Work Values are Important in Career Selection

When individuals make a list of some of the important aspects of career selection they often take into account interests and job skills or abilities but overlook work values. Besides knowing the “3 R’s,” there are several important character traits or work values that lead to career success and satisfaction. According to a study published by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, communication skills and honesty/integrity were the two most important traits that employers valued. Developing these character skills are not only helpful in finding a career but also lead to more satisfaction in a career.

Robert Orndoff (2004) writes in the National Career Development Association newsletter (NACE, 2005) that the “Big Two” career development topics found in most K-12 career development plans are Career Exploration and Job Searching. While both topics are important, he emphasizes that there is a third career topic that often gets overlooked —

Developing career skills and character traits that will make students marketable for top colleges and jobs, and ultimately successful in career and life.

Not only aptitudes are important but how well a student’s personality and natural character fits a job is significant and may be more influential than interests and aptitudes in some cases. Character education needs to be part of the career education process. The COPSystem assessments not only measure an individual’s interests and abilities as they relate to occupations, but also measure work values and may be a good starting point in a character education component of a career guidance unit. The COPES helps students define how values relate to occupations by measuring the importance of such work environment preferences as Leadership, Independence, or being Social.

One of the unique features of the COPES is that work values are related to the COPSystem Career Clusters, shown below.

Science, Professional

Planning and conducting research in math, medical, life and physical sciences.

A. Investigative C. Independence P. Reserved
Science, Skilled

Observing and classifying facts in assisting with laboratory research.

E. Orderliness K. Conformity O. Realistic
Technology, Professional

Engineering and structural design in the manufacture, construction or transportation of products.

A. Investigative B. Practical P. Reserved
Technology, Skilled

Working with one’s hands in the skilled trades of construction, installation, repair and manufacturing.

B. Practical E. Orderliness O. Realistic
Consumer Economics

Preparation and packaging of foods, making and care of clothing and textile products.

B. Practical I. Accepting L. Supportive

Activities performed primarily outdoors such as growing and tending plants and animals.

C. Independence B. Practical N. Privacy
Business, Professional

Positions of high responsibility in organization and administration of business.

D. Leadership F. Recognition A. Investigative
Business, Skilled

Sales promotion, marketing and finance in regard to promotion of business.

D. Leadership I. Accepting J. Carefree

Recording, posting and filing business records with attention to detail, accuracy and speed.

E. Orderliness L. Supportive K. Conformity

Language skill in the written and oral communication of knowledge and ideas.

F. Recognition A. Investigative C. Independence
Arts, Professional

Individualized expression of creative or musical talent.

F. Recognition G. Aesthetic M. Flexibility
Arts, Skilled

Application of artistic skill in photography, graphic arts, and design.

G. Aesthetic C. Independence L. Supportive
Service, Professional

Positions of high responsibility in caring for the personal needs and welfare of others.

H. Social D. Leadership C. Independence
Service, Skilled

Providing services to persons and catering to the tastes, desires, and welfare of others.

H. Social B. Practical L. Supportive

Figure 2. Relationship of COPES Values to Career Clusters

Educating students within the framework of Career Clusters can also help students academically by demonstrating the relevance of their education to occupations. According to Kim Green, executive director of the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium, “Career clusters offer great potential in providing a new framework for career education by promoting academic achievement, fostering successful students’ skills, and meeting new accountability requirements in a more systemic manner” (Career Tech Update, April 2004).

As students begin the career exploration process, it is important for them to have sufficient information so that they will be able to identify the most advantageous career possibilities. With the COPSystem assessments, they can learn more about what interests them, identify and build on their strengths, and explore which types of jobs are most compatible with their personality. Using the results from the COPSystem, students are much more likely to have a more complete picture to prepare them for a career.


ACTE (2004, April 28) Career clusters can provide essential link between CTE and academics. Career Tech Update 4, 15. Retrieved April 28, 2004 from

Orndoff, R. (2004). Developing students’ career skills and academic proficiencies while centering on character. NCDA Newsletter. Retrieved August 1, 2004 from

NACE (2005, January 20). Communication skills, honesty/integrity top employers “wish list” for job candidates.

