CAREERCODE: A revolutionary new tool to overcome Minnesota’s “skills mismatch” challenge

A major factor in our state’s workforce development crisis is a mismatch between the skills workers have and those required by in-demand jobs.

For example, young people often have little idea what to do after high school. They start a four-year college by default and then drop out—in debt and without marketable skills. Older workers often seek a career change but have little idea how to target their interests or develop the skills necessary for a more fulfilling career path.

But there’s good news: A vocational exploration tool called CAREERCODE can help people at all stages find the occupation and career path best suited to their interests. The tool uses an easy-to-understand method of identifying “interest codes” to “begin a map that lays out a journey into education, career choices and the job market,” according to Kathryn Johnson and Jan Lowe—the veteran vocational consultants who designed the program.

The CAREERCODE service is available through select Workforce Development Centers in Hennepin County for free, or online for a small fee. High schools that want to give their students access can take steps to arrange a pilot program.

CAREERCODE certainly would have simplified my life if I had used it early on in my career search. After my post-secondary education, I had three jobs in quick succession and basically spun my wheels for four years until—by trial, error, and luck—I finally fell into something I enjoyed and could do well.

CAREERCODE begins with a 15-minute quiz that identifies an individual’s top three interest areas. The quiz is a sophisticated tool based on the “Holland codes,” which classify people according to six broad personality types.

Questions determine if a person is:

  • Practical and hands-on (a doer)
  • Imaginative, expressive (artistic)
  • Organized, detail-oriented (organizer)
  • Logical and scientific (investigative)
  • Friendly, connected, a helper (social) and/or
  • Competitive, ambitious, a persuader (enterprising)

After compiling scores, the tool reveals an individual’s three-part “career code,” identifying—importantly—not only things the person likes but also what he or she doesn’t like.

Based on their career code, quiz-takers receive a personalized report that can guide their educational plans and future job search. The analysis can “save years and dollars,” say Johnson and Lowe.

Many young people, for example, enter a nursing program at college, only to discover—two years into it—that the field is ill-suited to their interests. CAREERCODE can help avoid wasted effort and investment of this kind.

Finally, quiz-takers are directed to actual job titles—that is, examples of what people with their code combinations are likely to find fulfilling with appropriate education and training, say Johnson and Lowe.

Individuals who access CAREERCODE through Hennepin County Workforce Centers receive additional services. These include a job-search “strategies” class and a career pathway plan. The latter includes “career ladders,” which lay out where—in a field like advanced manufacturing, the energy sector or hospitality—job-seekers will start, and positions they can advance to in two years, five years or ten years.

In the end, CAREERCODE can help job-seekers avoid three common and potentially disastrous career paths, say Johnson and Lowe:

  • Going to a four-year college based on the idea that a college degree will help them earn more money and get a better job, but without considering what their interests are;
  • Choosing a career based on trial and error—wandering through the labor market without a plan; and
  • Prioritizing money, job security or both, while completely ignoring their own interests, happiness, and satisfaction.

The ability to by-pass these dead-ends and focus on a promising career, based on one’s interests and an understanding of the jobs that fulfill them, will be invaluable in the 21st-century workforce.