The Evidence Base on Lifelong Guidance

Over the last year or so I have been working with the European Lifelong Guidance Policy Network to produce a summary of the evidence base on lifelong guidance. The idea is to create a summary of what we know about the impacts of guidance and also produce a guide to evidence based policy. The guide is primarily aimed at policy makers, but it may also be of interest to academics and to practitioners.

It is published in three different version designed for audiences with different amounts of time on their hands.

The papers argue that there is evidence for the effectiveness of guidance in every sector – although in some sectors there is a stronger tradition of research than others. It makes a number of suggestions about how this evidence base could be improved.

It also proposes 10 evidence based principles for the design of lifelong guidance system. I think that this sets out the approach to guidance that government’s would take if they were interested in building on the best evidence available. These are as follows.

  1. Lifelong guidance is most effective where it is genuinely lifelong and progressive.
  2. Lifelong guidance is most effective where it connects meaningfully to the wider experience and lives of the individuals who participate in it.
  3. Lifelong guidance is most effective where it is able to recognise the diversity of individuals and to provide services relevant to individual needs.
  4. Lifelong guidance is not one intervention, but many, and works most effectively when a range of interventions are combined.
  5. A key aim of lifelong guidance programmes should be the acquisition of career management skills.
  6. Lifelong guidance needs to be holistic and well-integrated into other support services.
  7. Lifelong guidance should involve employers and working people, and provide active experiences of workplaces.
  8. The skills, training and dispositions of the practitioners who deliver lifelong guidance are critical to its success.
  9. Lifelong guidance is dependent on access to good-quality career information.
  10. Lifelong guidance should be quality-assured and evaluated to ensure its effectiveness and to support continuous improvement.

Inspire children with good careers advice and they do better at school

I have just published an article on The Conversation website. This site promises “academic rigour, journalistic flair” and works by pairing academics with good journalistic editors. It was an interesting process and hopefully offers another way for me to talk about the research that we have done for the Sutton Trust.

So here is the article.

Inspire children with good careers advice and they do better at school

We ask young people to make a lot of life-changing decisions. At 13 or 14 you choose GCSE subjects. Make the wrong choice and you could be ruling out your chance to pursue medicine or a number of other science and technology occupations. At 16, young people make choices about the area that they want to specialise in and whether they want to pursue vocational or academic tracks. At 18, there are still more decisions about whether to go to university or not and again what to focus on.

Read more on The Conversation



Advancing ambitions: The role of career guidance in supporting social mobility

Today marks the release of a new report that I’ve been working on for a while with the Sutton Trust.

Hooley, T., Matheson, J. & Watts, A.G. (2014). Advancing Ambitions: The role of career guidance in supporting social mobility. London: Sutton Trust.

The report traces recent government policy, arguing that the combination of cuts and poor regulation have seen a decline in the quantity and quality of career guidance in England. It also argues that one of the government’s main failings in implementing these policies has been the failure to monitor the impact of this experiment.

We then go on to try and identify what some of the impacts of career guidance are using data from over 800 schools and sixth form colleges which hold career quality marks and comparing this with other schools which do not hold these quality marks. We find  that there are a number of interesting correlations. So controlling for other factors, we found that schools with the awards had a two percentage point advantage in the proportion of pupils with five good GCSEs, including English and Maths. There was also a small, but significant, reduction in persistent absences (of 0.5%).

In the sixth form, we found that the proportion of students gaining 3 A levels was 1.5% higher in schools and sixth form colleges with the quality awards than other schools, and students also had higher UCAS scores, though the gains were not repeated in general further education colleges. Sixth form colleges with accredited career guidance showed a significant increase in the number of students going to leading universities.

The report then goes on to explore the factors that constitute quality career guidance. It notes the importance of a strong infrastructure to support career guidance, the existence of progressive education programmes, the importance of involving key stakeholders like employers and post-secondary learning providers and the need for a strong focus on the individual in the delivery of careers provisions (e.g. through one-to-one career guidance).

I think that this report is probably the summation of a lot of the work that we have done over the last four years which has explored the Coalition Government’s policies on career guidance. The use of quantitative methods means that we are able to say a bit more about the impacts of having good quality career guidance.

I’d be interested to hear more about what people think about the report once you’ve had a chance to read it.

More video career resources from Julia Yates

Last week I posted some interviews that Julia Yates conducted with me on online career learning and social media.

She has also interviewed a whole load of interesting people (as well as me). The films are well worth watching and include interviews with some of the stars of British career development.

Julia gets everyone talking about career theory, career management, career development and employability.

