What’s it about?
NATCON's mission is to showcase ground-breaking research, facilitate multi-stakeholder dialogue and generate original insights that will inform public policy and organizational practices across the full range of economic and social issues that affect career development and workforce learning decisions in Canada.
Career Development Focus
Career development efforts typically focus on individual needs and career path building strategies to improve labour market prospects for individuals. Program supporters look for measures of success such as promotion of individuals into higher level jobs, entry into desired industry sectors, and completion of training programs as part of a career path plan. Through the career development aspects of the event, employers, sector councils, practitioners, governments and other career development stakeholders will be exposed to networking opportunities, best practices and resources on career development decisions in Canada.
Workforce Learning Focus
Workforce learning initiatives typically focus on establishing outcomes and results that will benefit the organization and workplace as a whole. Program supports look for measures of success that may include productivity and performance improvements, reduced cycle times, reduced waste of materials and better communication with peers, customers and supervisors. Through the workforce learning aspects of the event, governments, businesses, labour, sector councils and other community stakeholders have the opportunity to network, consult and develop action-oriented strategies for improving education and learning initiatives for the workforce.
Who will attend?
NATCON will bring together the advocates of individual career development strategies with champions of organizational educational and learning strategies. These two target audiences will benefit through exposure to each other—the two worlds of individual and organizational learning and development will gain insights and knowledge of the underlying issues and motivations of the other. Employers and workplace education program developers will learn about what truly motivates individual employees to take part in such programs. Program marketing and design efforts could then be targeted more effectively, leading to optimal attendance and completion rates. Similarly, career path development experts would learn about employers’ motives for offering workforce learning programs, and could encourage individual employees to capitalize on employer-sponsored learning opportunities to further their own careers.
Disconnects between organizational strategy and training for individuals ultimately affects employer, union and employee buy-in of training in negative ways. A simultaneous dual-training focus on the individual and on the workforce or organization will help to ensure that the training plans and delivery are genuinely relevant to the learning needs of both workers and their employers. By attending NATCON 2008, advocates of both organizational learning and individual career path development will see the connections between organizational development and individual career strategies, allowing them to target their efforts and communicate results effectively.
CONSULTATION OVERVIEW & BACKGROUND
Initiated in 1975 by Employment and Immigration Canada (EIC), the National Consultation on Career Development (NATCON) has grown from a small invitational consultation of federal and provincial officials on vocational counselling into a major annual event, focused on career development and other workplace issues. Participants from across Canada and abroad congregate annually for the three-day meeting. NATCON brings together a wide variety of people working in the career development field (such as: Sector Councils, practitioners, managers, employers, product developers, labour market analysts, researchers, etc.), who apply their expertise in contexts spanning skills development, apprenticeship, career counselling, employment, training, and educational settings.
NATCON provides exposure to innovative interventions, programs, services and resources designed for a vast array of clients, including: immigrants, workers in transition, adults reintegrating into the labour force, people in need of skills upgrading, students, aboriginals, peoples with disabilities, culturally diverse groups, and many more. NATCON provides resource developers and Sector Councils an easy to access way to disseminate new products, programs and services or focus test resources under development. It provides a convenient and large-scale forum for researchers to share their latest findings with practitioners who can use the results in the workplace to promote skill development, enhance literacy, facilitate a lifelong learning culture, and generally promote workforce integration. It provides also a high impact forum where policy makers can make practitioners and researchers aware of new policy directions and their impact on practice or research agendas. The consultation provides the opportunity for those working in private, public and education sectors to consider issues connected to human resources and career development through an exchange of information on new theories and approaches in all areas pertaining to career development. NATCON has become a highly respected venue where professional associations honour leading innovators in the career development field and celebrate their accomplishments.
Over the years, NATCON has developed a proven formula for success. The event is not a typical conference, in that it is focused on applying research and policy development into practice, and in addition promoting the sharing of innovative resources and approaches to helping clients successfully integrate into the workplace. The NATCON formula for success has been translated to highly successful regional events in many provinces, e.g. Alberta, (Building Tomorrow Today, held at the end of the last week in April in Edmonton), British Columbia, Atlantic Canada, Québec and Ontario.
In 2001, 94% of NATCON participants rated the program as either excellent or good. In 2003, the figure was 95%, indicating the stable nature of the quality of the program. For the first 11 years, NATCON was hosted by the federal government. In 1987, the Career Centre at the University of Toronto, in partnership with the Counselling Foundation of Canada and HRDC took over the planning and hosting of NATCON. In mid-November 2001, the University of Toronto indicated that it would not continue the partnership after NATCON 2002.
Given the level of impact on the Career Development community and time constraints, the Canada Career Consortium (CCC) was approached by HRDC to coordinate NATCON 2003. This was a logical choice in that the CCC, in cooperation with partners, coordinated the development of Snapshots of Career Development Innovation at NATCON 2001 and 2002 The snapshots promoted to NATCON participants, 28 innovative sectoral career resources, available in both official languages. An evaluation of Snapshots by participants clearly indicated that they exceeded expectations with respect to the quality of the event in all areas.
The CCC is committed to assisting Canadians in transitions, through strategic alliances that contribute to the development and delivery of quality, timely and relevant sectoral career information resources that can be used to enhance workplace integration. It is an alliance of public, private and voluntary sector partners and NGOs involved in research, development, distribution and support of career information resources. CCC partnerships include: federal government departments and agencies, provincial/territorial governments and agencies, industry sector councils and council-like organizations, education and training organizations, career practitioner organizations, career resource developers, employment equity groups, communities of interest, and the francophone career development community. NATCON extends the traditional CCC role beyond a focus on career information to a wider focus on career development and workplace integration.