The CAPS Helps Employers Identify Training Needs

The Bellwood assembly plant, of Borg-Warner Automotive Inc., administered the Career Ability Placement Survey (CAPS) to measure job success and identify work-related areas that need improvement. The CAPS measures eight cognitive dimensions: Mechanical Reasoning, Spatial Relations, Verbal Reasoning, Numerical Ability, Language Usage, Word Knowledge, Perceptual Speed and Accuracy, and Manual Speed and Dexterity.

Employees in most industries are required to adapt to new technology and must be trained in a variety of tasks that may extend outside their formal role, or job description. For this purpose, the CAPS functions as an efficient and comprehensive training and development tool for Human Resources.

The Life Skills program was developed to provide employees with help in basic skill attainment, such that a strong foundation could be established in order to increase their capacity to learn new skills more quickly. This was seen as a critical component of the company’s strategic learning initiative, designed to increase their ability to adapt to changing market conditions by leveraging their human resource capabilities.

All employees who were eligible for a promotion take the CAPS. Reading and basic math skills were emphasized because the trainers believed that improvement in these areas would positively influence performance related outcomes, as well as improve trainees’ personal lives.

The program was designed to last for up to two hundred hours; however, some employees were in the program for as few as forty hours before they met or exceeded their individual training goals. The CAPS has shown that it can be used in a variety of employment and industry settings.

The training needs assessment is an important part of any training program in an organization. Only when knowledge and skill gaps have been identified can a time efficient learning strategy be developed that is linked to an organization’s strategic plan. As such, executive leadership is able to better leverage their human resource capabilities to accomplish long term goals. Additionally, the availability of professional learning and development opportunities communicate an organization’s willingness to promote employee well-being by investing in programs that are designed to aid both employee and employer.

The Link With Leverage

Standards-based report cards use feedback to improve achievement

Remember back to your report cards days? Did you ever find yourself wondering how you received a certain grade? Perhaps you were shocked to see you were marked down when you thought you had worked hard, done all your homework, and passed all the teacher’s tests. Maybe the reverse of that was your experience; you couldn’t believe you got such a high grade, especially when you had missed so much school.

Today, many students and parents are receiving direct and appropriate feedback through standards-based report card programs. This new report card system is directly aligned to the required curriculum standards and serves as a basis for monitoring student progress and conducting parent conferences. Students are no longer in the dark about what they need to do in order to be proficient, and parents are clearer on school expectations.

School districts across the country have started to implement standards-based report cards. Educators report there are challenges and concerns as the new system is introduced, but all agree the results are worthwhile.

Tools that are helpful for teachers to adapt the standards-based model are the Practical Handbook to Standards-Based Classrooms and the Guide for Standards-Based Classrooms. The Guide is a performance-based assessment for teachers so that they may gauge their progress from activities-centered teaching to standards-based practice. After identifying a plan-of-action from the profile, teachers can use the companion reference for professional development.

Districts that have used a standards-based reporting system for five years or more are convinced it is a resounding success by providing students clear, appropriate feedback on their progress. “Once instructional targets are identified and published—in the classroom and on the report card—students see the direct link between their efforts and their grades,” states an elementary educator.

Some teachers report that the standards-based report card and the companion standards-based parent conferencing has contributed to a positive learning climate within the classrooms. “They are no longer guessing at what is important for them to learn,” another educator reports. Students know what instruction is essential and what tests “will cover.” This clarity reduces some of the stress for students and teachers.

Teachers also find that one of the byproducts of the new grading system has been a more thoughtful approach to designing classroom assessments. A fourth grade teacher shares her perspective: “No longer do I view my tests for sorting kids, but for benefiting student learning. My students seem empowered as they understand the quizzes will not be a ‘gotcha’ moment, but rather an opportunity to show what they know and what they still need help with in order to achieve the standards.”

Parents appreciate the standards-based report cards and the direct link to learning requirements. They report a deeper understanding of what questions to ask the teacher about their child’s progress. Home support and resources are easier to compliment the classroom learning. One parent reports: “Knowing what is involved for each performance level is helpful. Now I understand how [the rubrics] support learning.”

At the high school level the degree of use is limited. Translating the standards’ performance levels into a traditional letter grade format remains a challenge. But secondary level teachers are exploring ways to use standards-based rubrics in key projects and senior portfolios.

