded. Keeping up with new technology and knowledge is increasingly important. Workers are changing jobs much more frequently than in the past. The population is shrinking, so older workers stay engaged in the workplace.
Vietnam began thinking about career development in 1987, but has only recently refocused on it. In line with the government’s priority on human resource development and becoming a “Learning Society” by 2020, the government wants to strengthen career development. The Flemish Association for Development Cooperation and Technical Assistance initiated a multi-year project in five provinces of north and central Vietnam to implement career guidance in the lower and upper secondary schools. A group of leaders began by studying government polices, cultural needs, career-related concerns, and international career guidance practices. They developed a career guidance “portal” which provides instructional materials for teachers and managers, as well as materials for students and parents. The leaders provided in-service training to teachers and managers in the five provinces on the use of these materials. The teachers and managers are preparing to use the materials in their own schools.
In Indonesia, school counselors provide career development services in schools, but workforce development programs are lacking. One career planning program for high school students was described. This program begins with the Career Thoughts Inventory (Samson, Peterson, Lenz, Reardon & Saunders, 2003). It also uses a variety of tools commonly used in the US which have been translated to Indonesian.
Several programs within international corporations were described. Organizations such as IMF/World Bank, Asian Development Bank, the World Health Organization, etc. seek highly skilled individuals. These multi-national corporations actively build a leadership pipeline to ensure that they have the right talents now and in the future. They attempt to retain critical top talents by meeting the employees' career needs. Continuous effort is put into matching the needs of the business and the individuals' career aspirations. One powerful mentoring program in the Asia Development Bank was described in detail, and it was difficult not to be jealous of this employee benefit.
APCDA hopes to gather broader pictures of career counseling in each of our member countries. These will be shared on our website (AsiaPacificCDA.org) as they become available. For the present, we are delighted to have found so many friends in Asian countries who appreciate the career planning processes, theories, and tools that have been developed in the U.S. As NCDA celebrates its centennial year, it is exciting to see the impact the U.S. has had on career counseling practices in the Asia Pacific region. APCDA hopes to observe and report on the ways these tools are adapted to new cultures and values. We expect this vibrant part of the world will soon be reversing the flow of information and helping Americans to improve our career counseling practices as well.
Marilyn Maze, Ph.D., is the Treasurer of NCDA and the Executive Director of the Asia Pacific Career Development Association. She is also a Principal Research Associate for ACT, Inc., and one of the developers of the ACT Profile, replacement to DISCOVER, a computerized career guidance program that includes extensive information about occupations, majors, schools, and other aspects of career planning. She received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Maryland Career Development Association in 2010. She can be reached at email@example.com.