Month: October 2019

NICEC @instcareer Seminar: Careers provision in Further Education – 18th November 2019

nicec1

The next NICEC seminar on Monday 18th November 2019 5.00pm-6.30pm will be focusing on Careers Provision in Further Education. We’re planning for the event to spark thoughts and conversation from attendees on the similarities and differences on the Careers provision in Further Education compared to other settings as well as putting the spotlight on a sector not always well represented in Careers policy conversations. Sometimes referred to as the “forgotton” sector in Education, Further Education is currently enjoying a rare period in the national spotlight as new vocational qualifications come on line and policy makers raise the importance of the sector to a post Brexit skills landscape.

We’re fortunate to be joined by Anthony Barnes, one of the authors of the Gatsby Benchmark toolkit for Colleges and Emily Tanner from the Careers and Enterprise Company who will revealing new Compass data based on responses from the FE sector.

Speakers include

Russell George – will introduce the session with an overview of the context of work in FE including the roll-out of T-levels and funding constraints and provide a case study of delivery in Milton Keynes College

Anthony Barnes will share insights from the development of the Colleges Gatsby Tool Kit on challenges and good practice in careers provision.

Emily Tanner will share insights from The Careers & Enterprise Company drawing on the Compass benchmarking tool.

There will then be a discussion on similarities and differences with delivery in other settings.

Register for tickets to join us at Hamilton House (WC1H 9BB) for the seminar here:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/careers-provision-in-further-education-tickets-77371441063

T levels are going to be tough

During the recent years of GCSE and A Level qualification upheaval a CEIAG practitioner working with young people has always had to have a quick mental check of future implementation dates before opening their mouths.

Another forthcoming change that (I hope) school based practitioners are now including in their guidance is the introduction (phased from 2020) of T Levels, a new qualification to be offered by Post 16 providers.

When anything new launches the challenge is to persuade potential first adopters that they will be making a choice that places them at the forefront of a soon to be popular wave and not left to flounder as initial enthusiasm dries to a dribble. I remember students gamely studying the 14-19 Diplomas despite being surrounded by teachers and parents who never understood the thing and who were then left high and dry after the Government PR push failed to inspire buy-in from important stakeholders.

We are promised that T Levels will be different and form one of the main choices for students in the Post 16 landscape alongside A Levels and apprenticeships when they begin to be introduced from September 2020. Many post 16 providers are already in the midst of preparing for them by working on new content outlines and building relationships with employers to offer longer and more in-depth industry placements.

Will, though, suitable advice and guidance about the qualification have percolated through schools and CEIAG practitioners to students and parents?

Getting the message out

It’s safe to say that the full complexities of the new GCSE grading system have still to land with a lot of parents/carers so getting across the workings of an entirely new qualification is going to be a challenge.

parents t levels

Added to the fact that, despite CEC optimism over benchmarks not withstanding, many secondary school pupils are not hearing directly from FE providers.

parents t levels1

Source: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/786040/survey_of_pupils_and_their_parents_or_carers-wave_5.pdf

So getting advice from the source might not be the norm and the central marketing which has already launched will have to work hard but the increased awareness of apprenticeships shows this can have an impact.

What should the message be?

Mainly that T Levels are going to be a demanding route of study that will be employment specific. They are a combination of learning

T Level courses will include the following compulsory elements:

  • a technical qualification, which will include
    • core theory, concepts and skills for an industry area
    • specialist skills and knowledge for an occupation or career
  • an industry placement with an employer
  • a minimum standard in maths and English if students have not already achieved them

and each section is significant.

The baseline for the total programme hours matches the total learning hours for Level 3 BTEC Extended Diplomas

We expect the total time for a T Level to be around 1,800 hours over the 2 years, including the industry placement. This is a significant increase on most current technical education courses.

while the Industry Placement aspect takes up a great allowance of those hours meaning 16 year old starters will have to be work ready to impress employers enough to sign up to a significant programme of work experience.

Every T Level will include an industry placement with an employer focused on developing the practical and technical skills required for the occupation. These will last a minimum of 315 hours (approximately 45 days) but can last longer.

