My World of Work


Skills Development Scotland have just launched their new website. It is at and is well worth a look. I met a number of people who were involved in the sites development in 2010 when iCeGS was doing some work in Scotland. At the time there was a real buzz about what the site would develop into and so I was very excited to look at it now it has been launched.

The site uses the language of “strengths” to help people to understand what they are good at and how they might use these strengths in their career.

The site has got a number of interactive tools that you need to log in to play with. Unfortunately to log in you need to enter a postcode amongst some other personal information. I pretended to live in Glasgow so that I could get on, but I’m not sure whether you need to do this. I took a personality quiz called “My DNA” which uses pictures to work out what you are like. I found this really difficult to do, but had a go to the best of my ability. It took a long while to do but was interesting.

It diagnosed me in the following way

A natural academic, you have an extremely impressive capacity for deep analytical thinking. You are able to absorb and efficiently interpret extremely complex material. This is balanced with strong communications skills. You are confident about expressing yourself and feel most comfortable when channels of communication are open.

So what do you reckon – is that like me? I couldn’t possibly comment.

The site also has CV builders, job and course search tools. There also seem to be masses of articles and videos etc. I ran out of time before I got bored so that has got to count as a job well done.

I’d be interested to hear what other people think about the site. Especially those who it is targetted at. Is this the best comprehensive careers website yet?


Senior Research Fellow – Vocational Education: Work at iCeGS

We are currently advertising the post of Senior Research Fellow: Vocational Education at iCeGS. We are really excited about this new post as it will enable our Centre to develop our expertise in the area of Vocational Education and to build connections between the worlds of careers and vocational education. I don’t know whether any of the readers of this blog will be interested, but it would be great to get a good field for this post.

Good luck if you think about applying.

University of Ottawa

While I was in Ottawa I met with Kyli Robertson and Claire Cayen who are both career counsellors at the University of Ottawa. I’ve spent a lot of time in university careers services so it was really interesting to find out a bit more about how Canadian services compare to those in the UK.
The University of Ottawa is a major Canadian University which has been around since 1848. The institution has created an interesting online history for those that are interested. But, I was there to find out about how the institution deals with careers. I discovered that in addition to the main Career Services there are also services within certain academic areas e.g. management, law, medicine and education.

University of Ottawa Career Services is a small but welcoming service which is part of a multi-service Student Academic Success Service (SASS). The overall blend of services that is offered by SASS seemed very similar to that offered by a similar service in a UK University. However, as ever, different services are located in slightly different places.

Career Services itself is comprised of a team of eight staff counsellors, but the service used a lot of part-time student workers to fulfil many of the para-professional roles that might be filled by information staff in a UK University e.g. reception/triage, job posting and CV/resume checking. The staff that I met with were impressive and professional, combining good knowledge of the local and national labour markets with strong counselling skills. I got the impression that both the career counsellors and the service itself were more focused on one-to-one counselling than might be the case in a UK university where curriculum based work seems to have increasingly high priority.

The services offered by the Career Services included:

  • One-to-one career counselling (typically a series of 2-6 one hour sessions)
  • Workshops (CVs/resumes, Mock interviews, information about employers or sectors)
  • Psychometric testing and interest inventories (MBTI, Career Cruising and Access Bridges)
  • Employer talks
  • Careers fairs
  • Work with academic staff to subject specific groups of students
  • Occasional work with community groups and schools both to offer out expertise and to help join up services

Staff talked about accessing LMI from a range of sources including Brainstorm (which I can’t find – can anyone help?), Working in Canada and the University of Ottawa’s own institutional research.

We had an interesting discussion about the Career Services use of technology. While the service uses email and the web for marketing to students and for dealing with quick follow up queries they have some reservations about the viability of online counselling. The employer liaison service is using Facebook and LinkedIn and the service provides information via its website. We discussed some of their ethical concerns with online counselling and concerns about what is lost in the face to face experience from a move online.

We also talked about what national frameworks and organisations that they looked to. They were not aware of the Blueprint for Life/Work Design but did use the Essential Skills framework that I blogged about earlier. However, like other counsellors I have talked to they also noted that the occupational Essential Skills information was still far from complete. The Essential Skills agenda continues to interest me and I remain keen to find out more about it. In terms of national organisations they talked about working with the National Association of Colleges and Employers in the US and the CACEE (the Canadian equivalent). They also talked about attending Cannexus and Nat Con.

It was a very interesting visit and I’m really keen to visit another university careers service while I’m here. As with much of this trip I’m finding similarities and differences in pretty much equal measure and I’m still trying to spot the patterns in what I’m seeing.

Career information systems, STEM careers and science as rock and roll

Last Wednesday I got to have a very pleasant lunch with Susan Sowah from XAP. XAP are one of North America’s leading career information providers. They have a wide range of products ( which serve both the schools and adult market.  As with other technology base providers XAP have insights into a wide range of career development practice that can often be difficult to pick up from the perspective of a practitioner in a particular school or careers service.