Standards-based report card programs have demonstrated that providing a direct link between curriculum and grading makes the implicit explicit, and results in a powerful impact on teaching and learning. The Practical Handbook to Standards-Based Classrooms and the Guide for Standards-Based Classrooms make implementing standards-based report cards easy.

Career Education for Students with Special Needs

Career education is important for all students and EdITS offers the Instructional Guide for Career Education kit, as part of the CERES program, to assist special needs students in acquiring skills for occupational planning. Since career education is a life-long process, instructional activities begin at the primary level and extend through the secondary grades. Early activities focus on promoting self-awareness while older students begin to explore options, learn about personal characteristics, and prepare to enter the world of work.

The Kit addresses six career education goal areas for special education:

  1. Economic Self-Sufficiency
  2. Self-Awareness
  3. Academic Abilities
  4. Health and Safety
  5. Civic Responsibilities
  6. Family Living

For each of the goals, specific skill areas have been identified and performance objectives have been developed to assure student achievement in critical areas of skill development.

These skill areas are:

  • Information – gathering or sharing through study and experiences.
  • Problem Solving – through study, questioning or consultation with the appropriate person or source.
  • Attitudes – the motivation and loyalty with which a person approaches and performs a task.

Teachers monitor student progress with the Individual Skill Tracking Record. This record has two blocks, pre and post, for recording the date of introduction and completion of the objective. A reporting slip is given to the child upon satisfactory completion of each skill. Parents are encouraged to follow and record their child’s progress with the Parent’s Tracking Record and Manual provided.

The COPS Intermediate Inventory (COPS II) is an ideal assessment to use in conjunction with the CERES special education program. The COPS II is written at a fourth grade reading level and is easy to administer out loud in a small group or individual setting. The COPS II was completely updated in 2011 with new job titles and wording. Also available is the COPS Picture Inventory of Careers (COPS-PIC) for non-readers. Use of the CERES and the COPS II or COPS-PIC will give special needs students a complete and comprehensive career guidance unit.

Career Education for Everyone

Many U.S. school districts are structuring their secondary schools around career pathways and emphasizing the importance of career education for a myriad of reasons, some of which include the premise that coursework relevance helps student performance and decreases dropout rates. One way to integrate career education into school curriculum and lead students on a successful career path, is the Career Education Responsive to Every Student (CERES) program.

CERES program materials

  1. Elementary Student Workbooks and corresponding Teacher Guides
  2. Secondary Level Infusion and Guidance Compendiums (these contain subject specific career education activities)
  3. K-12 set of Special Education Activities
  4. A variety of supplementary materials that promote collaboration with parents, local businesses, and community organizations

CERES is a K-12 career education curriculum based on a model of career guidance goals that are integrated with basic skills introduction. CERES provides all students in grades K-12, including special education, with opportunities to acquire workplace skills. An added benefit of integrating career education throughout the curriculum is that as students see the relevance of their course work to actual occupations or careers, interest in school increases and dropout rates decline. CERES materials are available for all K-12 levels and include a K-12 kit of special education activities.

CERES also offers training materials that promote the adoption of the program on a school-wide or district-wide basis. In fact, CERES is ideally suited for adoption within a school or district and sets the stage for students to be fully prepared for life after high school in the working world.

Implementation workshops are developed for school staff, district staff, or a consortium representing several districts. One full day of training with a follow-up training 6 to 8 months later is recommended.

The approximately 6-hour training session consists of an overview, hands-on activities, a review of materials, and ends with planning time for classroom use. The overview introduces staff and administrators to CERES and career education.

Activities enable participants to experience first-hand what students are asked to do. When participants leave they know what CERES is, how to integrate career education into a classroom and what their responsibilities and plans are for the future.

If CERES is successfully implemented in a school system, academic achievement should improve, and students will be better prepared to enter the workforce directly or to continue their education. One of the most important benefits of implementing career education in all subjects is that school work becomes more meaningful, relevant and useful, and provides students with more academic motivation. By integrating career education concepts and directly relating them to curriculum, students are able to meet the goal of learning skills that help them succeed both in their academics and their occupations.