The academic learning required will also be of a high standard as evidenced by UCAS’ decision to award Tariff points equivalent to 3 A Levels.

ECZ2wgIXUAATH4k

The content to be covered by each T Level is slowly being confirmed by the Institute of Apprenticeships as consultations complete.

A quick scan through any of those “Finalised Outine Content” will show readers that a lot of “stuff” has to be covered in both the Core knowledge and Technical Occupational Specialism components of the qualification and that the Specialism is a vital component. For some young people, the specificity of the route may be a turn off.

All of this though is meant to, according to the T Level Action plan not only prepare students for the workplace in their specialism but also provide a base of skills that will allows for progression onto Higher Education routes, thus the importance of the UCAS tariff inclusion despite reluctance to accept them from the Russell Group.

Entry requirements

In the past month the TES seemed baffled by the fact that these demanding Level 3 qualifications were being assigned entry requirements similar to other demanding Level 3 courses by the first cohort of providers recruiting students in 2020.

There is a point to their story that if, system-wide, choices for those school leavers who do not achieve GCSE qualifications that allow them to access A or T Levels narrow then those young people could be left with fewer options. Moving on from the obvious (“Huh, who knew, better GCSE grades give an individual more choice”) any rebuttal should be based on that it is not beholden on FE providers to lower entry requirements to qualifications that demand potential students to have the capacity to succeed at Level 3 (and wouldn’t be able to fit in GCSE retakes anyway). The rightly much maligned “parity of esteem” phrase beloved by politicians usually desperate for something to say about FE has an actual value here; you can’t possibly expect FE routes to achieve “esteem” by only offering routes for young people with low GCSE achievement. The other mitigating factor are the plans for a T-Level transition year for those

who are not ready to start a T level aged 16, but could be expected to complete one by 19.

It is always a challenge to elicit interest in young people about routes they know very little about and this challenge has been reflected in the small recruitment targets for the first wave of T Level providers. Perversely what might actually help recruitment though is the lack of knowledge of Applied General FE qualifications among stakeholders who say that they are trusted qualifications that offer good value and prepare young people for the world of work but then also claim that nobody really understands what their results mean.

applied general 1

If parents and potential students are already inspired by careers in any of the areas offered at a College local to them as a T Level, then that will probably be enough to tempt an application. Where CEIAG practitioners can offer support though is on the challenge to the young person and the work readiness needed to make those transitions a success.The reality of this and the entry requirements may alter the cohort of students they routinely talk to about FE altogether.

Career & Social Justice: Recognitive perspectives and the hero factor

At a recent NICEC seminar on social justice the discussion coalesced around two of my favourite interests; Careers and films.

Social Justice Careers work asks CEIAG practitioners to not only be versed and mindful in the wider socio-economic and sociological factors that may face their clients but also involve into their practice information, guidance and challenge to enable individuals to better recognise and navigate the adverse winds of a system weighed against them. Hooley, Sultana & Thomsen have published two collections of chapters on this subject with the aim of shaping a new dialogue around pluralistic approaches to careers guidance and advocating a place for socially minded guidance in a neoliberal world.

A focus of both one of the chapters and the session that I attended was a workshop for practitioners devised by Kristin Midttun and Phil McCash about Social Justice which introduced and allowed discussion of the work of Barry Irving who proposes a four concept model.

irving social justice

For Irving, a recognitive perspective tasks practitioners to take the point of view that clients will have influences and factors that shape any basic wish to participate in the labour market. A client’s family and community will influence their choice making process and may even cause options to be ruled out completely and have faced socio-economic repression as a community that has molded those views. With this recognition, then CEIAG practitioners can play their part in helping the clients they serve overcome oppression,

Hence, I am in agreement with Arthur (2014), that “A just society would be one in which the constraints of oppression and domination are eliminated, allowing people from all groups to develop and reach their full human potential”

These “group identities” can result in a wide range of macro outcomes, for example the lower number of young people from ethnic minority backgrounds employed as apprentices or lower application rates to Russell Group universities from those with suitable grades but from lower income areas.