Over the years, the focus of NATCON has drifted somewhat from it's original focus as a consultation to become more like a regular conference. To ensure that NATCON 2003 retained its practical orientation, remained focused on practitioners, and regained its unique role as a consultation and dissemination vehicle, the event was directed by a National Advisory Committee, representing diverse perspectives and voices from different stakeholder groups within the career development community. Sub committees were formed to review proposals, obtain keynote speakers and coordinate a communication strategy. The Advisory Committee operates according to a consensus-seeking decision-making model, whereby differences of opinion are discussed and clarified and alternatives openly explored, until unanimity is achieved. Goals have been established to ensure that the event addresses the needs of all constituencies, including practitioners, researchers, trainers, academics, policy makers, managers, supervisors, and end users. The committee strives to make NATCON an opportunity to celebrate career development that is uniquely Canadian, building on the history of NATCON, making the transition as seamless as possible, while respecting the status of the event and bringing in new ideas.
This focus carried over to NATCON 2004, providing interactive sessions for the skill development of service providers and supervisors, opportunities for two-way information exchange (consultation), opportunities to disseminate research findings, and a venue for connecting a wide range of professionals involved in career development. The CCC recognized the level of expertise that NATCON staff developed over the years, and continued to work diligently to access these resources while developing a strategy to streamline and enhance procedures for coordinating the consultation and provide the best possible program. Accordingly, NATCON is a vehicle to keep career development on the public agenda and through the NATCON Papers provide an ongoing resource for policy makers, researchers, academics and practitioners that will help them remain current in their knowledge of the field and enhance the quality of the services they provide.
Labour Market or Skills Issues Addressed Through NATCON
Prior to NATCON 2008, it was one of the largest bilingual international events of its type addressing career development and workplace-related issues. Numerous national career development initiatives hold planning meetings in conjunction with NATCON. Since a large number of key practitioners and leaders attend NATCON, it is a convenient time and place to connect with other key players in the career development field. The combination of resource fair, information sessions, skill development workshops, and adjunct meetings, makes NATCON relevant to a wide range of career professionals and to the clients they serve.
To be more specific, NATCON provides a forum to address the following skills and issues:
Labour Shortage Issues:
NATCON sessions offer career counsellors, career advisors and other career practitioners, updates on the latest and most innovative tools and techniques to help Canadians integrate into the workplace. Government departments, Sector Councils, researchers, labour market analysts, and private resource developers have access to practitioners, agency managers, and others working in areas similar to their own, to share information and learn from each other about the best practices and leading edge developments in the career-related field. This allows the career professionals to keep abreast of new developments and return to their constituencies and implement what they have learned. Sessions offered recently include: Meeting employment needs of new immigrants, Creating career opportunities through regional economic development, Counselling Strategies and Employment Options for Literacy and Unemployment, and numerous sessions focused on redesigning jobs, organizations, and work environments so that human potential is more fully developed. Increasingly, there are sessions dealing with Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) and other issues involved in credential recognition of resident Canadians and immigrants. NATCON is the only venue in Canada that addresses such a wide range of issues in a forum that is so easily accessed by such a wide range of people working in the career development industry.
NATCON sessions address workplace skills on at least two levels. First, NATCON offers skill development opportunities for practitioners and others involved in delivering workplace services to clients. Helping practitioners increase their own skill level and develop a broader repertoire of skills is instrumental in providing more effective services to clients. The sessions in NATCON 2003 were indexed according to level of practice, making it easier for those new to the career development field to speed up progress through their learning curve, and those more experienced in the field to identify session that were of particular relevance. NATCON sessions also are indexed according to the competency areas they address, making it easy for participants to select sessions that are of particular importance to their own personal professional development goals. Second, NATCON sessions provide practical suggestions that increasingly have been field tested and demonstrated effectiveness, for addressing the skill development needs of clients. This increases the availability of services that help employees or potential employees to upgrade their skills in order to meet labour market demands. Sessions offered recently include: Helping low-tech clients find high-tech jobs, Transferable skills analysis, New developments with Sector Councils, Effective workshop facilitation techniques, New labour market online services, etc. Other sessions had a more specific focus such as helping young offenders to develop the skills they need to obtain and maintain meaningful employment, Career portfolios for immigrants, Career development in rural and remote communities, or non-traditional job development for persons with disabilities.
In order to address the skills shortage issue and help clients integrate into the workplace, it is essential that the Career Development Community have access to reliable, meaningful, timely, useful and cutting-edge career and labour market interventions that reflect accurately the realities of the labour market nationally and within the provinces/territories and address the skill development needs of both themselves and their clients. There is no other venue in Canada that provides these opportunities on such a large scale and across such a broad range of application.
Creating a Lifelong Learning Culture/Attitude:
Several NATCON sessions address staff development and life long learning needs of employees. These sessions can help employers to recruit, develop, and retain key staff needed for success, while providing opportunities for employees to update and improve their skills. Sessions offered recently include: Achieving goals through staff development, Addressing gender equity in the workplace, Sustaining life-work balance, and several sessions focused on PLAR to help individuals assess their learning needs, review their commitment to upgrading, and identify the resources they need to accomplish their goals. NATCON is the ideal forum to facilitate development of a positive attitude that promotes a lifelong learning agenda for both clients and career development professionals.
Increasing Workforce Participation:
Many NATCON sessions address the specific employment needs of disadvantaged, under-employed and under-represented people. This includes older workers, single parents, aboriginal people, parolees, high school drop-outs, youth, disabled, lesbian, gay, transsexual, transgendered, women, ethnic minorities, new immigrants and lower income people. Sessions offered recently include: Career planning for women, Resources for hiring persons with disabilities, Barriers and counselling techniques for working with older workers, Academic and career choices for lesbian and gay young adults, Work transitions for mid-life women, and Aboriginal perspectives on career identification.