Spotlight on O*NET Users: Dr. John J. Horan


John Horan

Professor of Counseling Psychology, Arizona State University

Professor John Horan has worked a vision for more than a decade, and the O*NET database and complementary career exploration tools are key to his vision becoming reality. As a Professor of Counseling Psychology at Arizona State University, Dr. Horan’s vision was to create a Virtual Counseling Center (VCC) through the University’s Center for Research on Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology (CRESMET). By creating something called the “Automated Advisor” using the O*NET database and career tools, Dr. Horan was finally able to bring together key career assessment and planning functions to help make his dream of a Virtual Counseling Center a reality.

Here’s how it works. A person looking for career guidance might navigate to the VCC’s website and find the Automated Adviser tool (http://vcc.asu.edu/auto_advis/index.shtml), which has “O*NET inside” to power its career exploration functions. After creating an account, the website directs the user to take the O*NET Interest Profiler and Work Importance Profiler assessments. Then, the user simply clicks on the “Career Assessment and Planning” tab on the website, and behind the curtain, as a result of deft programming by John’s son, Sean, all of the information one could desire about occupations that align with the user’s interests and work values is located and brought to the fore. The O*NET database provides the details of tasks, work styles, work context, etc., while the Occupational Outlook Handbook data is the source that the Automated Advisor uses for showing the career prospects of occupations most closely matching the user’s interests and values. Links to those targeted occupations take the user immediately to relevant videos among hundreds available, to show the user what one does in specific occupations. Additionally, Sean’s expert PHP programming skills make it possible to see all relevant career information served up immediately?€”and all the “work” is transparent to the user taking advantage of the counseling.

The Automated Advisor and Virtual Counseling Center ideas did not hatch fully formed, of course. “Many years ago, I developed and experimentally evaluated an interactive computer program that changed irrational beliefs contributing to low self esteem. Then a student and I decided to apply the same concepts and procedures to the irrational career beliefs of young women,” John explains, tracing the history of today’s marvel. “When Netscape 3 began supporting automatic audio, we took our work directly to the Internet. I knew where this was going. I knew what we could eventually make, using these new capabilities. We can overcome irrational career assumptions, not just for young women-but for any of us!” John found it tough going at first. He was not able to gain traction with the Counseling and Counseling Psychology fields to fund the work. “Eventually CRESMET saw what we were doing. They knew that Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology occupations were woefully under populated with women.” Supported by a National Science Foundation grant, CRESMET “saw what I was doing and asked me to do it for them. At last I had a platform.”

Look around the Virtual Counseling Center (http://vcc.asu.edu/). This wonderful place on the Internet is the larger dream that John nurtured for more than a decade, and today’s reality is about more than just career assessment and planning. In addition to its core assessment-related functions, the VCC also offers many research-based resources for helping students and graduates develop life skills and career plans. For example, it boasts “Academic Skill Building” resources, and the resources in the “Enhancing Life Skills” are expansive. Titles such as Rethinking Drinking, Children of Divorce, Smoking Cessation, Relaxation Training, are just a few of the programs a visitor can access. Today’s VCC is more than just career assessment and planning-- John Horan has taken it to the next level and tirelessly developed a true counseling center.

Despite the VCC’s resounding successes, John will tell anyone that his vision is not fulfilled yet. “To make TAA and the VCC a reality we needed a good programmer who could download and merge many, disparate databases. We also needed grant support. This still remains the situation today,” John explains. However, even more breakthroughs and applications for the VCC loom on the horizon: The new Arizona State School Board requirement that every Arizona student must develop an Education and Career Action Plan (ENCAP) could prompt exponential use of the Automated Advisor. “The VCC can add a couple of tweaks to The Automated Advisor program, enabling 500,000 Arizona high school students to fulfill this graduation requirement in collaboration with their parents and counselors-all for free! I had hoped to get grant support for doing this, but Arizona is in a horrific bind.” The VCC is a tool shed packed with outstanding free resources such as the O*NET database; the effort welcomes more parties to step up with more enhancements-databases, tools and expertise to enrich the Automated Advisor and Virtual Counseling Center to their potential. “We get 6,000 new visitors a month. I’m hopeful that we will win more grant support as people see the scalability in this effort.”

Are you developing a relevant evidence-based resource in the career, academic, and/or life skill areas? Are you interested in jointly submitting a research proposal to enhance The Automated Advisor or Virtual Counseling Center? John invites you to collaborate. “Let us talk!” he exclaims.

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