It struck me that the tensions that rise to the surface in those groups (family, community, culture) when the non-recognitive perspective is challenged is also a rich sourcing ground for film makers looking for stories. A number of films concentrate on the tales of individuals breaking molds created by or forced upon groups who face social injustice.

A non exhaustive run down of films in this category could include:

Blinded By the Light

Blinded_by_the_Light_(2019_film_poster)

A young Muslim teen in 1980’s Luton discovers the lyrics and music of Bruce Springsteen which opens his eyes to a career in writing and life beyond what his family have imagined for him. Based on the biographical writings of the Luton journalist Sarfaz Manzoor, the film is a coming of age or Bildungsroman tale in which the protagonist discovers artistic and cultural influences that initially clash with his own family identity but ultimately allow him to discover a talent upon which to base a profession. From the same Director, Gurinder Chadha, who previously had success with Bend it like Beckham, a film with similar themes of family and religious tradition (in this instance, the main character is from a Sikh background) clashing against the protagonists non traditional career choice.

Billy Elliott

Billy_Elliot_movie

The hugely successful film based on a play that went onto become a hugely successful musical is a core example of this genre as a young boy from a northern, mining community breaks the expectations of gender and class to embrace a career as a ballet dancer. A recurring theme of these films is the main character’s need to embrace a career with an artistic or expressive aspect that eschews the practical vocations in the local labour market.

Hairspray/Flashdance/High School Musical

Flashdanceposter

This films are grouped together as the main characters share the same wish to forge a career in singing or dancing. Characters face initial resistance to achieve their career goals as their appearance (Hairspray), interest in a non macho pursuit (High School Musical) or lower class background (Flashdance) do not conform to the traditional sourcing pools for these areas.

Legally Blonde

Legally_Blonde_film_poster

Another film in which a protagonist breaks loose of class and appearance stereotypes to achieve a desired career is Legally Blonde. Based on a book which found it’s inspiration from the author’s real life experiences attending Stanford Law School. Our protagonist here uses knowledge and skills gained from her interest in beauty and presentation and, with plenty of studying hard montages, uses these traits to break free of the expectations of her community to win the case and show her suitability for the academic world of law she wishes to gain entry to.

Pad Man

Padman_poster

An example of this genre of film from outside Western Cinema would be the highly enjoyable 2018 Hindi film Pad Man. Based on a true life story of a social entrepreneur who battled against societal, family and gender conformity to design, market and sell hygienic sanitary wear for women across India. This is an interesting example to include as the protagonist of the film is male and so coming from a more traditional position of holding societal capital within the depicted community but entering a career field in which he faces obstruction due to community tradition, religious separation and family expectation. The self-developmental motivations of the character are important to note and the wish for societal change that empowers previously oppressed individuals. A vital aspect of the success of the invention is the establishment of small sanitary pad factories, staffed mostly by women, that can produce and sell them throughout the rural villages.

Hidden Figures/Men of Honour/Marshall/42

Men_of_honor_ver1

A sub-genre within a sub-genre are films which (usually based on true stories) tell of the hard won advancement towards equality for African Americans across professional spaces. Hidden Figures details the important work of woman of colour in engineering and maths for NASA, Men of Honour focuses on the first African American Master Diver in the US Navy while Marshall and 42 tell the tales of Thurgood Marshall and Jackie Robinson breaking barriers to succeed in their chosen fields of law and baseball.

These films have their own tropes which, through audience familiarity, can cause subsequent films to achieve diminishing cultural returns despite telling important stories. This phenomenon is brilliantly teased in this Bill Burr stand-up bit on the subject of race in movies

But, despite the ribbing because of the similarities, a social justice issue remains in the construction of the protagonists career in each story depicted.

When looking at these films, it struck me how the construct of the narrative ensures that the protagonist is presented as the hero to the audience with their goal of forging into a new world beyond the limits that family/religion/community/society impose upon them.

