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O*NET in Action:  ASVAB

"O*NET Resources ~ A Piece of the Action "

Defense Department Program Uses O*NET Data To Expand Career Opportunities for Youth

"The benefits of using O*NET data to open up occupational horizons for all ASVAB participants were huge, huge, huge."
~ Dr. Jane Styer, Manager
ASVAB Career Exploration Program

The Defense Department's ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) Career Exploration Program offers tools to help high school and postsecondary students learn about career exploration and planning. Completely redesigned, the program now uses O*NET data to broaden occupational choices for nearly a million ASVAB participants at more than 14,000 of America's high schools annually.

The Need
Developers of the Defense Department's (DoD) ASVAB Career Exploration Program wanted to change its philosophy to emphasize wider career exploration and decision-making among its participants. Students would be encouraged to explore a variety of career possibilities suited to their interests and learn to make decisions based on information about themselves and about careers, instead of being directed to a few occupations that match their current abilities.

DoD changed the ASVAB program from a one-factor model based on general intelligence to a three-dimensional system. It links verbal, math, and science and technical skills to a full spectrum of carefully selected O*NET occupations. The goal is to ensure that all students who participate in the ASVAB program can identify and explore potentially satisfying career possibilities in the private, public, or military sector.

O*NET Role
According to the co-developer Dr. Harley Baker, "O*NET was worth its weight in gold - in platinum - in helping us redesign the program. To broaden the career horizons of participants, we needed some way to tie their ASVAB scores to the kinds of knowledge, skills and competencies that people actually need or use in their jobs.

"O*NET was there, [the information] already collected, very nicely documented, and the database had many elements, not just knowledge and skills but interest ratings as well." Because of its structure, DoD could use the O*NET system to develop a competency-based program linking ASVAB and DoD interest inventory scores to O*NET occupations.

ASVAB's new OCCU-FIND organizes close to 500 O*NET occupations by interest codes so students can quickly identify occupations that match their interests. It presents key information from the O*NET database to help students learn more about these occupations and assess the relative importance of verbal, math, and science and technical skills needed to succeed in them. This is done by linking O*NET KSAs (knowledge, skills, and abilities) ratings to ASVAB scores.

Students can learn about their strengths in these three skill areas by taking the ASVAB. One of the goals of the program is to help students to see their current scores as "snapshots" that will change over time, as will labor market requirements. They also learn about steps they can take to improve or acquire skills and competencies they are likely to need in a fluid job market.

To obtain more detailed information about an occupation, students can link directly to specific career descriptions in O*NET OnLine. The 4.0 version, according to ASVAB Web developers, makes O*NET information easily accessible and understandable for most high school students. Students can also link to specific information in the online version of the Occupational Outlook Handbook and, an updated version of Military Careers.

Key Results
ASVAB participant surveys over the past few years indicate that among students who participated in the program:

  • 76 percent did so because of their interest in making appropriate post high school career and educational plans;
  • 63 percent said the program helped them consider careers they had not thought about before;
  • 62 percent said the program helped them connect their interests and skills with appropriate career
  • choices.

The new online OCCU-FIND was released in April 2003, and the new Web site is already attracting attention. By the end of May, it was logging more than 7,000 hits and almost 500 visits per day. In addition, paper-and-pencil versions of the ASVAB materials are available, cost-free, to counselors and students in more than 14,000 high schools across the country.

Dr. Jane Styer, Manager
ASVAB Career Exploration Program
Telephone: 831-583-2400