Careers Theory

Where are Careers Hubs starting from and ending with?

I think it’s safe to say that the Gatsby Benchmarks have been a game changer in the CEIAG world. Not because they offer new ways of working with young people or reinvent the purpose of CEIAG but because they included practice with a solid research backing and standarised what a comprehensive careers programme in schools and colleges looks like. This standarisation has enabled other stakeholders and professional to quickly understand a common rationale and purpose behind such a programme and so buy in to the shared goals.

The benchmarks have been supercharged in some areas of the country with the support of local CEC supported Careers Hubs. With the second wave of 20 Hubs to come online in September 2019, the CEC has been keen to show evidence of pacy progress towards meeting both technical goals around Benchmarks but also highlight that this work is happening in disadvantaged areas of the country. 

Schools and colleges in this first wave of Careers Hubs are already outperforming the national average across all aspects of careers education. After two terms, schools and colleges which are part of the first wave of Hubs are:

  • outperforming the national average on every single one of the eight Gatsby Benchmarks of good careers guidance
  • the majority (58%) are providing every student with regular encounters with employers
  • the majority (52%) are providing every student with workplace experiences such as work experience, shadowing or workplace visits

Most striking is that improvements are strongest in disadvantage areas including in Careers Hubs located in Tees Valley, Lancashire, the Black Country and Liverpool City Region.

There are a two issues which should provoke some discussion about the work of Hubs.

Starting from a higher base point

The CEC Prospectus for the Careers Hubs bidding process was clear on the criteria areas had to meet to put forward successful bids.

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It would logically follow then that Compass data for those schools and Colleges involved in Hubs should be, on average, at a lower point than School and Colleges not in Hubs at the start of the scheme. Sure, other factors such as destinations and achievement feed into the definition of Cold Spot areas but CEIAG and employer engagement provision is a central metric. There may also be some individual exceptions of providers offering high Gatsby compliant provision within those Cold Spot areas of course but, taken in the round, if the self reported Compass data is a consistent picture of practice and provision then it makes sense for the initial Hub Compass data to be below the national average. Yet this wasn’t the case. Using the July 2018 data (the left hand blue bars) from the CEC tweet below

and comparing it to the nationwide State of the Nation figures from 2018

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we can see that the Hubs were reporting a higher percentage of schools and colleges meeting already every Benchmark than the national average (apart from one – Benchmark 3) before the Hub scheme had even begun. The CEC is right to say in it’s press releases that by March 2019, Hub schools and colleges were

outperforming the national average on every single one of the eight Gatsby Benchmarks of good careers guidance

but what they don’t include is that this was the case for all but one of the Benchmarks before the Hubs had even started work.

This is concerning for the questions it raises on the reliability of the Hub awarding process, Compass as a self evaluation tool but should also prompt queries for the CEC over the pace of progress of those institutions involved in Hubs. Is it easier to roll the CEIAG snowball down the far slope once it’s already closer to the summit?

2. The more you know, the more you doubt

At the recent National Careers Leader Conference in Derby I was fortunate to attend some brilliant sessions including this from Dr Jill Hanson who is undertaking the Gatsby Pilot evaluation for ICEGs. I posted about the interim report back in March 2019 and it was great to hear about the positives the Pilot resulted in. After 2 years of the pilot young people at pilot schools and colleges were more likely to recall participating in CEIAG provision

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and the 2018 cohorts reported much higher scores on a career readiness index

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with clear correlation for higher readiness scores for those in providers who had fully achieved more Benchmarks.

A pause for concern though comes in responses from the same students who completed the career readiness index in both 2016 & 2018. These show significant drops in pupil confidence in career management and planning and information and help seeking skills but not work readiness skills.

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As Tom Staunton notes in Dr Hanson’s slides, there could be a number of overlapping explanations for this. In the room, the practitioners present concluded that this might be a case of young people being introduced to a wider variety of routes that had pushed them beyond their comfort zone and in doing so reduced confidence and certainty in the routes they had previously been aware of (if any). If suddenly the world seems larger, your place in it will seem smaller. This is a theme which has been described in previous CEC research “Moments of Choice” and it will be interesting to see if a) this trend in the data continues and b) what steps the providers involved should take to address the issue (if any). Potential remedying work through personal guidance offering more support to those students reporting a lower level of confidence in those areas or more “nudge” based interventions aimed at groups? Or nothing at all?