One of the big trends that Susan and I talked about was the agenda that exists around Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths careers. She felt that by engaging young people in good quality career programmes they were more likely to get interested in STEM careers. This fits with some of the findings that my colleague Jo Hutchinson has been coming up with in her work on STEM careers at iCeGS.

If handled badly the STEM careers agenda can upset a lot of career development practitioners. Many conceptions of careers work proceed from where the client is, rather than from labour market need or policy concerns. Tony Watts described this as the tension between liberal (non-directive) and conservative (social-control) conceptions of what career guidance was really about (see my blog post about this). However, if what Susan is arguing is true then the STEM careers agenda is inseparable from the careers agenda. In other words if we empower people to make wise choices then they will make STEM choices more regularly.

Susan also introduced me to an interesting campaign called iamFirst which seeks to engage young people in science and science careers through music and celebrity endorsement. It is an interesting campaign that I plan to give some more time and thought to in the future.

So thanks to Susan for lunch and getting me thinking about career information systems, STEM careers and science as rock and roll!

Visit to the Canadian Career Development Foundation (CCDF)


Sareena Hopkins, Donnalee Bell and Krista Benes from the CCDF

Last Tuesday I went to visit the Canadian Career Development Foundation (CCDF) in Ottawa. The CCDF is one of the main thought leaders in Canadian career development and effectively function as a research and development hub for the sector. They undertake a huge variety of different projects, which it is impossible to list in full. However, some that struck my eye were:

As a project based organisation with no core funding and a base in Ottawa, the CCDF is extremely sensitive to the current policy themes and directions. As we’ve found at iCeGS the money follows where the politicians lead and the skill for organisations like us and the CCDF is in being able to develop useful strands of work within the tumult of ever changing policy. The CCDF seem to have been particular effective in this, both in terms of continuing to guarantee long term funding and in terms of achieving sufficient influence to actually lead the agenda in many ways.

Given the CCDF’s position I found it interesting to reflect on some of the main policy themes that they described emerging.

The movement of funding to the provincial level. Like many of the other people I’ve spoken to on this trip so far the staff at the CCDF described how funding has moved to the provincial level. Education has always sat at this level, but responsibility for employment and the management of the labour market has increasingly moved to this level. They were more positive about the possibility of local action than others I have talked to and felt that it was still possible to achieve things around career development working with provincial governments.  However, like others I have spoken to they reflected on the recent closure of the Forum of Labour Market Ministers with some regret. This body had the potential to act as a national co-ordinating body around labour market policy and the decision to close it down seems shortsighted.

The decline of youth as an issue.  Staff at the CCDF described how in the past youth transitions to the labour market had been a major policy theme. Much of the CCDF’s work had focused on school based guidance counselling and with young people outside of school. However in recent years with a declining birth rate the youth issue was attracting less attention (and funding). One place that this issue had remained prominent was Newfoundland which is struggling to address mass outward migration of its young people.

The growth of policy interest in aboriginal career development. Interest in aboriginal careers essentially derives from a recognition that this group of Canadians are poorly integrated into the labour market and that they experience a variety of the negative outcomes typically associated with low labour market participation (poor health, drug and alcohol dependency, criminality, low levels of education etc.). Career development is therefore advances as a possible way to re-engage and to provide some level of social mobility.

The growth of policy interest in the career development of immigrant populations. Canada has been fairly open to new immigrants and has typically used immigration to meet demands for both labour and skills. Current predictions suggest that the country will continue to have skill shortages and to utilise immigrant populations to meet this shortfall. However the process of integrating new populations into the Canadian labour market is not straightforward and there is clearly a space for career development to help migrants to deal with the challenges of operating in a new labour market environment.

The development of a culture of evidence based careers practice and policy. One of the most encouraging themes reported by the CCDF was the increasing support for evidence based policy and practice. They described a situation where policy makers were increasingly interested in the evidence base, willing to support its development and crucially willing to listen to what the evidence suggested. In addition they described the development of professionals who were willing and able to support the development of the evidence base.

Professionalisation. As in the UK the career development profession in Canada is currently going through a process of professionalisation. A key element of this is detaching professional associations from therapeutic counselling associations and creating professional bodies devoted to career development. Another key element has been driving the development and implementation of professional standards and guidelines. I’m increasingly forming a picture of the profession in Canada and I’m noting that although there are many similarities with the UK it is much bigger (both relatively and absolutely), that there is generally a higher level of qualification (although as in the UK there is consideration variation) and that the roots of the profession are more squarely within the field of therapeutic counselling.

I found my visit to the CCDF absolutely fascinating and I have much more to write up from it. But hopefully the above observations will prompt a bit of discussion as to whether I’ve got it roughly right or not.