New York Career Guidance
Career guidance can be a critical intervention for residents of large cities like New York where the network of educational, training, and employing institutions is too complex and differentiated to be readily understood. Without informed help during the decision-making process, many city dwellers find it difficult to plan courses of action that will enable them to make the most of their career options. As New Yorkers attempt to negotiate the interlocking educational, training, and employment structures, the mediation of guidance counselors may ease their progress into and through the labor market and help them to surmount institutional barriers that restrict their range of choice. Since career decisions are made by both youths and adults, an effective guidance system must aim to serve people of all ages.
A person's career options are affected not only by his personal attributes, but also, to a significant degree, by the availability of family and community resources which can be devoted to the development of his potential and to the pursuit of his goals. "Guidance specialists share with most Americans, the belief that a man is largely in control of his own fate. However, guidance has paid relatively little attention to the ways in which the economic and social status of some families restricts the opportunities for education and work available to their children." In New York, for example, at one extreme we find people with sufficient resources to select and realize any of a large number of career possibilities. At the other extreme are those whose circumstances drastically restrict their opportunities. In the first instance, while guidance may provide a measure of reinforcement to the decision-making process, the determinants for successful outcomes preexist. In the latter instance, socioeconomic barriers to the realization of choice severely limit the potential contribution of guidance to effective decision making.Most New York residents fall between these two extremes. Few are so well situated that they never require or seek formal help in decision making. On the other hand, few are so unalterably disadvantaged that they cannot derive some benefit from guidance, especially if it is combined with supporting services. Guidance cannot produce major social transformations, but skillful intervention can contribute to decisions that may improve an individual's prospects.Certain aspects of the New York labor market which bear upon the provision of guidance services in the city are set forth below. Many of these are discussed in other chapters in this volume.
New York has a heterogeneous population with a substantial component of poor minorities, many of whom are recent inmigrants from rural areas. These migrants have little or no access to informal sources of aid and support (successful relatives and friends) in planning courses of action which will enable them or their children to make secure attachments to work.
The job market has less visibility for those engaged in workrelated decision making in a large city than in communities where there are either a small number of business establishments or where employment is concentrated in a few industries. While New Yorkers may get a bird's-eye view of many different occupations, neighborhood and social isolation prevents large numbers from gaining familiarity with local employment opportunities, including those that offer the most attractive conditions of work and advancement.
New York high schools provide various courses of study which are divided broadly into academic and vocational curricula. Many students are enrolled in the general program, which is a modified version of the academic curriculum with significantly lower requirements that provide limited skills and credentials for college or employment. Students who did not learn to read adequately in elementary and junior high school are usually assigned to the general track.
The city's occupational structure is complex and diverse, and employment requirements have shifted upward; large numbers of occupations now specify educational credentials as prerequisites for entrance and advancement. There are few of the unskilled factory jobs that formerly served as primary points of job entry.
Publicly sponsored vocational training programs have proliferated in recent years, both on and off the job. In addition, New York has many profit-making institutions which provide training in technical and business skills. The constantly changing number and range of training opportunities make it difficult for any one individual to obtain an overview of their requirements, costs, and benefits.
Other aspects of the New York labor market have implications for guidance; the foregoing are noted primarily because they represent circumstances that are distinctive to New York. Using them as guideposts, one can develop a hierarchy of need for career guidance in terms of clientele, settings, and types of assistance. A list of priorities must start with the recognition that the number of qualified personnel and the amount of funds allocated by the governmental bodies which provide the bulk of support for guidance are limited. Therefore, counselors should be allocated with the aim of enabling them to make a significant input into the career decision-making process.
Special attention should be paid to providing an adequate number of guidance counselors at the junior and senior high school levels. It is in junior high and intermediate school that students make their first critical decisions as they select courses and curricula, and it is in senior high school that they decide about their plans after high school.
Since career guidance is concerned with individual educational and vocational decision making, it serves no relevant purpose at the elementary school level. Admittedly, the New York public elementary schools have been malfunctioning for a large proportion of their pupils. Consequently, many students enter high school without the skills necessary to master additional education. This undoubtedly affects their self-image and their approach to career planning.
Points of Interest