A week ago I attend my first Career Development Institute event. It was a day long conference entitled “From Student To Professional Careers Adviser.” I wanted to attend as I am currently working my way through the Level 6 Diploma in Career Guidance and Development at a pace somewhat slower than the forthcoming approach of the next ice age.
Anyway, it was a good day with a mix of presentations on practice and news updates. What struck me during the day was that, from approximately 25 attendees, I was the only one taking the Level 6 qualification, all of the other eager students were studying the Post Graduate Diploma. It was a room with the fullest stretch of different levels of experience either in schools or with adult clients but all with the same shared sense of keenness to start utilising their new qualifications with the full confirmation of the CDI Professional’s Register behind them out in the real world of careers work.
On this theme, the workshop that sparked this blog post was a presentation given by David Ryde, a recent graduate of the Post Grad qualification entitled, “Planning for the Future.” David spoke about his recent experience of becoming an independent careers professional offering services to schools and he compared and contrasted the benefits and negatives of looking for a stable role or starting your own business. The workshop really opened my eyes to the moment of change in the careers workforce currently evolving across the country. A lot of experienced practitioners, perhaps recently cut adrift from a Connexions type service, are being joined by newly qualified people, tempted by opportunities in an emerging market as schools begin to engage with the new duty placed upon them. And, as the CDI and Ofsted begin to lay down both sides of the regulatory boundaries that will help shape that market, these people are hoping to position themselves in pole position when opportunities in schools do arise either in salaried type roles or as an outside agency offering services to the school. In fact this thread from @Developmeant on Linkedin is a snapshot of exactly this situation
A massively important part of this equation which I want to cover here is what schools would be looking for from any relationship with an “outside” careers worker. No matter the remit, scope or scale of the contract with the school(s) there are some things which sole trading careers practitioners might want to consider.
- Your rate per day – this is vital. Don’t hide it away behind some guff about “bespoke services” on your website or expect the school to make any headway with you without knowing the brass tacks of the cost. The pot of money that Headteachers have to spend is tightening very quickly
- Realise that the organisational structures around schools is rapidly changing – academy chains and soft federations are springing up all over the place. This might benefit you as, once you’re in, good word will spread across schools quicker and bring you more work but you might also find that this leaves individuals schools much less flexibility to organise solutions just for them.
- Schools get bombared with companies offering services – A letter or email to a generic school admin account isn’t going to get you much work. Schools like people they know or have heard good things about from their local contacts – be prepared to offer days or presentations for free to get known
- And don’t expect your qualification or CDI membership or Matrix accreditation to open any doors either. This whole market is very new for schools and there won’t be many Senior Leaders that have the vaguest idea of what those logos on your letter or email even stand for. With time and the dedication to high professional standards from the newly formed CDI, this will change but, for now, it will be about personal contacts
- So, find the gatekeeper – every school will have someone with Careers or Work Related Learning under their umbrella of responsibility so get their ear
- Know the local progression routes inside out, forget your children’s birthdays and memorize these instead. Have contacts at those Colleges or Sixth Forms or Training Providers and sing about those contacts
- In fact, know the school – the forthcoming annual increase in the amount of student destination data for each school that will be publicly available will make it much easier for independent careers professionals to approach a potential client school with an outline of what good IAG could do to impact those destinations
- Be patient – in the whole, schools are not very responsive organisations – we run on very structured timetables. School calendars are written and organised 12 – 18 months in advance and, whenever something is put on for students, it takes a miracle of negotiation and collaboration to make sure it doesn’t clash with an exam or drama trip or moderation visit or anti-smoking presentation or just the everyday learning which has to take place. Lots of stuff happens in schools everyday. Don’t expect quick decisions
- Know the language – those of you that have worked in education before will be at a massive advantage because of the amount of terminology that starts flying past your ears as soon as you walk into a modern school. Know your CIC from your SEN from your Ever-6
I think it’s clear that for anybody wishing to establish themselves in a region as a independent careers worker without existing school contacts it is going to take significant effort to find success. Of course it can and has been done but it won’t be long before large-scale education resource companies such as Pearson or CfBT really start to look at this sector to see if they can corner the developing market and when they do, it will only make it much harder for independents to find a way in.