September 30, 2020

By BRAD COUGHLIN

While the path to any given career may seem more like a maze, students who change their goals midway don’t necessarily have to start all over.

Sometimes students need education about their education.

Last year, career advisers at Conestoga College’s Career Services met one-on-one with 1,330 students and counselled more than 500 others in workshops. The students they most often see are those who think they’re in the wrong program.

“We can help with career decision-making,” said Karen Shoemaker, an adviser at the service. “(We) help them choose the right program for the career they want to get into.”

Shoemaker said students most likely to switch are those who hadn’t done enough research into their college program, took parent’s or friend’s suggestions, or don’t know what they really like.

For these students, Career Services can help with formal and informal assessments connecting interests to careers.

“A big piece of it is self-awareness,” said Shoemaker, “and that’s something that we always emphasize – good career planning really begins with self assessments.”

But, the service doesn’t choose careers for its clients, it encourages students to research careers for themselves. In order to make well-informed decisions, students should conduct web and labour market research as well as research interviews with people in the field.

Students need to know themselves and the career that best suits their interests.

“We never make decisions for people – it’s just not that easy,” said Shoemaker. “It’s a full range of career-related needs that we help students with.”

The long process, which begins with a decision in high school to go to college and university, is not something most students want to redo.

“What we try to do is give some flexibility so people can extend the path that they’re on or change their path,” said Wayne Morris, Conestoga’s chair of academic administration.

On top of helping students decide on their initial post-secondary college experience, Career Services aids students looking to further their education.

Articulation agreements are contracts between post-secondary institutes, most often colleges and universities, setting guidelines for transfer credits. Students looking to turn their college diploma into a degree use the agreements to enroll into higher levels of education with advanced academic standing.

While students can apply to other institutes and receive advanced standing on a case-by-case basis, articulation agreements are formal contracts streamlining the process and providing a guide for students.

The agreements not only allow students to further their education on one career path, but also allow for the opportunity to transfer credits into another path.

“I think it’s a big advantage for students,” said Shoemaker.

Set up with institutes around the world, from Canada to the United Kingdom to Australia, each articulation agreement offers students different entry standing and degrees.

Shoemaker advises most students to start looking into the agreements at least a year in advance of graduation.

For students looking to study overseas, KOM Consultants is a helpful organization that facilitates applications, transportation and accommodations.

But, in some instances, students need not travel any farther than Conestoga College for degree programs.

Currently offering 11 of them, the college can provide students with a higher level of education that only universities could before.

Where universities are abstract, expecting students to take theory and apply it after graduating, colleges lean more toward applied learning.

“Our applied degrees are really more academically rigorous than the universities because we have the same theory plus the application,” said Morris.

Students can begin their research on the Conestoga College home page by following the “Academics” tab to “Turn Diplomas Into Degrees.”