Career Development International: A Focus on China

by Gemma A. Williams

In November 2005, a delegation of 18 career development professionals traveled as People to People Ambassadors, to Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. The program was co-sponsored by the American Counseling Association and the National Career Development Association. Delegates came from California, Georgia, Hawaii, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Michigan, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington DC. The purpose of this trip was to share ideas about career development and to learn of the status of career development in China.

The delegation visited a variety of settings including universities, a private career consulting company and a community aid center for employment. It became clear to many of the delegates that career development is a relatively new concept in China. Prior to 1989, individuals had no choice in a career path or job. The government assigned jobs for the people of China. Today students have at least two choices: one during their final year in high school when they decide on a major before entering college, and another after they enter the workforce and decide they want to change careers.

Some of the impetus for career development is coming from students themselves. At Peking University for example, students started a Student Association for Career Development with assistance and support from their faculty. The goal of this association is to conduct research on career development in China between 2004 and 2014. Students plan to collaborate with employers to do follow-up research on alumni.

At Beijing Normal University, the Psychology faculty has infused career development into their program. They are also utilizing western theories such as those developed by Holland, Krumboltz, Super, and Myers/Briggs.

At CBP Career Consultants in Shanghai, the delegates gathered insights into career development in the private sector. CBP was the first of its kind to start in 2004. In less than 2 years, over 300 similar companies were established; such explosive growth of private career consulting firms in China poses many challenges to the first career-consulting firms as well as for China. Some of the challenges include how to develop standards or licensure for those new to the profession, how to combine Eastern and Western cultural values, how to ensure human rights as they relate to employment rights, and how to move people from lower to higher echelons in the society.

A third area of exploration was the Shanghai Community Aid Center for Employment. The center provides needy residents with food, clothing, and money as well as assistance in finding jobs such as gardeners, cleaners, and guards. The retirement age for many occupations is 50 for women and 60 for men. Many of these people are laid off when the privatization of government offices results in downsizing to maximize profits. The government provides retraining for other jobs through the Shanghai Community Aid Center and the Senior Citizen University. To encourage laid-off individuals to start their own businesses, the government provides low interest loans and reduced tax. Workers laid-off by the government receive three years of unemployment payments. Those laid-off by private enterprises receive two years of unemployment benefits. If unemployed workers do not attend training programs they lose their unemployment payments.

As delegates visited these institutions, it became clear that career development is in its infancy in China. Delegates were requested to help in developing career programs, setting standards, and establishing licensure. This was an opportunity to share in the practices and theories found in the colleges and universities in the United States. I consider myself blessed to be a part of this delegation to connect with
career development professionals from several states in the United States and from China. The experience has certainly broadened my knowledge and understanding of the people of China. If you are interested in participating in a People To People Ambassador Program you may go to www.ptpi.org for additional information.

This trip was a judicious mixture of professional meetings and cultural experiences. Besides visiting colleges and the private career consulting business, the professional delegation had the opportunity to visit the Forbidden City, Tian'anmen Square, The Red Theatre, The Shanghai Museum, and the Great Wall. For all the People to People Ambassadors, it was a rewarding journey, both professionally and personally.


 Career Convergence welcomes articles with an international connection.

Gemma A. Williams, Ed. D. has been in education for over 20 years, having taught in elementary and high school in Trinidad & Tobago and also in community colleges in Massachusetts and Hawai`i. She received her doctoral degree in Educational Leadership at the University of Sarasota in Florida, a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies in Counseling, and a Masters Degree in History from Northeastern University in Boston.

Dr. Williams has served as a Career Counselor, Academic Advisor, Vocational Counselor, and Job Placement Coordinator. She is currently an Associate Professor/Counselor and the Coordinator of the Maida Kamber Center for Career and Transfer services at Kapi`olani Community College where she received tenure and promotion in 1997. Dr. Williams is a member of the American Counseling Association (ACA), the National Career Development Association (NCDA), the National Rehabilitation Association (NRA), and the National Association of Multicultural Rehabilitation Concerns. Between 2000 and 2002, Dr. Williams held the position of Secretary of the Hawai`i Counseling Association (HCA) and she is currently President of the Hawaiian Career Development Association (HCDA). She can be reached at

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