UpWork Career Mapping


The Career Mapping Story

Imagine we were here today to talk to you about an amazing new career planning resource that is highly secretive, but able to show students a realistic view of non-linear career pathways. In doing so it could identify a multitude of occupations related to a post-secondary program rather than the obvious linear occupations commonly reported.

This type of technology would be welcomed as we deal with the new reality of students having multiple education and employment transitions throughout their careers. Ideally, this technology would be able to take education planning from a process of elimination (focusing on one occupation) to a process of expansion (focusing on multiple occupation options) as careers progress and transition over a lifespan.

For this type of technology to be really valuable it would also tie into Canada’s National Occupational Classification (NOC) System which is the authoritative source on occupational information in Canada. The NOC includes more than 30,000 occupational titles in 500-unit groups.

At first you would think you need to employ expensive artificial intelligence technology to make such career mapping possible. Using artificial intelligence, we could have all the benefits of the NOC information, but also include the following:

  • 918 Occupational units rather than 500. The smaller occupational units would take the guesswork of what post-secondary education is needed for a specific occupation.
  • 30,000+ unique associations that connect post-secondary programs to non-linear career paths. These career paths would show students, in a simple way, how to get from a desired program to a specific occupation. These associations and pathways would be unique as they are not found in any other singular Canadian resource.
  • 6,000+ of the most recent and commonly used occupational title for jobs in Canada. – with many of the newer or less traditional titles not found in the NOC Codes.
  • up-to-date education requirements based on what employers are asking for in today’s labour market. Unlike the NOC that has a major update only every four to five years. Our system can be continuously updated throughout the year.
  • easy-to-follow entry-to-practice requirements that show students the education and experience needed beyond their post-secondary program to land a specific occupation.
  • emerging occupations not yet listed in the NOC with a full description of the occupation, the education required, and entry-to-practice requirements needed.
  • wayfinding advice that gives students help with understanding broad admission requirements to pre-professional and graduate programs if they choose to build on their education.
  • over 100 post-secondary programs mapped with well over 100 occupation possibilities per program.
  • a salary range for each occupational unit.

We would also be able to answer – How do students obtain a specific occupation after graduating from a specific program? And exactly what are the specific education and entry-to-employment requirements needed?  

This would be very helpful, as often government resources or universities list occupations that graduates obtain after graduation on their websites, but they don’t tell students how they got there.  Furthermore, they list occupations at a high field of study level or they put an asterisk saying more education is needed, but again don’t tell the students what education is needed. The path from program to specific occupation remains a frustrating guessing game.

We set out to remove the mystery and to make explicit what is behind the asterisk and to map occupations at the specific program level.

To accomplish this, we divided our research project into five stages.

Stage One:  Designed a methodology and data collection process that

  • Reviewed the admission requirements for more than 140 pre-professional and graduate programs offered at more than 80 post-secondary institutions in Canada.
  • Conducted an environmental scan and detailed analysis of student outcomes/career information as reported by Canadian universities. This information would include occupations that grads were working in or could be working in. This would include institutes like: UBC, UBC-Okanagan, SFU, UNBC, U of Calgary, U of Alberta, Grant MacEwan University, University of Regina, University of Saskatchewan, University of Manitoba, University of Winnipeg, Brock University, University of Waterloo, Carleton, York, U of T, U of T Mississauga (separate website), McMaster, Guelph, Queen’s, Nipissing, U of Ottawa, Wilfred Laurier, McGill, Mount St. Vincent, Dalhousie, University of New Brunswick, UPEI, and Memorial.
  • Analyzed and compared the BC Student Outcomes data.
  • Analyzed the US Occupational Outlook Handbook, as well as labour market information from Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom to compare and contrast with Canadian labour market information.
  • Conducted an environmental scan of 20 universities in the United States and compared what they were reporting their grads were doing against what Canadian universities and the BC Student Outcomes report graduates are doing.
  • Reviewed over 40 career research publications that outlined what occupations grads from specific programs end up doing

Stage Two: NOC classification review

We consulted the NOC classification information for the “education needed” and then did a thorough and lengthy journey mapping protocol that explored how a student would get from their specific degree to a specific occupation. This led to analyzing and mapping the graduation-to-occupational routes from each academic program. It was clear that students were doing much more than navigating straight career paths. Our data captured this, and we developed a mapping process that highlighted the steps these students were taking from their programs to access specific occupations. This led to being able to map the realistic steps students needed to take to build on their studies to find employment or zig-zag in the job market with their current credential.

Stage Three: Mapping employer requirements

We were curious to see what employers required and to compare our data against emerging job trends. For a three-year period, we monitored the latest job ads (e.g., Job Banks Canada, Indeed, LinkedIn, Jobillico, Monster, Career Beacon, Magnet, Talent Egg, Zip Recruiter, Neuvoo, Public Service Commission, and Civic Jobs Canada). We compared and contrasted the education needed as outlined in the NOC with what employers were requiring. We incorporated this information into the “education needed” mapping data set as appropriate.

Stage Four: Literature Review and Environmental Scan

To better understand the education-to-employment transitions of students we conducted a literature review on topics related to how and when students switch programs in their undergraduate education, and what students do to build on their studies through industry professional designations, graduate programs, or professional studies.

To map student pathways, we did an environmental scan of entrance and graduation requirements for hundreds of Canadian undergraduate and graduate programs to see how students migrated through the education system. This allowed us to expand greatly on a non-linear perspective of employment. From here we mapped the steps and education choices someone with, for example, an undergrad Psychology degree would have had to do to become an accountant, or family doctor.

We conducted a second environmental scan to analyze entry-to-employment requirements for both regulated and non-regulated occupations in Canada. We were surprised to find out how many times meeting the entry-to-employment requirements overrode the importance of having an exact degree with a major or minor to access specific occupations. We were also surprised by the differences between provinces. It also enabled us to record the specific occupations that are regulated and map what actions a student would have to take to access the occupation upon graduate.

Stage Five: Consultation with multiple stakeholders

Having a long history of developing provincial and national education and career-related resources, as well as conducting several major research projects, we were fortunate to have access to both students and post-secondary stakeholders. Consultation with stakeholders helped determine the types of information that would be needed to demystify the gaps between labour market information, education planning, and career planning. It is this information that informed the development of our mapping process, terms, and nomenclature to display the career maps.

Today the data in Career Mapping demonstrates how students can get from their degree to their first job and then how they can expand their options through added experiences or further education, or how they can take their first degree and pivot to different occupations if need be.

Career Mapping is the only tool that maps the story behind the labour market information. And we joke that like most artificial intelligence projects today –there are humans behind the technology and we are just that Career Mapping’s “artificial” artificial intelligence team.

And This is the Project We Are Bringing to UFV.