The Hero’s Journey

In his defining text “The Hero with with a Famous Faces” Joseph Campbell outlined the  monomyth structure of the Hero’s journey. The protagonists in the films described above all experience the call to adventure that Campbell describes sometimes even through happenstance,

The adventure may begin as a mere blunder… or still again, one may be only casually strolling when some passing phenomenon catches the wandering eye and lures one away from the frequented paths of man

Billy Elliott is sent to the gym to learning boxing and only happens upon a ballet class by accident. Elle Woods in Legally Blonde applies and starts at Harvard Law with the initial aim of winning back her boyfriend who has enraged her by not proposing.

A little way into the journey a mentor appears,

the first encounter of the hero journey is with a protective figure (often a little old crone or old man) who provides the adventurer with amulets against the dragon forces he is about to pass

such as Robert De Niro’s Master Chief Petty Officer in Men of Honour.

An initiation period starts

Once having traversed the threshold, the hero moves in a dream landscape of curiously fluid, ambiguous forms, where he must survive a succession of trials.

such as Jimmy’s (Eminem) initial rap battle in 8 Mile when, defending his co-worker, he causes a significant set back and a further challenge to rise again from his mentor Future.

The build up of the pressure between the hero and the barriers inhibiting his journey now has to come to the forefront

In this step the hero must confront and be initiated by whatever holds the ultimate power in his life. In many myths and stories this is the father

such as Jess admitting to her mother that she has secretly been playing football and wants to take up the offer of a scholarship at an American College in Bend it like Beckham.

The ultimate boon is the achievement of the goal such as Alex’s successful audition at the end of Flashdance but then our hero finds acceptance with those who implemented the barriers that inhibited them originally,

The full round, the norm of the monomyth, requires that the hero shall now begin the labor of bringing the runes of wisdom, the Golden Fleece, or his sleeping princess, back into the kingdom of humanity, where the boon may redound to the renewing of the community, the nation, the planet or the ten thousand worlds

such as the example of Billy’s father attending a performance of Swan Lake.

Impact on CEIAG & Social Justice

Is it too far to propose that the presentation of these protagonists as positive heroes and heroines shapes perceptions and views of those who do not enact this positive self-identity and break out of the restraints that hold them back? Do CEIAG practitioners allow such media to shape their own practice when working with clients facing repressive barriers in their own lives and do practitioners take their clues from such media about what is even repression to begin with?

This can raise complex professional issues for practitioners when working with clients from a wide range of backgrounds that can influence career choice; those from ethnic minority backgrounds, faith backgrounds, from areas of social deprivation or, indeed, areas of relative prosperity may all have career options defined to some extent by their background and upbringing. and the social in/justice levied on their community.  For careers practitioners a moral question of practice results; is the role of practitioners to be a disruptor in that space, an agent of challenge to a group identity that has been formed from influences either within or outside the group?

The issue of what can be considered a social justice issue and the difficulties of framing are addressed by Rice in Career Guidance for Social Justice

social justice 1

and Nancy Fraser who

argues that many social justice movements in the 1960s and 1970s argued for recognition on the basis of race, gender, sexuality, or ethnicity, and that the focus on correcting misrecognition eclipsed the importance of challenging the persistent problems of maldistribution. In other words, Fraser asserts that too much of a focus on identity politics diverts attention from the deleterious effects of neoliberal capitalism and the growing wealth inequality that characterizes many societies.

which could be considered a warning to CEIAG practitioners who answered “yes” to the questions above.

Films which tell stories from diverse spaces and with diverse characters are to be welcomed. For reasons of representation and richness, we should all want stories with and about communities and characters beyond the mainstream but those stories which focus on career goals can cause ripples beyond the positive of greater inclusion by establishing inspirational role models who create deviant archetypes that those outside of those communities believe to be more desirable or more frequent than reality. Treating clients as individuals and utlising frameworks such as the recognitive perspective is part of a CEIAG practitioners skillset but more vital to enacting social justice is enabling CEIAG practice to flourish in communities and groups who struggle to access CEIAG support and the social capital it can bring.