Workforce Counseling: A Conceptual Model to Better Prepare High School Students for the School to Work Transition

By Brian C. Preble

Globalization, intelligent machines, job redesign, economic instability, and ultra-high technology have altered the world of work (Frum, 2012; Gordon, 2010; Savickas, 2005b). Individuals envision a future comprised of changes expected to dwarf those of previous eras (Gardner, 2007). Adolescents lacking skills and training may end up on a path of successive low-wage jobs, without benefits and/or upward mobility (Donahoe & Tineda, 1999).

A need for extensive career education is in order (Ornstein & Hunkins, 2013). Rapidly-changing information may seem confusing and conflicting (Collins, 2010). Career counseling should include adaptability (Brown, 2002; Hartung, Porfeli, & Vondracek, 2008), as current students are expected to average 10 occupations throughout their career (Savickas, 2005a).

Research led to the creation of a conceptual model of workforce counseling to better assist students with the transition from school to work (Preble, 2017). It defines the nature and substance of interactions and activities of counseling and career development, focuses on the development of skills, abilities, and attributes employers’ desire, and incorporates labor market data. Workforce counseling is composed of five elements: workforce foundation development, career awareness, occupational exploration, self-awareness, and work experience. Elements interplay, complimenting each other (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Conceptual Model

Workforce Foundational Development
Workforce foundational development includes developing an understanding of the world of work. It is comprised of the following topics: why people work, work ethic, work in society, and preparation needed for gainful employment. It also promotes and introduces the development of marketable soft and technical skills, which increase employability. In addition, workforce foundations include knowledge of the attributes needed for obtaining and maintaining work as well as the development of functional documents (e.g., resume, cover letter, recommendations, and references).

Career Awareness

Workforce counseling employs Super’s (1957) seminal definition of career, lifestyle. To add, it depicts career as a journey or Homeric odyssey comprised of multiple unforeseen occupations, instead of a singular “path.” Career awareness links education to career, cultivating an understanding of work, the economy, and the influence work plays on an individual’s life.

Occupational Exploration

Occupational exploration assists with a more thorough understanding of the different varieties and opportunities for work. Exploration allows for the identification of desirable jobs, pay, education, and training needed to enter specific occupational positions. Importantly, data regarding national and local projections for specific jobs is included.

Self Awareness
Self-awareness assists students with the identification of occupations of interest and the creation of future career goals through the development of understanding one’s strengths, deficits, abilities, talents, and interests. Self-awareness also helps develop character and self-efficacy. Heightened self-awareness allows individuals to recognize their motivations, better understand others, and identify the manner in which others may perceive them.

Work Experience

Workforce counseling advocates that all students should participate in gradual exposure and participation in the world of work. Work experience assists in the development of an adolescent’s work history, allows for exposure, and the learning and application of both soft and technical skills. Work experience can take many forms. Workforce counseling promotes observation and brief “try out” periods such as community service and volunteering, and long-term commitments like internships and part-time employment.

Delivery should be systematic and school-wide, and activities vertically aligned (Table 1). Administrative support is needed for full implementation. Counselors take an active participatory and leadership role, yet successful delivery requires the support and participation of the greater school community. School counselors should routinely and casually conduct career conversations that include discussion of skill development, trending occupations, and opportunities for exploration, such as job shadowing, volunteering, and part-time work. Open-ended and ambiguous questions which lead to discussions on the need to develop career adaptability and career resiliency ought to be used (Preble, 2017).


Workforce Counseling at a Glance

Table 1.







Workforce Foundations





Introduction to work, and soft and technical skills



Soft skill



Introduction to ASCA

Mindsets and Behaviors


Soft skill



Job search techniques





Soft and technical skill development


Interview training and simulation




Technical skill application



mock job interviews


Portfolio refining









4-year plan

Class presentation—

Introduction to career clusters and the world of work


Career Cruising assessment


Targeted career panels



Cost of living





Career Day


Career data seminar (BLS OOH)


Career planning




Post-secondary education and vocational training

seminar and individual planning






Non-traditional career fair


Career Key assessment



Research project


Field trip—local employers


ROP/CTE course


Field trip—

postsecondary education and vocational training


Job shadow


ROP/CTE course












Counseling session— self efficacy

Myers Briggs Typology Indicator


Individual interview—

goal setting and self-efficacy


Evaluation session—narrative and motivations






Volunteering, assisting, shadowing, & observing

ROP/CTE course




Part-time work







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Collins, N. C. (2010). A conceptual model of career development to enhance academic motivation (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. (UMI No. 3407392)

Donahoe, D., & Tineda, N. (1999). Human asset development and the transition from school to work: Policy lessons for the 21st century. ResearchGate. Retrieved from http://www.researchgate.net

Frum, D. (2012, August). America the anxious. Newsweek, 160(7/8), 26-42.

Gardner, H. (2007). Five minds for the future. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Gordon, E. E. (2010, June). The future of jobs, talent creation, and what the “cyber-mental” age will mean to everyone. T+D, 64(6), 42-47. Retrieved from http://www.hrbartender.com/https://ncdaconference.org/aws/NCDA/am/gi/Training.pdf

Hartung, P. J., Porfeli, E. J., & Vondracek, F. W. (2008). Career adaptability in childhood. Career Development Quarterly, 57, 63-74. doi:10.1002/j.2161-0045.2008.tb00166.x

Ornstein, A. C., & Hunkins, F. P. (2013). Curriculum foundations, principles, and issues (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Preble, B. C. (2017). Conceptual model of career counseling for better preparing students for the transition from school to work. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. (UMI No. 10605582)

Preble, B. C. (2017). Embracing ambiguity in preparing students for the world of work. Techniques: Connecting Education & Careers, 92(1), 24-27.

Savickas, M. L. (2005a). Life design: A paradigm for career interventions in the 21st Century. Journal of Counseling and Development, 90, 13-19.

Savickas, M. L. (2005b). The theory and practice of career construction. In S. D. Brown and R. W. Lent (Eds.), Career development and counseling: Putting theory and research to work (pp. 42-70). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley and Sons.

Super, D. E. (1957). The psychology of careers. New York, NY: Harper & Row. 

Brian C. Preble, Ph.D. is a counselor at North Salinas High School in Salinas, California. He recently completed his doctorate in Occupational and Technical Studies at Old Dominion University. Dr. Preble is a professional educator with over twenty years of full-time and part-time counseling and teaching experience at secondary and tertiary levels. His research interests include: workforce development, technology education, CTE, nontraditional post-secondary options, and career counseling and guidance, specifically preparing students for transition from school to the postmodern world of work. Dr. Preble can be reached at bpreb001@odu.edu

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