Authors: Josephine Stouter, Psychological Associate, Vocational Diagnostic Unit, Texas Workforce Commission
Keywords: career assessment, VR Transition Counselor, Comprehensive Vocational Evaluation System, CVES, aptitude, achievement, emotional functioning, personality type measures, occupational fields, student’s values
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What do you want to be when you grow up? This is a question we are often asked as children. We all know people who “just knew” from a very early age what they wanted to study and the career they wanted as adults. For these lucky few who always knew they wanted to be nurses, accountants or actors, that is super. Or sometimes early on, one develops an affinity or fascination—almost an obsession—with a single topic like drawing or trucks, and later develops that into a passion or life’s work. Sometimes one’s family background helps to answer the question. A family devotion to military service, health care, or even a family business can help a young student answer the question of what she wants to do in the future.
But for most students, who don’t yet have a clear sense of a calling, passion or a mentor helping to answer questions about what they want to be when they grow up, the process happens over time as they navigate adulthood. Often it is a trial and error process, which can be costly in terms of time and resources.
For students with disabilities, it is the goal of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Transition Counselors and the team of professionals who assist them to identify and develop the potential in their students, and make sure that at every point along the way, they have the supports they need to be successful.
For students and young adults who are still discovering their interests and talents and finding their place in the world, a transition counselor’s role is also to guide and mentor students and help them see in themselves the possibilities in their future.
Career Assessments are Key to Unlocking Success
The value in educational assessments is to help set goals, involve and empower students, and is a starting point to determining what success will look like for each student. The Comprehensive Vocational Evaluation System (CVES) is the only test battery designed and standardized for a person who is blind or has significant visual impairment. The CVES is a neuropsychological, psychological, or vocational service depending on the qualifications of the person administering and interpreting it. The CVES is only administered in person, which meant that during our current in-person restrictions, there was a need for students to receive a remote career assessment.
So, in the summer of 2020, a specialized service was developed to address the needs of some students who are customers of Texas Workforce Solutions-Vocational Rehabilitation Services. Developed by the Vocational Diagnostic Unit (VDU) within the Vocational Rehabilitation Division of TWC, it includes a group of licensed mental health professionals who specialize in assessment with individuals who are blind or visually impaired. The new Vocational Diagnostic Unit Career Assessment (VDUCA or ‘Career Assessment’) meets the need for a student career assessment and may be given either remotely via a video platform like Zoom or Teams or over the phone. Because the Career Assessment is a new service, TWS-VRS staff anticipate a process of improvement in it over time.
“The VDU Career Assessment began with the seed of customer feedback, and particularly from Transition students’ cases. Vocational evaluation helps us take stock of abilities, aptitude and achievement. Career assessment empowers customers with insight on personality, passion, purpose fulfillment, and perception enhancement. These tools help students make better vocational choices while they are navigating adulthood, and ideally light the path to more enriching and stable employment,” said VDU Developer and Evaluator Timothy White, PhD.
The Career Assessment service is specifically designed for students age 16 and older who are at least a junior in high school. Students should have at least a sixth-grade reading level due to the level of vocabulary included in the test measures. The Career Assessment is administered by a VDU evaluator and may take six-to-eight hours to complete, depending on the individual’s pace.
Vocational Diagnostic Unit Career Assessment Process
- The Career Assessment consists of several segments, all of which require the active involvement of the student. First, the student tells her or his own story to the evaluator through a structured, in-depth interview.
- Next, the student is asked several questions and does a few tasks to help the evaluator (and transition counselor) learn more about the student. This includes a brief cognitive screening and measures related to personality, vocational interests and values.
Four specific topic areas are included in the assessment:
- Emotional functioning and mental health screening help the evaluator discern if the student may benefit from specific mental health services. This can be an especially important factor during the current pandemic, as coping with stress may be part of what a student is facing.
- Personality type measures include research on occupations often preferred by particular personality types. Soft skills, such as behavior, attitude, and social skills, are also a part of this factor. Behavior and attitude reflecting social skills and interpersonal relations can be developed with training and experiences to help a student become more successful as an employee.
- Jobs or occupational fields that are of interest to the student are also a part of the assessment. More than one measure is utilized for this step, and multiple options for career development are applied for comparison. Each measure is well-researched with peer-reviewed studies and literature.
- The student’s values related to activities and employment are also examined and very specific questions are aimed at identifying preferences. For example, does the student like to be in charge or not? Does he actively prefer recognition or like to do his job without specific notice of others?
Once the Career Assessment interviews are complete, a comprehensive report provides the roadmap for students and transition counselors. The report includes recommendations for next steps for personal growth and development, gaining work experience, career resources, self-directed career exploration and more. Transition counselors, students, parents and the evaluator discuss the recommendations and how the process can inform an employment plan moving forward. Ideally, results and recommendations provide quality services that help the student reach their employment goal.
Parents or teachers may ask how a student can reliably answer these questions if they have little life experience. The VDU Career Assessment Evaluators understand that although a student’s volunteer activities, work history, and life experiences may be limited, their imagination is not. The Career Assessment is designed to generate responses that are deeper motivational drivers which are more meaningful than simply filling out questionnaires. The goal of the career assessment process is to develop curiosity and to facilitate further exploration about potential careers. Eventually, new career and life experiences can ultimately lead to more-informed career decisions.
To learn more about Career Assessment or other services that the Vocational Diagnostic Unit provides, contact your student’s Vocational Rehabilitation Services Transition Counselor. If your student does not have a transition counselor and you are interested in services, call 1-512-936-6400 or email VR.firstname.lastname@example.org.