Going forward

Up-scaling a model such as the Gatsby Benchmarks comes with pitfalls to avoid, particularly the temptation for providers to over-rate their progress or look for tick box filling solutions that don’t translate into substantive outcomes for learners. As Sam Freedman notes here

about a different education policy proposal, compliance isn’t always the full recipe and the intangible’s that can help make a good school CEIAG program (parental relationships, drive of the practitioner, heck, even office placement in the school) are difficult to measure. The forthcoming Compass Plus has the potential to address some of those issues as it more closely ties provision to self-evaluation.

Regarding the negative effects on student confidence in their future planning skills, the results of the Careers Registration Learning Gain project in Higher Education are a useful longitudinal comparative. Using a similar method (asking students to complete a career readiness set of questions year on year), these show that more mature learners can move towards higher rated career ready states. By the final year of a degree an increase of 18.28% of students reported themselves to be in the Compete category (see NICEC Journal April 2019). Could it be that the less confident younger students Dr Hanson found are a perfectly natural, even desirable outcome of Gatsby compliant CEIAG provision and that confidence in career planning only comes with greater maturity? Should CEIAG practitioners in schools revel in the fact that their students are less confident about their route but more aware of the diversity of options? These are fascinating questions that we have the potential to find answers to as the Gatsby Benchmarks standarise provision across the country.

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Primary CEIAG and the preparation for choice

At the beginning of March Damian Hinds reannounced £2m of funding for the CEC to research and invest in CEIAG in Primary schools. This sparked a comment piece by the Headteacher blogger Michael Tidd which argued against this initiative. It’s worth saying that Tidd’s concerns seem to fall into two categories: 1) resources are tight and the funding for this initiative is small so any impact will be slight and 2) Careers Education is not a priority at this stage of education. Leaving aside the zero sum game view on resourcing (just because Primary CEIAG receives some funds, it doesn’t automatically follow that other areas shouldn’t or can’t receive funds), it’s his view on CEIAG that this post will concentrate on.

Tidd asks,

what are we hoping that 10-year-olds will take from these new lessons? I think many primary children have no idea what they want to do when they grow up – and I think that’s okay. Primary education shouldn’t be about preparation for the world of work.

And then goes onto reason that

The world of careers is enormous, and there should be no hurry to make any decisions. It’s bad enough that we force young people to deliberately narrow their curriculum at 14; I certainly don’t want children to be ruling anything in or out any sooner

I understand that any media articles have tight word counts so complexity and subtlety can be lost but I’ll take Tidd at his word and offer the following in rebuttal. The first point is the fact that Primary schools report that they are already offering CEIAG provision to pupils

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through a range of activities. So this funding is not for squeezing new things into crammed timetables but for improving the efficacy of provision that is already happening.

Second, is the need to tackle this conceptual view of Primary (or any) CEIAG as only a mechanism of immediate choice as this is a damaging and false starting point of the aims and outcomes of good CEIAG provision. That isn’t to say that some CEIAG provision does enable and facilitate choices but that other provision lays the groundwork for this. This has long been advocated by the Education & Employers Taskforce charity who established their Inspiring the Future offshoot, Primary Futures to achieve just this

Here the framing of the provision is not choice limiting or insistent on choices being made but as provision as a method for expanding and broadening horizons. The CEC publication, “What works: Careers related learning in primary schools” draws together much of the nascent research in this field to evidence why this is the correct approach.

The evidence suggests that career related learning in primary schools has the potential to help broaden children’s horizons and aspirations, especially (though not exclusively) those most disadvantaged.

Some of the challenges that all CEIAG provision aims to overcome is laid out

Robust longitudinal studies have shown that having narrow occupational expectations and aspirations can, and do, go on to influence the academic effort children exert in certain lessons, the subjects they choose to study, and the jobs they end up pursuing.Research has also shown that the jobs children aspire to may be ones that their parents do, their parents’ friends do or that they see on the TV and/or social media.

The passages (page 2) which describe how young children base their career knowledge and aspirations on their close circle of influencers (social capital), conceive their view on their place and opportunities in society (cultural capital) and establish their belief in their ability to determine their own outcomes against other factors (identity capital) lucidly offer the rationale for careers provision at Primary school age. The argument that Primary CEIAG is not beneficial because young minds would subsequently preclude routes falls away as the very rationale for informed Primary CEIAG provision is for young minds to expand routes and options.

