online career building

I’m giving an online presentation to the ACE/CACEE conference in Canada tomorrow.

You can watch the presentation online.

Online career building

You can also download my Powerpoint.


Tomorrow I’m presenting at the Inside Government Delivering Excellence in Careers Education and Guidance. I’ve been asked to talk about the future – which I always like to do.

This is what I thought I’d do

The Future of Career Guidance in the UK

Note considerable debate about career guidance and the rise of our robot overlords. You have been warned!

synthesis papers

A series of papers have been produced synthesising information about career guidance policy across the globe for the up and coming ICCDPP Symposium.

These papers address

I’ve found them to be a really useful set of summaries about what is going on internationally.

We are currently working with LifeSkills, created with Barclays, to undertake some research on the way careers & employability services in UK higher education use resources. LifeSkills are hoping to understand what new resources would be useful for HE careers services.

We are ideally looking for a single response from each careers service. If you think that you could answer on behalf of your service then please complete our survey. There is a prize draw for all entries to win Marks and Spencer vouchers.

Complete the survey – HE Careers Service: Use of Resources 

career coaching handbook

I have just reviewed Julia Yates’ excellent The Career Coaching Handbook in the British Journal of Guidance and Counselling.

View my review of the career coaching handbook.

If you are quick off the mark there are 50 free copies of the review to download.

cameron school

The dust has now started to settle on the election and so we need to start to work out what it all really means. As ever Russell from the Secondary CEIAG blog has been quicker off the mark with his analysis of the situation than me. But it has got me thinking. What will happen to career guidance under this Conservative government?

Eagle eyed readers of this blog might have spotted that on the whole I am not a Conservative supporter. However, it is important to recognise that in the past career guidance has flourished under Conservative Governments and that its recent history under the Coalition may not necessarily be repeated. Tony Watts argued that career guidance offers three main things to “new right” parties like the Conservatives. Firstly he discusses how guidance can be used as a form of social control, helping to foster pro-social (or from a more critical position, pro-government) attitudes and organising people into the positions where they are most needed in society e.g. helping to persuade people to come off of benefits and take low paid work. Secondly he argues that in marketised learning systems and labour markets guidance can be an important facilitator which can make these markets work effectively e.g. by helping people to understand the student loan system. Thirdly he argues that it is possible to marketise guidance itself and turn it into another private commodity that can be bought and sold (and therefore becomes something that the state does not need to provide).

Watts’ three roles of guidance within “new right” thinking remain very useful. I would expect all of them to feature to some extent in the next five years of guidance’s history.

As I wrote during the election campaign the Conservative manifesto offers us few clues about what the party has planned for career guidance. However, recent history suggests some reasons for cautious optimism. The party has largely kept faith with the National Careers Service although the future of this is likely to be influenced by who ends up in charge of DBIS and who ends up as the skills minister. The reappointment of Nicki Morgan as Education Secretary presumably means that the new careers company will continue to be established and that the positive direction shown in the recent statutory guidance will be maintained.

On the other hand there are a number of more onerous signs. Writing on the Conversation, Chris Husbands of the Institute of Education outlines a number of concerns about the future education policy under the Conservatives. In particular he warns of a funding squeeze, an increase in punitive accountability, a narrowing curriculum and continued reform of institutions (e.g. more free schools). Richard Vaughan in the TES makes a number of similar points, highlighting funding, accountability, testing, the narrowing of the curriculum and suggesting that the institutional reform will return more selection to the system. None of this is particularly fertile ground for school based career education and guidance which runs the risk of becoming a casualty to the reduction in funding and curriculum space.

Outside of schools the promised public sector cuts threaten the National Careers Service as well as the activities other remaining homes e.g. in further education, the welfare to work world, local authorities and initiatives like Union Learn. Unless career guidance is clearly prioritised it seems likely that it will be further eroded in some or all of these places over the next five years.

So all of this suggests a mixed picture. There are some green shoots, but also the threat of the activity being uprooted altogether. What is clear is that the Conservatives do not have a plan for career guidance, nor do they, at present have a clear use for it. The job of those of us who care about the activity is to try and make sure that they start to hear some strong arguments about why career guidance is important pretty soon!

