A difference that counts: the National Careers Service one year on

The National Careers Service has just published a summary of its activity called A difference that counts. It is short and punchy and worth a read.

There are not very many surprises in it for those who are familiar with the National Careers Service. However some issues of tone and emphasis that might be worth a mention are:

  • the paper flags the importance of pilot collaborations with Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs);
  • the targetting of the service towards various key groups is strongly emphasised – although their is also an articulation of the universal reach of the service;
  • there is a greater focus on young people than might be expected given the focus of service delivery so far. It is possible that this is part of a move of the NCS into the youth arena. The big question related to this is obviously whether there will be more funding to support this;
  • there is less discussion of the phone service that might be expected given the importance of this channel of delivery; and
  • there is a lot of discussion of the web channel and particular enthusiasm for social media as a delivery mechanism.

I’d be interested to hear if other people take the same messages out of the document that I do?


Bill Watterson: A cartoonist’s advice

This is a brilliant cartoon from Zen Pencils using a quote from Bill Watterson the cartoonist who was responsible for the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon. The cartoon sets out the challenges of career building and explains the need to sometimes resist cultural expectations to be happy and genuinely live up to your potential. It also shows the importance of addressing work/life balance in career decisions. I thought that it was really powerful and so wanted to share it with people.

BILL WATTERSON: A cartoonist’s advice.

The dangerous lure of Careers Smurf

Careers Smurf
Careers Smurf

Over the school summer holidays you have to take your intellectual inspiration where you can find it. So like thousands of other parents I was dragged along to the local multiplex to see Smurfs 2. The film is pretty bad and really should trouble you unless you either have kids under the age of ten or are forced at gun point to choose between that pile of corporate Hollywood nonsense and the even worse Despicable Me 2 which I also had the misfortune to see.  However as my daughter has talked smurfs pretty much 24/7 ever since I’ve given them a little more thought than they really deserve.

The Smurfs are a Belgian comic creation which has survived the translation to TV and later Hollywood film with its core ideological message fairly intact. The Smurfs are based on three key values. Firstly and most predictably everyone in Smurf society is basically good and attempts to do their best at all times. This underpins a society in which co-operative living with no money is possible. Smurfs do not try and get one over on their fellow Smurfs. Greed is certainly not Smurfy (with the obvious exception of Greedy Smurf). Although there is some mild romantic competition for the attention of Smurfette, who embodies the Smurfs difficult relationship with feminism – but that’s another post – nonetheless, Smurfs are essentially chaste and lacking in testosterone fuelled drive and so the Smurfette factor never upsets the unity of the community any more than the primitive communinism that rules Smurf village.

Secondly, Smurf society is one in which harmony is predicated on the existence of a natural order presided over by a benevolent dictator (Papa Smurf). There is a place for everysmurf and everysmurf is in their place. The Smurfs, is essentially a reactionary rural idyll in which power is unchanging and there is no process of contestation or change.

Finally, Smurf socieyt is one in which there is both a very sharply observed seperation of occupational and social roles and a faultless process of identification of individuals competence and aptitudes for particular roles. Brainy Smurf and Clumsy Smurf are never going to develop themselves beyond their definitional characteristic any more than Tailor Smurf or Miner Smurf are going to take up a new occupation.

In the latest film, Hollywood plays its normal postmodern games with the values of the Smurf franchise. The primitive communism and idealised humanism is ridiculed of course, but so too is the idea of fixed personalities and clear cut vocational destiny. The Smurfs is appealing because it sets out a world that is very different from the dynamic, complex world in which we live. People aren’t always at their best, power can’t be trusted, our personalities aren’t fixed, and we can’t expect to perform the same social role throughout our lives. The Smurfs might be what we wish society was like, but it is very clearly not a blueprint for social reform.

However, there is too much that seems a bit Smurfy about the career guidance world to me. The idea of stable personality traits, discoverable at a young age and matchable to a social and economic role still get an airing in the popular and policy discourse. I’ve heard lots of people talking about young people being sent to do the “wrong” course or get the “wrong” job, as if there is an absolutely right one out there for them. Of course this isn’t possible, unlike the Smurfs we are adaptable and changable and more importantly we can learn from our mistakes. Further more, and perhaps more seriously career guidance rarely helps its clients to understand or build a critique of the structures of power that exist within work and society. We let people assume that like the Smurf village the political economy is stable, when it is ever changing and highly contestable by its participants, we also let people assume that they will find Papa Smurf when they walk into the world of work. This is unlikely to say the least.

The Smurfs has its value. The call for us all to be a bit nicer is not a fundamentally bad one. But when we notice that some of our rhetoric and practice would work better in the Smurf village than in Surrey or Solihull then it is time to take a long hard Smurf at ourselves!

Do you Smurf what I’m getting at?


Hi ho, hi ho, back to blogging I go

As you may have noticed I’ve been pretty tardy on my blog over the summer. The joint pressures of finishing off various “it must be done by the end of the academic year” kind of projects, moving house and taking a couple of weeks of off the grid camping holiday have all conspired against me adding the usual mix of links, opinions and occasional bits of comment. Normal service will be resumed presently. I’ve been thinking about all sorts of posts as I’ve been up to other stuff over the holidays so watch this space for various leftfield thoughts prompted by things that I’ve been up to.

I’ve only just got back and will return to work properly tomorrow – so I’m going to spend some time trying to wade through the email lake that awaits me before returning to the blog later today or tomorrow. I hope that my absence from the blogosphere won’t have turned anyone off of the blog.

Thanks for waiting!

Masters in Education – Career Learning Pathway

At the International Centre for Guidance Studies we have just launched a new Career Learning Pathway for our Masters in Education. The  pathway is suitable for both managers in learning organisations who have responsibility for leading careers work in schools and those staff who are offering career development support to learners. By studying the modules in the pathway those responsible for leading and delivering careers work in learning organisations will have gained the knowledge and practical skills required to fulfil their roles.

For further information about the Masters in Education visit the University’s website.

Social media (and the kindness of strangers) got our bike back

Ages OK we used this blog to launch an appeal for news about our stolen bikes. We then spent the next year with people coming up to us in Leicester and beyond saying “hey didn’t you have your bike stolen”. Word certainly got around as the blog post was shared on Facebook and Twitter. However, no word of our bikes!

Then a month or so ago, we got a few emails and Tweets telling us that a Kona Ute like ours was being sold on Ebay. One person went so far as to compare the photographs that we had posted originally and circle the distinguishing features to help prove the bike was ours (thanks for that – we sent that to the police!)

We were able to get in touch with the policewoman who had worked on our case about 10 months before. She remembered us well and within 24 hours she was contacting the seller and attempting to view the bike. Within another 48 hours we were picking our bike up from the local police station! It was in need of some repair and good dose of TLC but how lovely to see our old friend again!

Without the support of both the online cycling community and some excellent policework we never would have seen the bike again. We’re very grateful to all of those who helped us get our bike back.

It is great to have some good news to share.

Korin & Tristram