How these aims can be achieved is explained in detail in a recent LKMCO/Founders4Schools report “More than a job’s worth: Making careers education age-appropriate.” In its sections covering the rationale and design of CEIAG provision at secondary and Post-16 level, the report retreads much ground already covered through the CEC’s What Works series and the original Gatsby report. Where the report adds value to the ever-increasing library of CEIAG publications though is the clear direction for practitioners as to what sorts of provision could be offered to children of different ages.

lmkco report1

The inclusion of the 2-4 Pre-school age group caused enough of a stir to get media coverage which also tended towards Tidd’s take on the concepts being discussed.

Finally, it’s worth saying that I agree with concern around the narrowing of options (read; curriculum) at 14 as the benefits of continuing with more a broader curriculum for longer is well evidenced. Where I would disagree with Tidd is that I would propose that the methods and age appropriate delivery of CEIAG provision the LKMCO publication outlines might actually prove to have benefits for students once they reach the later stages of secondary schooling. At these Moments of Choice (to use the CEC terminology), when students currently struggle through a complex choice system without the skills and knowledge to navigate that choice architecture, the pay off from the horizon broadening and stereotype challenging Primary CEIAG work he disparages could be evident.

2019 NICEC Conference programme

Coming over the horizon is the 2019 NICEC Conference “Changing Boundaries; career identity and self” in April which is sure to be a CPD highlight of the year. You can read the summary of the event, click on the link to book your place and see the keynote speakers and workshop programmes below.

NICEC, the National Institute for Careers Education and Counselling) invites you to its conference ‘Changing Boundaries; career identify and self: An international conference on research, practice and policy in career development’  which is to be held in Manchester on 16th-17th April 2019.

 

The attached programme reveals keynote speakers from the Australia (Mary McMahon), Denmark (Rie Thomsen) and the USA (John Amaechi and Michael Arthur) and a wide range of sessions from contributors from all over Europe. We will explore themes such as, career identity, innovation in practice, social justice, career research, and include presentations from Tristram Hooley, Jenny Bimrose, Peter Plant, Wendy Hirsh, Stephen McNair, Fiona Christie, Mark Yates, Rosie Alexander…. and many others you may have yet to meet.

 

Further details and booking information can be found at  https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/changing-boundaries-career-identity-and-self-an-international-conference-on-research-practice-and-tickets-48343197806   For any queries, do please contact info@nicec.org

 

Please do feel free to pass on this email to your colleagues or Career Leaders in training; we very much welcome their participation.

Looking forward to welcoming you to Manchester

 

 

Please do take a look and see if you are able to join us for a couple of thought-provoking days.

The importance of trust

Working with young people (and their parents, but more on that later) as a Careers Adviser/Leader often means assisting them as they traverse points of transition. Be it across key stages, subject changes, institution changes or into a whole new sectors of the labour market, CEIAG practitioners are often the face of the possibilities on offer in the preparation phase of a transition. For the young person this often mean moving from a place of comfort where the rules and expectations (and short cuts) are known and familiar and into a space with new rules, new people and new codes of expected behaviour.

This is where “trust” becomes a vital factor. If the CEIAG practitioner is valued by the young person as a “trusted” source then the preparation work can aid the transition from the initial considerations, research through to choices and decision to overcome the worry of uncertainty. That is why this graphic

is so applicable to CEIAG work with young people and one that I’ve thought about following a few recent CEIAG news events.

A number of recent surveys clearly reported just how much influence parents/guardians have over the career and transition decisions of young people despite their lack of current knowledge of educational pathways and up to date labour market information.

For CEIAG practitioners working in schools, the message here is that the practitioner should be positioning themselves as a “trusted” source to both parents and young people.

That requires time and work in building relationships. At the recent Education Select Committee, Ian Mearns reiterated his belief that Careers Advisers from outside schools were best placed to ensure impartiality when offering IAG to young people as the incentives to keep learners within organisations are simply too strong. To back himself, he referred to recent Careers & Enterprise data that shows that seems to indicate that schools with Sixth Forms offer weaker Careers provision to their learners. What this model of IAG finds more challenging to achieve than in-house Advisers though is the time and presence required to build relationships and so the “trust” needed to actually impact young people and parents/guardians decision-making.

