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Career Counselling overburdened

Career Counselling is in high demand. (Adele van Wyk photo)
Career Counselling is in high demand. (Adele van Wyk photo)

Students unsure about their futures may be out of luck when it comes to getting advice from Dalhousie.

Funding shortages at the Dalhousie Career Counselling Centre means some students have to wait up to two months for career advice. Monica Ebsary, the career counselling secretary, says there just aren’t enough counselors.

“There’s more demand than supply, I’m afraid,” Ebsary says.

According to Dal counsellor Victor Day, the delay is so long because the waiting list has built up over the course of the year. And it’s longer if it’s your first time; once you get your foot in the door, it’s easier to get an appointment

Career Counselling is different than Career Services, though they are both on thefourth floor of the SUB. The latter helps you with the nuts and bolts of finding a job. But if you don’t know what kind of job you’re looking for, Career Counselling is the place for you.

And students need it. Jeanette Hung, one of the two career counsellors, says that academic life can feel like a “pressure cooker,” marked by uncertainty and indecision.

If you go to the Counselling Centre, you’ll get one-on-one attention, with no fee. If you don’t know what to major in, want to switch to another major, are wondering what job prospects there are for any given degree, or are interested in grad school, Jeanette Hung and Christine Moore can help you. If abuse, anxiety, or stress is damaging your academic life, they can help. If you want to get “the courage to do what [you] yearn for,” in Hung’s words, they can help you.

But they are very, very busy.

Hung has seen 800 students this year, just in the group sessions. She works multiple nights a week, even after the centre is closed.

To ease the load, there are five personal counsellors. There’s also one psychologist who deals with learning disabilities. But for these counsellors, the wait is even longer.

Student Services provide the funding for Career Counselling. They ask for more money every year, as does every university department that’s ever existed, and they never get it. There’s a lot of competition, so they have to prioritize.

Bonnie Neuman, the head of Student Services, says they must look at the areas that contribute most significantly to student’s academic success.

Student Services doesn’t expect to make any cuts in career counselling. It’s high priority, particularly because there are few alternatives for students in terms of public mental health services. There are hardly any career counsellors in private practice, and the ones that do exist would likely be out of the price range of the average student.

Neuman says Student Services is doing all they can just to maintain what they have. The budget gets tighter every year. Student Services needs to make budget cuts and press for more government grants simply to maintain the status quo. But financial pressure province-wide doesn’t make the latter likely, and rising enrolment, while helping raise student fees, is also increasing the strain on the department.

Neuman says it is “very unlikely” that Dal will hire any more career counsellors.

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