Well worth a watch!


New technologies and social mobility (where does career guidance fit in?)

Yesterday I attended a very interesting RSA discussion on new technologies and social mobility. I encountered a lot of interesting new ideas about the relationship between new technologies, social mobility online learning and online career building. This included some stuff about whether new technologies lower the threshold for entrepreneurialism and self-employment that I really need to give some more thought to. We also went over some familiar ground about whether we are living with a generation of digital natives (I say NO), whether MOOCs are just hype (I say YES) and whether there is a technofix to social and political problems (NO, NO and THRICE NO). Anyway in the aftermath I thought that it might be useful for me to set down a few of my ideas on this subject.

I think that the first point that I would want to make is that the provision of career support is an important part of the social mobility toolkit. Next week we will be releasing some research for the Sutton Trust which will argue that there is a strong alignment between the policy goal of social mobility and career guidance. In essence social mobility is about individual’s abilities to successfully pursue their careers and career guidance is about providing them with support to do this. Career guidance is both an individual and a social good: it helps individuals to progress in their learning and work, but it also helps the effective functioning of the labour and learning markets and contributes to a range of social policy goals.

We argue that career guidance can support social mobility in the following ways.

  • Provide access to information and intelligence about the labour and learning markets in ways that transcend existing social networks.
  • Demystify labour and learning market systems and support individuals to understand progression pathways and manage transition processes such as university or apprenticeship applications, the creation of CVs and recruitment interviews.
  • Engage with individuals’ assumptions about themselves and the world around them, informing and challenging them.
  • Listen to individuals’ aspirations and help them to operationalise these as well as considering alternatives.
  • Build the skills that people need to make decisions and transitions and to progress in their career (career management skills).
  • Broker access to networks beyond the ones that individuals normally have access to.
  • Provide mentoring and support to encourage persistence and remaining resilient in the face of setbacks.

Given this it is likely that an element of career support should be part of any strategy around social mobility. However, as readers of this blog will know, the government has substantially reduced funding for career guidance for young people which in turn has led to a considerable decline in the quality of provision in schools and colleges. There was originally some discussion that this decline in the amount of face-to-face service provision would be addressed through an increase in the provision of online support. However, so far government funding for online career support has been extremely limited and it has not seriously engaged with the offer that exists in the private sector to consider how this could best be harnessed (see my post from 2011 called the Government don’t love careers websites either).

In Careering Through the Web we argued that it was possible for online technologies should be seen as an important part of career support. We noted that they could play three roles in the provision of career support:

  1. The provision of information and resources
  2. The provision of automated interactions which used artificial intelligence to do some of the jobs that were previously done by careers advisers
  3. The provision of tools for communication which could facilitate communication with careers advisers, employers, peers and wider kinds of personal and professional networks.

Four years later the range of practice that exists in relation to each of these three categories has grown. However there has been little attempt by government or any other stakeholders to map this milieu or to consider what role government could play in relation to this.

In Enhancing Choice we argued that government should not seek to create a single careers website or web solution, but should rather oversee the development of the market in online career support. In essence this would involve three main roles:

  1. Stimulating the market by encouraging the development of new services and new types of resources.
  2. Quality assuring the market to increase citizen confidence in the career support that they can access online.
  3. Compensating for market failure by resourcing services that address key policy concerns (such as social mobility) but which the market is unlikely to meet on its own.

It is hoped that this offers a framework within which public policy actions in this area could be located.

However, it is also important to recognise that individual’s engagement with online career support is dependent on the skills that they have to utilise the internet. It would be possible to engage in an extended academic debate about whether these are new “digital skills” or whether they are often just the same old career management and employability skills resituated in a new context. For what it is worth I tend to come down on the latter, but in a sense it doesn’t matter, if individuals are going to make the most of the online context they will need to learn how to do this. Despite the fanfare of the approach of the digital native there is no evidence that suggests that young people find it easier than any of the rest of us to think about how best to use the internet for learning, work and building a career. This stuff needs to be learnt, it may be learnt by trial and error, but it still needs to be learnt.

I have developed the 7 Cs of digital career literacy (set out in How the internet changed career and Building online employability). These 7 skills are designed to offer a framework for action for educators who want to support people to develop their ability to use the online environment for career building. However, while such interventions have the potential to support social mobility, this will only be the case if they are available to people from all backgrounds and across the attainment spectrum. If it is going to support social mobility, it is important that those from lower socio-economic backgrounds have access to at least as much career support as those from higher socio-economic backgrounds and that there is a concerted effort to support everyone to develop the skills that they need to pursue their careers online.