We all know the worth of the Gatsby benchmarks but one of the most significant indicators of the impact a school’s CEIAG programme is the amount of trust the parents and pupils have in their Careers Leader.

The media and career choice

I would imagine that most Careers professionals working with young people have seen the impact that media has on their perceptions of work and jobs. From the surge of interest in forensics that spiked in the late 2000s as shows such as CSI and Criminal Minds hit the height of their popularity and resulted in a swell of applicants to Criminology degrees in the UK and the United States to the sudden boom in applications to the US Navy that followed Top Gun in the 1980s, it seems that popular media does have an influence on the career choice of individuals.

These anecdotal examples are also supported by research. In 2017 Konon & Kritikos showed that positive media representations of entrepreneurs resulted increase the probability of self-employment and decrease the probability of salaried work. While this paper from Hoag, Grant & Carpenter (2017) concluded that individuals who consume and have exposure to a wide range of news media were more likely to choose journalism as their major. A 2014 article in the Popular Culture Studies Journal (Tucciarone) conducted a research project looking at representations of the advertising industry and found that even negative or exaggerated portrayals of an industry can have an enticing effect on viewers

One research participant explained: “I think any type of portrayal, even if exaggerated a bit, is better than being completely blind about what goes on in an advertising agency. By watching various depictions of the industry and the careers, I am able to decide if I would even want to take ad courses and be involved with such an industry.”

We also have recent survey data that may point to the impact media consumption can have on young people’s career choices. The 2018 DfE Omnibus survey of pupils and their parents/carers might give some hints as it includes responses on what sources of information young rated as offering helpful careers IAG

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“Any other source” is a term there that I am sure is a catch-all for a wide range of sources but I would suspect that “the media” (in all it’s guises for young people so including streaming services) is present. I’ve previously posted on the use of vloggers to attempt to capture a young audience and introduce them to a broader range of careers but more traditional narrative media, just streamed by young people on demand, may still play a large part. The BBC itself has found that young people watch more Netflix in a week than all of the BBC TV services. Just how binge worthy shows such as Chef’s Table or Better Call Saul are influencing young people’s views on hospitality or law careers remains to be seen, while free to air channels can still find success with formats that see celebrities trying out different job roles.

 

Again, the positive/negative view of the role or even the realism of the portrayal (I suspect few of the other midwives on Ms Willis’ ward will also be finding the time to design a range of home ware) may not matter. As the quoted research participant above notes, all it can take is the job being introduced to the viewer for the spark of interest to ignite.

The Careers Leader Handbook review

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Whenever something new in education begins, be it a new policy or teaching approach, there is always the risk that soon enough will come bandwagon jumping books, resources and expert training gurus all preaching the gospel of the new.

Now that the requirement for all schools and colleges to have a named member of staff as a Careers Leader is in place, there has been training advertised, resources up for grabs and now a shiny new publication, “The Careers Leader Handbook: How to create an outstanding careers programme for your school or college” is just a click away from your Amazon basket.

The Handbook though comes with pedigree as Tristram Hooley and David Andrews (who I’m sure many readers of this blog will have met, been trained by or learnt a lot from at conferences along their professional CEIAG journey) both have a huge background and experience in CEIAG theory, policy and practice so readers should know that they are in good hands.

The experience and depth of policy knowledge of the pair is apparent throughout the book. Each section is enriched by the concise explanations of the wider context of why the suggested model or practice should be attempted and the focus on the positive outcomes for young people that could be achieved. The research and evidence background supporting provision is covered but always in a way that distills down the main points so readers come away with practical applications to work with young people.

Sections

The Handbook is split into sections with Section 2 devoted to each of the eight Gatsby Benchmarks, Section 3 looking at the role of a Careers Leader and Section 4 discussing the need for continuous improvement and learning in the future.

Looking at each Benchmark individually may seem like an obvious structure but it really does lend itself to concisely offering examples of provision that fits and understanding how all that provision can link together. The “Nutshell” recaps at the end of each chapter bullet point the key strands within the chapter and mean that you take away the clear messages.

The use of invented case studies also has benefits as most readers would see reflections of their own establishments via the stories of Dunchester Progress Academy & Vanchester College.

