April 24, 2014

Survey of Career Trends in Conflict Resolution Highlights Ombuds Work

An article recently posted on Mediate.com summarizes a research study into the employment opportunities in the conflict resolution field.  Maryland-based attorney, mediator, consultant, and trainer, Bob Rhudy based his report on months of interviews with conflict resolution professionals and others across the U.S., and through other research. 

Overall, Rhudy found, "strong optimism that full and part-time career opportunities in conflict resolution are good currently and will expand again in the future particularly as economic conditions begin to improve." However, funding has declined and competition is high.

With regard to the Ombuds profession, Rhudy said:
A number of persons interviewed believe that we are continuing to see a growth in ombuds positions by federal, state, and local government, the corporate sector, health care, and (perhaps) higher education.  See, e.g., Mary Rowe interview summary.  [Rowe is Ombuds, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.]  This is consistent with the perceived increased in-house institutionalization of a range of conflict resolution services by public and private organizations.  (E.g., Emerson, Hicks, Nancy Rogers.  [Rogers is Professor, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.]

“Ombudsmen, or ombuds for short, came on strong in the 1980s.  By 1983, over one thousand individuals were operating as ombuds in government, private industry, and universities. . . . Ombuds combine several ADR processes:  negotiation, fact-finding, arbitration, and simply listening to referral to where help is available. . . .  It is some-times described as the union-free answer to the union grievance procedure, since the ombuds process provides an outlet and solutions to complains within organizations.” Jerome T. Barrett with Joseph P. Barrett, A History of Alternative Dispute Resolution: The Story of a Political, Cultural and Social Movement (2004), pp. 219-220.

Tim Hicks believes the current career growth areas are ombuds programs and organizational conflict management, plus facilitated environmental public policy decision-making, particularly in the western U.S.  He stated that his graduates are “working broadly in the field” (including in human relations offices and nonprofit organizations) even if not necessarily doing what they initially wanted or planned, with about 80% working in fields more or less related to their academic backgrounds.  He believes that employment opportunities are growing both in conflict resolution jobs and jobs seeking conflict resolution skills.

Tamra Pearson d'Estree also believes there are more opportunities for conflict resolution specialists, particularly at in-house positions in government agencies, corporations, and other organizations, than existed twenty years ago.  Ivan Sasha Sheehan identified conflict management job growth especially in the public and nonprofit sectors, and sees his Negotiations and Conflict Management graduate students successfully using their degrees.  “One hundred percent of our graduates benefit from and use their degrees personally and professionally.”
The report is intended primarily for people who may be contemplating or actively seeking to pursue a career in conflict resolution.  (Mediate.com.)

Related posts: Mediate.com Unveils Certification Program; Cogent Critique of Certification; Resources Online and Beyond for the Aspiring OmbudsMediate.com Posts Full Interview With Howard Gadlin.

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