Career Assessment Program Grant Intended to Strengthen Colorado Workforce, Colorado State University Professors Say

Note to Reporters: Photos of Professors Bryan Dik and Kurt Kraiger are available with the news release at

Colorado State University psychology professors have developed an interactive career assessment tool designed to help Colorado’s community college students find occupations that suit their personalities and choose courses to adequately prepare them for those careers.

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded Bryan Dik and Kurt Kraiger $482,906 to test the online assessment system, beginning with 900 community college students next fall. The award comes from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education.

“The Virtual Workforce Assessment Network or V-WAN is intended to help match individuals with potential good-fitting career paths and, ultimately, with specific employers,” Kraiger said.

The website is available at

“This is a public service that is directly tied to our land-grant mission at Colorado State,” Kraiger said. “There are other services like this out there that are private and fee-based, but we provide as broad an assessment as anything currently in the marketplace. It’s free, and it’s connected to the O*NET, which is maintained by the U.S. Department of Labor and is the largest database of occupational information now available.”

How it will work: Students take the assessment, which provides feedback on the kinds of personal attributes (e.g., interests, values, personality, abilities) that are helpful in making informed career choices. Once they choose a profession, the tool will develop an individualized course plan for them – not only picking courses to get the degree required but also to develop the secondary skills required for that profession. For example, a prospective engineer would be directed to an engineering curriculum, but could also be steered to communications or management courses not required to get the degree but useful on the job.

“The idea is to see if we can find occupations for you based on your temperament,” Kraiger said. “Often times, people move into majors or jobs they’re qualified for and they still don’t fit. We want people to choose majors and jobs that “fit” who they are. Using this assessment, you’ll be equipped to make a more informed choice of occupations that could be a good fit than you would be without this information.”

The V-WAN will also benefit the workforce as the information could someday be used to help employers identify potential job applicants who fit well with their unique organizational culture, he said.

The web tool is being designed to list courses specific to Colorado’s community colleges, which have a common course numbering system, Kraiger said. The grant provides enough funding to get data from community college freshmen in 2010 and 2011 and follow them through their choices.

“Do they stay in school? Do they make good career choices? Do they matriculate to a four-year university?” Kraiger said. “We want to test this and provide evidence that it’s actually working a way that’s similar to traditional career counseling, but with the potential to serve a broader clientele base efficiently and inexpensively.”

The project has potential for long-term research, the researchers said. “We’re creating a long-term database of participants so as they leave community college, get jobs, etc., they can opt to stay in the database, which would give us the potential for longitudinal studies,” Dik said.

“We could explore topics like, Which human attributes are the strongest predictors in choosing a successful, satisfying, meaningful career? How do interests, values, personality, and abilities interact in informing good choices? This type of research could be used to refine this tool, and would also inform the whole process of vocational assessment and career counseling.”

Dik and Kraiger have already hired graduate students to help with further development of the assessment system. Undergraduates are also likely to be involved in the research.