The Great Resignation and quiet quitting are the disruptive souvenirs of the world’s unexpected journey through COVID-19. Spurred by the pandemic, many Canadian workers reassessed their employment and chose to either physically or psychologically check out. In the first half of 2020 alone, Canada lost approximately 3.4 million jobs (Statistics Canada, 2022), affecting workers and employers alike. It became clear: Canadians need a stronger career development sector—driven by a powerhouse like BCIT alum Dr. Candy Ho—to help workers better navigate the impacts of disruptions like the pandemic in the labour market.

Career development leads to a better future

An advocate and thought leader in the field, Candy has taken her deep passion for and knowledge of career development across Canada and around the world.

An article authored by her states, “Canada’s approach to public employment services is largely “fail first”—meaning that career supports in Canada are often reactionary, targeted to individuals who have experienced a crisis such as a job loss. According to the Future Skills Centre, ‘A more holistic, person-centred, lifelong approach to career guidance could reduce ‘churn’ in the system and help set individuals on meaningful and sustainable career pathways’.”

Through her advocacy work, Candy is focused on creating a brighter future for Canada and beyond. As the Board Chair of CERIC —a charitable organization that advances education and research in career counselling and career development, to increase the economic and social well-being of Canadians—she travels across the globe as a subject matter expert and ambassador to help advance the field. In a post-pandemic world, Candy says this kind of focus is more important than ever.

A thought leader, Candy, who holds a Master of Education and Doctor of Education from Simon Fraser University (SFU), is also an in-demand expert and consultant. She has been invited to speak and work with organizations including Association of Co-operative Education and Work Integrated Learning BC/Yukon, Asia Pacific Career Development Association Conference, Colleges & Institutes Canada, International Network of Employers and University Careers Services, National Association of Graduate Career Advisory Services in Australia, Society of Research in Higher Education in the UK, and the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area in Washington, DC. In 2022 alone, Candy was interviewed by BNN Bloomberg, Global News, CityNews (Toronto), The Star, AM 680, Ottawa Sun, and was a regular contributor to The Globe & Mail.

A career rooted in her history

Candy’s personal path to the field of career development leads back to her ancestral roots.

“Teaching runs in my family,” she says with pride. “My grandfather was a lecturer at a university in China, my uncle was a vice principal at a school in Hong Kong, and my dad trained employees at a manufacturing company.”

With such a pedigree, Candy’s career as an educator would seem like a foregone conclusion. But it took more than a decade before she found her way to the classroom and consulting with organizations—and a deeply fulfilling career that has garnered global recognition for her ground-breaking work connecting career education with sustainable development. In 2022, she received the International Practitioner of the Year at the National Career Development Association Conference, was named the Career Development Practitioner of the Year by the BC Career Development Association and presented with the Rob Shea Research Award by the Canadian Association of Career Educators and Employers. In 2023, she received the Outstanding Career Development Practitioner of the Year from the Asia Pacific Career Development Association.

Finding her way to becoming a career development educator

“The original road was not supposed to be winding,” recalls Candy of her early career in student services at SFU. “It was supposed to be pretty straightforward. I was supposed to stay at SFU, work up the ranks in student services and ultimately find myself in a leadership position there.”

But a six-month teaching opportunity in co-operative education at Kwantlen Polytechnic University changed everything. It was after this experience that Candy realized she belongs in the classroom, developing and teaching curriculum that isn’t based on the usual study areas.

“I’m atypical faculty – a pracademic (practical academic),” says Candy, who is now the inaugural Assistant Professor of Integrative Career and Capstone Learning at the University of the Fraser Valley and teaches in Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Educational Studies department and Douglas College’s Career Development Practitioner Program. “I don’t teach a specific discipline or subject area like business or biology for example.”

Candy’s teaching focus is on career education and transition learning, which proactively supports students when they first arrive at university and when they are about to graduate. Her courses help students consider their educational and life experiences, and how these experiences can help them achieve their short- and long-term goals, to ultimately help them design the life they want to live. They may include experiential components like interactive activities to simulate real-life scenarios like a job interview or developing a plan to reach professional goals.

A career inspired by experiential teaching at BCIT

As a teacher of a practical curriculum, Candy has helped students with both technical and social skills (e.g., filling out a job application and developing a professional network) through methods informed by career development theories. She says her approach was inspired by her time as a student in the Leadership Studies Associate Certificate program at BCIT.

“For my final project at BCIT, I was asked to teach my fellow students how to do something,” she recalls. “I taught the class how to fold an origami crane while telling the story of Sadako Sasaki, a young Japanese victim of the Hiroshima bombings and her mission to fold 1,000 cranes to be well again.”

Candy says that the experience had a profound and positive effect on herself and her classmates: “I had an a-ha moment. From that assignment, I learned that teaching is not about being the sage at the front of the room—experiential learning is a powerful tool that can make learning richer, interesting, and more meaningful. Helping students learn by doing and reflecting on their doing have informed my teaching approach ever since.”

Education as career empowerment

For Candy, her career in education is about empowerment: “I want to empower people to own their lives and be their best selves. But also challenge them to think about the bigger picture of their contributions to the world. While striving toward their career goals, what can they do to have a bigger impact—whether it’s the environment or social justice—on the world?”

BCIT is proud to recognize Dr. Candy Ho with a 2023 BCIT Distinguished Alumni Award at the awards dinner on November 2, 2023.

Learn more about current and past BCIT Distinguished Awards recipients: