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Teachers College, Columbia University
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Helping the World to Work

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Helping the World to Work

TC alum Winthrop Adkins estimates his program has been used by 2.5 million people around the world.

Winthrop R. Adkins (Ph.D., 1963; M.A., 1959), Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Education, has long since retired from TC, but his career development program for disadvantaged adults and youth, now in its third edition, is in use worldwide.
In the late 1970s, with America mired in recession and high unemployment (sound familiar?), Adkins drew on theories of John Dewey, Donald Super and others to develop the Adkins Life Skills/Career Development Program. His premise: unemployed and undereducated people need to develop effective psychosocial competencies as much as they need to hone their academic and vocational skills. Through small-group dynamics and carefully designed, multimedia learning activities, the Adkins program helps people learn about themselves and the world of work; set personal goals; choose, prepare for, find, get and keep jobs; and develop long-term careers. Adkins estimates his program has been used in over 2,000 educational and social service agencies and by 2.5 million people in the United States and around the world.
 
“This has been the missing leg of a three-legged stool,” he says. “Until we came along, society dealt with unemployed adults and high school dropouts by teaching academic and occupational skills. But the third leg, psychological skills, weren’t being treated as an area of learning. In order for members of our target group to find employment, they often have to deal with emotional issues and change the way they think, feel and act about themselves and their opportunities.”
 
About 15 years ago, the head of a community college in India, Father Xavier Alphonse, called Adkins to learn more about the program. The two men met, and Adkins described his theory and methods. Last year Adkins and his wife, Dr. Caroline Adkins, met Father Alphonse in Chennai, India, and learned that he had instituted a Life Coping Skills curriculum in some 220 Indian community colleges as part of the college’s rural-to-urban personnel and vocational counseling services.
 
There are also Spanish and Italian versions of the program, developed with funds from the European Common Union. The Italian version was designed and tested as a counseling system in a country that has little access to trained counselors. Adkins’ Institute for Life Coping Skills continues to be involved with issues of employment, training and development in the United States, Italy, India and other countries.
 
Says Adkins: “One never knows the ripples that one’s ideas are going to have in the world.”  
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