Career Development Scene in Singapore
Extracted from Career Network Journal Summer 2021
Career development has grown substantially in Singapore over the past five years. As a new and emerging profession, the full range of roles and functions of career development practice are still largely underexplored and often misunderstood by employers and supervisors of career development practitioners. A scan of limited literature on career development in Singapore provides a casual observer the impression that career development is largely only about preparing and improving clients’ employability skills and placing them in jobs (Asia Pacific Career Development Association, 2019; Employment and Employability Institute, n.d.).
The early generations of career practitioners in Singapore were trained using career curriculums modelled after the Facilitating Career Development training by the National Career Development Association and the Job and Career Transition Coach training by the Career Planning and Adult Development Network. Participants of these training programmes were equipped with various career exploratory frameworks, which included enabling clients to establish their career decision-making styles and career satisfaction through the exploration of their life roles, values expression, and self-concepts (Niles & Harris-Bowlsbey, 2002).
Interestingly, the training received by these first generations of career practitioners (who were mostly employed by public agencies) did not sync very well with the needs of clients visiting these publicly funded career centres. Clients visiting these centres were mostly unemployed and looking to career practitioners for job placements; hence, the nature of their career needs meant these clients were not prepared to undergo a series of meetings with a career practitioner to explore factors leading to career satisfaction. The mismatch of service and needs led to much dissatisfaction and frustration amongst clients and practitioners.
Eventually, a policy shift took place for public career centres to focus their energies to help clients secure jobs, which inevitably led to a perception amongst job seekers and career practitioners that career development is equated solely with the goal of increasing employment and job opportunities for individuals (Tan, 2017). The shift towards focusing on job placements is highly pragmatic in the face of increasing volatility of the markets due to unforeseen factors such as the continual US–China “trade war” (Barret, 2020) and the emergence of global pandemics (COVID-19), which on the face of it works well to protect the economy and shore up employment rates while ensuring as many people as possible are continually employed.
Though relevant, the narrow focus in career development activities around this key area does very little to encourage career practitioners to explore and expand their scope of practice. Without education and challenge, this continual narrow focus will continue to stymie the professional development efforts of career educators, researchers, and the work of the Career Development Association of Singapore to grow the profession and building a business case for private practice to flourish.
The purpose of this article is to flesh out the range of career development activities that career practitioners in Singapore should be equipped to offer to broaden their scope of work, as well as to further initiate discussion and exploration of what constitutes career development in Singapore.