Calling all teachers! Tell us what you think about careers work

Over the years we’ve done a lot of research on careers work in schools. One of the main things that we’ve found is that careers work is too important to be left to careers advisers. Of course careers advisers are critical to supporting young people’s careers – but they need to be part of a whole school approach. Inevitably this means that teachers have an important role.

We’ve written about this in the paper Teachers and Careers.

We are now conducting some research to find out more about teachers attitudes to career education and guidance. So if you are a secondary school teacher in England we would really like to hear from you.

Take our survey on teachers’ attitudes to careers work

Mapping careers provision in schools and colleges in England

A new piece of research has just been released by the Department for Education that looks at careers work in schools.

Gibson, S., Oliver, L., Dennison-CooperGibson, M. (2015). Mapping Careers Provision in Schools and Colleges in England. London: DfE.

The report is based on a survey of 107 schools. The survey seems to have been an open response survey which was sent out to 500 schools and so is likely to have some non-response bias in it. Given our findings in Advancing Ambitions and other reports about the diversity of provision across England this is a serious limitation to this research.

Because the sample is likely to draw mainly from careers enthusiasts the picture that it paints of provision is pretty positive. Most schools provide career information, advice and guidance, career education and employer links.  The biggest area of concern is the lack of work experience opportunities which seems to generally be left to students to organise for themselves.

This is a more positive picture of careers work in English schools than many of the other reports that have been done in recent year. Whether it represents a genuine improvement in the situation is more doubtful (although not impossible given recent changes in government policy).

You better, you better, you bet

Tomorrow I’m going to the annual conference of the National Association of Managers of Student Services in Colleges (NAMSS).

I’ve been asked to go and talk about improving the quality of career services in further education college. Anyway, they asked me to do this ages ago and I must have been listening to The Who when I agreed to do it, so I decided to entitle my presentation as follows.

You better, you better, you bet. Using the evidence to build best in class careers services

So, I’ve spent tonight reconnecting with Daltrey, Townshend and co to get me back into the mood. If you aren’t in the mood to read my presentation about evidence based careers practice, you might be in the mood to listen to The Who. So here they are…

Education and employability: New research from MORI

Education and employability: New research from MORI

I’ve just been sent this presentation by Ipsos MORI. It is well worth a look.

Some key findings

  • Most leading employers don’t believe that Britain’s education system delivers the skills needed by business.
  • Most teachers don’t believe that vocational qualifications have equal status with academic qualifications.
  • A third of businesses say that school leavers are not well prepared for work.
  • Most year 11 students would like a range of career support and work experience.
  • Most young people feel that everyone should have access to career support and work experience.

Why we should bring widening participation and university outreach into the big careers work tent

I’ve been doing quite a lot of work on widening participation and university outreach recently. One of the things that I have noticed is the fact that WP professionals share a lot of values, skills and attitudes with careers workers. I have also noticed that there are not very strong links between the two groups despite the fact that a fair few people who work in WP and outreach roles have some kind of background in careers.

Of course there are important differences between the two groups as well. Most notably since the end of Aimhigher pretty much everyone who works in WP works for a university. The idea of impartiality is central to the careers profession and the careful line that WP people have to walk between promoting, recruiting and advising is one that careerinistas would struggle with. However, it is also worth noting that the era of unproblematic impartiality is probably long gone and careers professionals have also had to juggle their own impartiality with various targets around graduate employability, NEETs, STEM and so on.

If you boil both roles down it seems pretty clear that they are very similar. Both groups are about supporting individuals to think about their futures, to make purposeful choices and to develop the skills to move towards your desired future. Widening participation necessarily has a strong focus on higher education, but unless it sets the higher education route into a broader context it is miss-serving the individuals that it works with. The goal of raising aspirations is one that is frequently cited by WP practitioners but raising people’s aspirations shouldn’t mean shaping the nature of those aspirations and especially should not mean squeezing them into a higher education framework.

In practice higher education does provide a powerful route for a very wide range of individuals to pursue their aspirations. As the nature of higher education programmes expands it broadens the potential audience but also requires WP practitioners to broaden their knowledge base to keep track of the myriad of progression routes that lead through vocational options into higher education. Meanwhile the conventional careers worker is frequently crying out for more specialised knowledge about the complexity of the HE learning market.

Looking at these two occupations a dispassionate Martian labour market analyst might struggle to see the distinction. The employers are different but the differences between the values and knowledge bases far more subtle. In terms of the array of practice that exists there are clearly further differences but also substantial overlaps and areas where the two groups might learn from each other.

If you are not fiercely aligned to one or other group you might think that this post is just stating the obvious. However, I haven’t heard anyone mention WP practitioners and NEON in the recent discussions about the formation of the Career Development Institute. Similarly I haven’t heard anyone involved in NEON express the idea that their professionalism might be better served as part of a wider grouping. I don’t have an axe to grind on this and I certainly don’t want to get involved in brokering some kind of institutional summit, but I think that my role as an interested observer does at least give me the space to say these things and be told why I’ve got it wrong.

So my position is essentially this. There are a set of activities that are about facilitating individuals to think about and move into their futures. If they are done well they need to focus on the specificity of the individual and to help them to think through how they are going to combine life, learning and work across their lifecourse. I see these activities as a specialised type of education that draws on other disciplines such as counselling, economics, social work and marketing. I call this stuff careers work. It seems to me that careers workers are divided up into lots of little cells and that opportunities for collaboration as well as individual progression and collective representation are lost as a result. Is there not a case to put up a big careers work tent and to see who we can get inside it?

So is this blasphemy? Idiocy? Naïve beyond belief? Or is there a little bit of sense in it?

Over to you?