The next three categories deal with the lack of information: 4) lack of information about the career decision-making process, itself; 5) lack of information about one's own capabilities, personal traits or interests; 6) lack of information about occupations and what work is involved and the type of work available; and 7) lack of information about ways of obtaining career information. The final three categories deal with the inconsistent information that students receive that make decision-making difficult: 8) inconsistent information due to unreliable sources;
9) inconsistent information due to internal conflicts, such personal identity and 10) insistent information due to external conflicts with significant others.
Once students have had a an opportunity to learn more about their personal traits in relationship to careers and the type of positions available, they want to actually have an opportunity to learn more right from the source. However, even at community schools, only two percent of students in school-to-career programs experience "a variety of career development activities, school-based career majors, and workplace activity linked to the high school curriculum" (Hershey, Hudis, Silverberg, and Haimson, 1997, p. xviii). In a study by Ryken (2004), 256 students participating in a biotechnology education and training program that linked two high school career academies, a community college, and over 40 biotechnology laboratories in the San Francisco Bay Area were studied over six years. To better understand the role of internships and co-op jobs on student persistence, longitudinal cohort analyses were conducted for six cohorts. A student progression case study approach with combining quantitative and qualitative methods was used (Miles & Huberman, 1994). Ryken identified program milestones and examined individual student progress in reaching each milestone.
It was found that co-op job participation as a community college student is an essential factor in program retention and completion. When this study was completed, all those students who were still enrolled at the partner community college and working to complete the certificate had co-op jobs. Community college students with co-op jobs dropped out at much lower rates (28.6% 20/70) than those students without jobs (100%, 8/8). In addition, those community college students with jobs graduated at distinctly higher rates (60%, 42/70) than students without employment (0 pecent, 0/8). Important to emphasize is that all the students without co-op jobs dropped out of college. Although students were encouraged to take co-op jobs, some decided not to take the related positions but instead work in jobs unrelated to biotechnology due to higher wages. Interviews demonstrated that participants in co-op jobs were committed to program completion, saw more connections between college courses and jobs, and had access to the additional network of supervisors and coworkers who provided academic support and career guidance. Overall, 81% of partner community college graduates found permanent positions in private sector biotechnology laboratories with the strongest job placement connections; another 7% were employed in educational institution labs and the same number in government laboratories, one each was hired for a consumer products laboratory and another in healthcare.
Work experience participation is an important factor in attaining program milestones. As Tinto advocates, the importance of "chang[ing] the essential quality of the academic experience" by creating learning communities (1996, p. 1), paid work experiences provide students with access to a network of adult mentors who encourage and support students' goals for the future. Cooper (2002) adds, students have greater resources from which to draw as transition between high school, college and work. Enhancing the students' networks "facilitate[s] developmental transitions, and thus contribute[s] to a student's educational, vocational, and personal success" (Calder & Gordon, 1999, p. 325). Work experience that connects the academic world to a student's area of study offer the opportunity for them to synthesize knowledge and skills from academic coursework.
In the past, most colleges and universities relied on a number of different approaches for helping students in their quest for majors and careers, which had varying success especially since they were not integrated. These include job shadowing programs, which normally had a low turnout of participation; internship assistance; freshman career development seminars with inconsistent support from faculty members; career and employment services, which were normally on a volunteer basis; career fairs that were attended by a select group of students; and special events, including "Discover Your Major Days," which were also voluntary. Because the retention problem has become more important, due to increased competition among institutions, more schools are beginning to offer actual college career courses (or life planning) that are manditory, graded and paid for by the student. Such courses are proving to much more effective tools in helping students determine their personal interests, majors, and intended careers. They are also shown to increase commitment to the school, as Tinto has argued.
Courses that promote student development on college and university campuses have been popular for about the last 25 years, but increasing in popularity (Smith, Myers, & Hensely, 2002). Haney and Howland (1978) reported that 40% of the 916 institutions they surveyed offered a career course. Twenty years later, a National Association of Colleges and Employers survey found that slightly over a half of the institutions surveyed offered such as course (Collins, 1998). It is expected that the popularity of such an approach will continue to increase (Halasz & Kempton, 2000). Reasons for the increase include the indecision by students (ACT, 2002), as well as changes in the job market and technology, transition to a global economy and the complexities this brings (Smith & Gast, 1998) and financial security. Careers also need to provide meaning and function as an extension of one's identity (Wuthnow, 2003).
Students, however, just as any other population of individuals, are clearly not a homogeneous group where there will be a one-size fits all answer. A number of recent students stress that that the retention issue has complex causes and those who leave the school may be better understood as subgroups. In Perin and Greenberg's (1994) workplace literacy study, students who completed schools were those who attended more than 21 hours of class time, non-completers came for 2 weeks, leavers attended less than 12 hours, and non-attenders were enrolled but never came. Leavers withdrew for different reasons than did non-completers. Dirkx and Jha (1994) designed two models. One categorized learners as completers, continuers, and non-completers, and the other refined the non-completers into early and late non-continuers and stopouts. A majority of non-continuers were classified as "early," or leaving before 12 hours of instruction. The second model more accurately predicted non-completers by considering them in separate groups.
Studies confirm that college students have a variety of development needs, including personal and vocational identity (Chickering & Reisser, 1993). Super (1990) found that traditional-aged college students normally made the transition from tentative vocational preferences to more specific goals and plans. This transition from is not always smooth and can present many challenges for young adults, who frequently change career plans and majors (Terenzini, 1991) or have concerns or anxiety regarding their indecision, lack of confidence about career exploration, or limited knowledge (Mauer & Gysbers, 1990).
The life planning courses integrate self-assessment, personal exploration, and decision making. Only recently have these courses been empiracally tested and "surprisingly little research, however, has been done on the effectiveness of career and life planning courses with college students' high frequency of their use...Thus, although schools provide a career and life planning course for students, the effects of the resulting career development of students are largely unknown" (Johnson et. al, 2002, p. 4).
An extensive review of college career course outcome research by Folsom & Reardon (2003) showed that 31 studies were published on career courses in college between 1976 and 1989, 11 studies published from 1990 to 1999 and only 3 from 2000 to 2003. Reese and Miller (2006) question this inverse trend in studies and note that perhaps researchers believe that the effectiveness of career courses has been established. However, "given that career courses are more popular than ever and that part of this increased demand is attributable to the career landscape changing in terms of complexity and demands, it seems pertinent to make sure that today's career theories and pedagogical methodologies in career counseling are responsive to students' needs and changing demands" (p. 253).
Johnson et. al (2002) hypothocized that students who completed the career and life planning course would score higher levels of career development on each career instrument at posttest than at pretest (instruments were My Vocational Situation, Career Decision Scale, and Career Decision-Making Self-Efficacy Scale) and that students who completed the course would have greater change on each career instrument to pottest than the control group. The course consisted of learning about the world of work and attending the university career library; looking at personality types and the students' scores on Myers-Briggs personality test; focusing on the abilities and career self-efficacy beliefs; discussed values in career and life planning; covering job search strategies and a personal career/life plan;…