Career Planning in Practice

Career Exploration: Career Portfolios and the COPSystem

Educators have long recognized the importance of connecting educational experience to the world of work. A variety of approaches have been taken to demonstrate to students the relationship between academic coursework and occupational activities. One such approach is to assign students a semester or yearlong project, for instance a “career portfolio,” which would combine elements of both of these areas. The COPSystem may be used to assist students in clarifying personal interests, abilities and values relative to occupations and determining which occupations might be worthy of further investigation. The following example illustrates the use of career portfolios in conjunction with COPSystem assessments.

Career Portfolios at the Sophomore Level

The teachers and guidance department at a medium-sized high school developed a program to tie students’ coursework to various occupational activities. The purpose of the program was to assist students in planning and achieving educational goals, to relate these goals to occupations and to better prepare students for entry into the workforce through acquisition of job skills, knowledge and work experience. All sophomores were required to build a “Personal Portfolio of Career Investigation.” These portfolios were built in the process of completing two research tasks, two job activity tasks and a final presentation.

First, students were asked to set a career goal by documenting personal and career-related experiences. At this stage, students took the COPS, CAPS and COPES which were used as a starting point for students to begin exploring occupational areas. Each student established his or her career goals after discussing the COPSystem scores and interpretive information with a guidance counselor. In part two of the research phase, students conducted in-depth research on the occupational area of choice. After researching a particular occupation or occupational area, students were required to write a short paper defining the occupational goal, describing the steps necessary to achieve the goal, and explaining how the goal related to personal attributes.

Following the research stages of the program, students completed two job activity tasks based on the worksheets in the COPSystem Comprehensive Career Guide. First, students chose an organization in the community that related to the research done in steps one and two. Students connected with local businesses and participated in job shadowing, internships, volunteer work and after school jobs. In the fourth step of the program, students worked with a job mentor to develop a long-term plan for the future. These plans included selection of high school courses and exploration of college majors and/or training programs offered at local businesses. At the end of the year, each student assembled all of his or her work and presented this portfolio to a group of teachers, counselors and other select individuals. Students were encouraged to include both information about particular occupations and the skills gained from job activity experience.

Senior Portfolios

At University City High School, students complete a Senior Portfolio. Students are mentored by a teacher or staff member who makes sure that they stay on target. These portfolios include a Senior Essay in which the students describe something that is important or the direction that they would like to take in their life. They complete a resume and a college or employee application. The portfolios also include educational accomplishments and an example of the district Applied Learning Standards. Students are required to present work from their portfolios before a panel of community members, parents and teachers.

As part of this portfolio, students use the results of the COPS Interest Inventory. Students take the COPS in the 10th grade and this is kept on file until their senior year. Taking the COPS in the 10th grade helps students choose appropriate course-work related to their career interests. During their senior year, they use their COPS results to choose their top three Career Clusters in order to do more occupational research and exploration.

By involving students in occupational exploration and job activities, educators can help students comprehend the wide range of available career options and empower students to plan and develop the skills necessary to pursue career goals. The COPSystem instruments can be a useful tool in this process.