Counselors address changes in career counselingThird in a series With a shortage of school counselors in the state, getting students prepared for life after graduation is a tremendous task.
By: Stefanie Briggs, The Dickinson Press
Third in a series
DICKINSON - With a shortage of school counselors in the state, getting students prepared for life after graduation is a tremendous task.
Many working in the counseling field today serve more than one school. Still others come from a teaching background and remain optimistic on addressing career counseling needs for students in their respective schools.
Being a counselor
Ric Ukestad goes between Trinity High School and the Belfield Public School District and has teaching roots. Ukestad has been at Trinity for 27 years. He taught elementary grades in the 1970s and has been a counselor since 1980. He serves 375 students between the two schools.
Tim Schaible serves three schools in the region, including Richardton-Taylor High School and schools in Killdeer and New England. Schaible has essentially been a counselor for his whole career, but has worked in several states.
Scranton Public School counselor Pam Fisher has been at the school for three years and was originally teaching social studies. She also once worked at the KPOK radio station in Bowman.
“There is a need for counselors in our small rural schools,” Fisher said. “It’s difficult to recruit and hire (people).”
Counselor Leanne Benes at Beach High School serves 180 students. She has been at the school for the past 10 years.
Dave Lee of Halliday is not just the counselor, but also the superintendent of the Halliday Public School District. He previously worked as the director of guidance counseling for the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction from 1971-1997.
Dickinson High School vocational counselor Sue Larsen started as a counselor in 1997 there. She works with other counselors in the region who have formed their own group to address the needs of helping students look beyond high school.
Larsen said there are two different groups of counselors.
“There’s the North Dakota Counsel Association and there is the Career and Technical Education counselors, but many counselors are a mixture,” Larsen said.
Seeing the changes
The changes career counselors have are all encompassing. Not only has the job market changed, but the options for finding a job and the skills for jobs have evolved greatly.
Technology’s influence on all jobs is a critical point, but is not everything. Soft or people skills are still more important than ever for employers. Testing students, whether for aptitude or interests, is another part of the change many counselors have seen.
Having worked for DPI, Lee is highly aware of how different tests are today compared to the past.
“I see the biggest changes include moving to the achievement tests and those being scored by computers,” Lee said. “You get the results back immediately.”
Lee prefers the individual paper-pencil tests and having counselors or teachers go over the results with students individually.
“In my opinion, it’s become de-personalized now,” Lee said. “There should be someone there to go over the results with the students. Sometimes kids think they should go into that occupation that comes from the test, but that’s not necessarily true.”
The test results could simply be a pre-cursor of the student’s interests, he added.
Another major change is the job market’s demands for the next generation of workers.
“You see more of a demand from the public sector,” Ukestad said. “As the public sector moves more toward technological careers, it has impacted the need for communication, math and computer skills from one skill to skilled labor.”
Fisher agrees the job market is changing.
“I think I read a statistic where something like 48 percent of the available jobs in North Dakota require some sort of post-secondary, two-year training or certification,” Fisher said. “It’s skill-oriented jobs needed out there. A small percentage of students pursue that career path, so there’s a great demand for jobs that require certain skills.”
Larsen said in the past 10 years as a counselor, the changes in technology cannot be ignored. But with all these choices, how do counselors help students find their future directions?
“It’s much harder for students to decide or make plans because there’s so much out there,” Benes said. “They can get so overwhelmed. To help them, you start in the elementary (level) and give them ideas of what’s out there so by the time they’re seniors with so many choices they have possible interests.”
Narrowing down the choices can be a difficult task.
“You try to get a combination of work value, skills and interest to come up with some proposed career path and take a look at the various job clusters and how their interest, skills and values fit into those 16 clusters,” Fisher said. “I look at as we need to take time to reeducate to get students thinking those terms instead of just five career paths like we once had.”
(Next: Counselors making changes)