Career planning in Singapore and around the world

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For the first time, Singapore will be hosting the next Asia Pacific Career Development Association conference in 2022. It is a significant industry event where career practitioners around the world gather to learn, network and exchange views and experiences.

It is an exciting milestone event that encapsulates and hinges on a reflection of the career development landscape in Singapore. In a study conducted by Professor Marilyn Maze and her team, they examined and compared career planning philosophies, practices, approaches and services around the world.

Four stages of career planning 

They characterised the phases of development into four stages: Pioneering, Expansion, Institutionalisation, and Maintenance.

In countries at the early Pioneering stage such as Colombia, the population typically has less access to quality career services. Such services are generally available to wealthier elites.

At the diametric end, the practice in countries at the Maintenance stage is far more sophisticated and easily accessible by the population.

There would be widespread institutional knowledge, developed standards and ongoing research efforts to enhance the practice. This would include highly developed economies such as the US, Australia and the EU.

Many countries fall in the middle of this spectrum, as they endeavour to satisfy the aspirations of an increasingly educated population. This is also fuelled by economic objectives to keep the labour force engaged and financial eco-systems productive.

So where does Singapore sit when compared to other countries?

State of career planning in Singapore 

Like other first-world countries, Singapore sets aside substantial funding for career planning services.

Historically, countries like those in the EU and the US have provided career planning services for a century or more. Singapore in comparison has had a much shorter runway.

In the US, efforts are community-driven by universities, professional institutions and local practices. Singapore, in contrast, is largely government-led, to fund and catalyse the development of a new and improved career development service ecosystem.

Career development services in Singapore are provided from the latter school years through to working adulthood.

Over time, this scope of service would progressively expand to become more comprehensive, towards a lifelong service that includes other life stages into retirement and more.

Driving factors differ from country to country, and these differences are distinct in some cases and subtle in others.

Singapore faces common challenges, similar to countries like South Korea and Japan, to find productive employment in an "intensely competitive labour market for a highly educated population" and to address an ageing population.

Snapshot of career development landscape in Singapore

Today, career development service is widely valued by Singaporeans. The availability of career development services has become widespread and accessible.

As a latecomer into the discipline, Singapore has accelerated the development of an ecosystem that aims to be comprehensive, inclusive and professional.

Below is a snapshot of the current career development landscape in Singapore. I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate those who have brought the service to this level of professionalism that it is today.

(1) Career development practices in: 

A. K-12 

  • Education & Career Guidance (ECG) centres set up for primary school, secondary school, junior college and polytechnic students 

B. Higher Education 

  • Career centres managed by private or autonomous universities, academies and schools 

C. Community 

  • National career centres for the general public: CareersConnect, e2i, UPME, and SGUnited Jobs and Skills Centre 
  • SG Enable for people with special needs 

D. Business / Industry 

  • Skills Framework (SFw) to provide key information on sector, career pathways, occupations/job roles, as well as existing and emerging skills required for the occupations/job roles. It also provides a list of training programmes for skills upgrading and mastery. 
  • National efforts were also supplemented by freelance coaches, private companies, professional associations and business federations. 

(2) Competencies that are required for career development practitioners

  • The Workforce Singapore (WSG) Career Development Framework (CDF) is a competency-based credentialing framework for career professionals. It aims to facilitate capability building and enable deeper and broader competency development among career professionals. Additionally, it allows stakeholders in the career development community to uphold professional standards and ethics amongst career professionals.
  • The CDF is developed by Workforce Singapore with input from the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i), who are key stakeholders in the provision of career services for students and adults respectively. It is aligned to international practices in Australia, Canada, the EU and the US, and emphasises the practice component undertaken by a career professional.

(3) Professional training programmes for career practitioners

  • Career Advisory Programme (CAP) - The CAP is an introductory programme for professionals who provide career basic education and career advisory as a secondary role in their work.
  • Career Facilitation Programme (CFP) - The CFP is a training programme for career practitioners who provide education and career advisory service as a primary role in their work. It aims to equip career practitioners with advanced education and career advisory competencies.
  • Career Supervision Programme (CSP) - The CSP is a programme to equip career development supervisors with supervisory skills so that they can supervise career practitioners and manage the quality of career services delivered.
  • Career Management Programme (CMP) - The CMP is a programme for career practitioners in the role of planning, supervising and implementing career services. Upon completion, they will be able to develop and adapt career tools to local contexts as well as promote career knowledge in various local and international platforms.

(4) Credentials available

  • Certified Career Advisor (CCA) - A CCA is able to provide basic career and training advisory (including details on government initiatives such as SkillsFuture etc.) to clients using simple profiling tools in a one-to-one or group setting.
  • Certified Career Practitioner (CCP) - A CCP is able to apply career development theories and tools to help clients make education, career and training choices through effective one-to-one and group facilitation.
  • Certified Career Clinical Supervisor (CCCS) - A CCCS is able to supervise and guide career practitioners to provide and implement effective interventions for clients on a one-to-one or group basis.
  • Certified Career Services Manager (CCSM) - A CCSM is able to plan and supervise the implementation of career services, develop and adapt career tools to local context, and promote career knowledge in various local and international platforms.

Celebrating the progress we made so far 

As a community, we have accelerated the professional development of the practice, which can only function effectively as an ecosystem. Career coaching in Singapore is made possible by many people who mostly join the profession motivated by their passion to serve.

The community consists of public and private coaches, policymakers, public officers, community collaborators and countless allies. And the community will drive continual innovation and adaptation to the evolving needs of the population.

Most of us need help and direction at some point in our careers. Whether you need to enhance your self-concept or to find a suitable job soon for physiological or aspirational reasons, collaborate with your coach.

An entire community's effort has been created to enhance your experience and exposure to an impactful career conversation. They are your partners to help you build a fulfilling, purposeful and inspirational career.

Hector Lin is Sales Director, SEA at impress.ai. He is currently serving as the secretary-general of People & Career Development Association (PCDA) and country director for Singapore in Asia-Pacific Career Development Association (APCDA).