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 (http://www.xap.com/Products-Services/Products-Services.asp) 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!