I went for a very interesting meeting with CASCAiD yesterday. They sell a variety of products which help to match people to occupations and careers. These are non-psychometric tests that focus on the kinds of things that you like and dislike.

e.g. Would you like a career that involves working with young people?

As you work your way through the programme the sense of what you are interested in is built up and suggestions for possible careers are made. If you are not happy with the suggestions you can refine and rework until you come out with a career you are interested in pursuing. At that point you get a whole load of labour market information which informs your decision further.

CASCAiD argue that users get a lot out of using the system on their own, but they are keen to point out that there is real value in it as a tool for IAG professionals. So no need to worry that you are about to get trapped in a Bruce Springsteen song about how you “got replaced by a machine”.

I was interested in talking to CASCAiD because their system is collecting a huge amount of data about people’s career choices that it would be great to find a way to analyse (potential funders please apply here).

However it also made me think more about the role of technology in careers guidance. In some ways careers guidance has an interestingly conflicted relationship with technology. On the one hand we have approaches that draw from counselling, stressing the holistic nature of the guidance experience. This approach places the human relationship at the heart of guidance and emphasises the value that a guidance professional brings in their ability to probe and understand the client at a deeper level than their stated preference about career choice. To explore and challenge, perhaps problematicising their decision.

On the other hand guidance has been ideologically committed to a discourse around science and rationality. The use of a battery of psychometric tests speaks to this, pushing the idea that the correct appliance of science can solve both personal and social problems. One of the issues with this has been that various scientific tests have often been shown to be both unreliable and filled with ideological values of their own.

CASCAiD’s tool is a much less of a definitive matching tool and much more of an aid to decision making. It helps reveal consequences and possibilities and for this reason seems much more in tune with the normal practice of IAG professionals who have generally had to practice somewhere between the soft and hard poles of the profession.

I’d be really interesting to hear about people’s experience of using technology in guidance and how you feel that this has impacted on the kind of approach that you have taken.

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