Back in March I gave a presentation entitled Teachers, careers advisers and employers: Who should do what and why as part of the Careers Live 2015 event in Leeds.

The folks at Aspire iGen have now turned the event into a short film. It features me and lots of other people talking about how important careers work is.


Careers Live 2015


So we have a winner. It was a complete surprise to me. All of the time that I’ve invested over the last six weeks in checking and double checking the May 2015 website was entirely wasted. The polls clearly got it very wrong. I’ll be interested in hearing more about why they got it wrong from a methodological perspective. However, this is clearly not the main issue for most voters.

The media have been loving this. Everyone likes a twist in the tail, but I think that a lot of the early analysis is jumping to some conclusions that I don’t think are fully supported by the evidence. So I thought I might try and summarise how I think that the election went in a series of propositions. I’d be interested to hear whether people agree or disagree with my propositions.

  1. People in Scotland are fed up with being ruled by English governments that they didn’t vote for. They are consistently to the left of England and have voted for a party which they believe will focus on Scotland but also challenge a number of orthodoxies about the economy and social policy.
  2. The Liberal Democrats have collapsed. The Lib Dem vote was always much softer than the Labour or Conservative vote and after five years as junior partners in the coalition no one knows what they stand for any more (or cares). They are no longer a generic party of protest but nor do they have any clear position – so most of their voters went looking for somewhere else as their home. I suspect that it will be difficult for the Lib Dems to pull back from this.
  3. The Labour Party failed to put a coherent message to the electorate or to inspire anyone. As a result their vote frayed around the edges to UKIP and Greens. They also failed to win over enough Lib Dems or any Tories. The narrative that the media is pushing is that they moved to the left and were punished for it. However, I don’t think that anyone really believed that Ed’s party was actually left wing. They weren’t really anything, that was the problem.
  4. UKIP polled pretty well despite only getting one seat (Thanet hasn’t announced yet). Although I don’t have any time for their solutions to the countries problems, they are clearly connecting with a substantial minority of voters. Theirs is the politics of disgruntlement. The assumption that someone somewhere is doing better than you are and that it isn’t fair. In fact they are mostly a social and economic conservative party, but their voters are more complex than that. My guess is that many of their followers will continue to move around the political spectrum.
  5. There is a vote to the left of Labour in England and Wales. It isn’t very big, but in the Greens it has a real electoral manifestation for the first time. How Labour relate to this is likely to be important to how the party develops post-Ed.
  6. The UK electoral system (and wider constitution) is no longer fit for purpose. It might have worked in a largely two party class-based system, but it is no longer functional. Sooner or later this will have to be looked at through a process of constitutional reform. I think that this has now moved beyond an issue for political geeks.
  7. The Conservatives eventually found a message that connected with some people. This basically went “don’t rock the boat, Ed is weak, the Jocks are coming to get you”. I don’t think that this election is a big victory for Cameron’s vision of Britain, but it has shown that the Conservatives continue to have good populist instincts.

So how does that work as a summary?

Career Development in Policy and Practice: The Tony Watts Reader

Career Development in Policy and Practice: The Tony Watts Reader

Professor Tony Watts is a pre-eminent figure in the field of career guidance. He retired in late 2014 after a 50 year career in the field. This single volume is dedicated to anthologising his work in a way that is accessible to students, policy makers, researchers and practitioners and contains Watts’ most enduring and key writings about career guidance.

The Tony Watts Reader is now available to pre-order online. It is available in paperback, PDF or ebook format.


Yesterday was 1st May – International Workers Day. Various things were being circulated in honour of this around the internet. I particularly liked this picture which I think reminds us that career development and self-actualisation is based on the kind of balance that we strike between our work, life and leisure. Of course we each have a lot of influence on this individually, but our opportunity to influence this operates within a social and economic context.

What the makers of this picture understood in the late nineteenth century, and which many of us seem to have forgotten, is that the social and economic order are not fixed, but rather contestable and open to change. They developed the eight hour movement to fight for this change which was ultimately achieved in the twentieth century as the normal working day. This was not about limiting what people could and couldn’t do (overtime was always a reality, but we used to get paid for it). Rather it was about creating a set of social norms between employers and employees about what it was reasonable to expect. Many of these have crumbled and I think that it is to the determent of all of us.