The grounded experience of the writers in real schools is apparent in the realistic examples of offering Careers through PHSE or drop down days on page 67. The accurate representation of how schools and colleges actually run continues in Section 3: The role of the Careers Leader (page 131) when describing the different models of staffing CEIAG in schools. Without rehashing the debate on the flexibility of the defined job of a Careers Leader, the detail on the expectations and responsibilities associated with the role would leave any reader in no doubt regarding the seniority required to properly fulfill the remit.

Elsewhere Chapters 2.7 Experiences of HE, FE and work based training & 2.8 Personal Guidance are excellent on not just on the aims of those aspects of CEIAG but also on the challenges and barriers to overcome to build quality provision in these areas. The Chapters tackle head-on the, sometimes difficult, conversations Careers Leaders need to have with colleagues and superiors to ensure that impartial and timely provision for pupils is in place.

Criticisms

Any worthwhile review provides a bit of balance. To do that for the Careers Leader Handbook I’m going to have to include some extremely pedantry things such as the misspelling of Janet Colledge’s (@careersdefender) surname on page 177 and the reference to the College version of the DfE Careers Guidance being “Statutory” on page 23 (it’s not, it’s DfE guidance overseen by Ofsted with the threat to remove ESFA funding if non compliance is discovered so it’s power is not derived from the Statute book as the list of Statutory duties for schools is).

I personally wouldn’t have included Grammar school examples of CEIAG programmes as best practice (page 26) for the same reasons as I criticised the CEC for including them in their publications but The Careers Leader Handbook does have a different remit and it is good to show that great CEIAG can be built in any type of school.

A more obvious issue is the uneasy relationship the book has with funding throughout. The need for money to be available to fund all of the suggested provision is not treated as a unmentionable elephant in the room, far from it, the scale of what Careers Leaders should be asking for from their Headteachers is spelled out clearly particularly in the chapters discussing personal guidance and Section 3 includes a whole passages on budgeting and resourcing. A strategic aim of the book seems to be to empower Careers Leaders to demand more from their Senior Leaders and budget holders and this is to be applauded but readers will still read some passages with a wry smile. On page 152 the line “A budget begins as a prediction of what is likely to happen over a particular period” would spark a hollow laugh from those Headteachers setting deficit budgets across the country. The treatment of evaluation also has a slightly less than real world tone to it. Even the pitiful amount of public money that school CEIAG departments are given still comes with the responsibility to report on the impact of that funding. So the advice to Careers Leaders when evaluating to

don’t ask: Does our programme have an impact? Do ask: Does providing students with labour market information result in them having broader ideas about possible careers?”

is not couched in the necessity of a Headteacher proritising funding. They need to know what has impact on their learners to decide which provision to direct their funds towards instead all of the other provision they could choose to fund. It seems that how a researcher would approach evaluation of provision and how practitioner must are two different strategies. Overall, the uneasy feeling comes from the assumption that this funding will be given. I understand that this is almost an implicit necessity (you could hardly have a “Section 5: What to do if your school doesn’t have a pot to pee in” then followed by 15 blank pages and a shrug gif) but it still leads to some slightly eyebrow raising moments.

Is it worth my (school’s) cash?

Of course, because it’s extremely interesting, knowledgeable and well written. Anyone currently offering CEIAG provision in schools or a sole trading Careers Adviser looking to work in schools should read it. FE and HE Careers practitioners should read it to understand just how far CEIAG policy and practice have come in the last few years. Policy makers looking at just what they are requiring of schools should read it. It complements and brings greater depth to the free resources which are linked to on page 127 from the CEC and has much potential for dipping back into to remind any Careers Leader of the purpose and possibility their work. This is not a resource to read and file away on undusted office shelf, this book should be a core component of any Career Leaders office desk ready to grab and consult throughout the journey in building your CEIAG programme.

Finding yourself

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From Reddit Get Motivated

It’s an appealing piece of writing and will ring true for many if they reflect on their career journey but I’m not sure if I completely agree with it with regard to careers theory.

It certainly contains elements of agreement with the growth and exploration phases of Super’s five life and career development stages but seems to start from a position that the individual is returning to a fixed, preordained destination that was always within them. It is a position that retreats from (the rightly much criticised) Dweck’s Mindset work.

The idea is positioned closely to Gottfredson’s Circumscription and Compromise theory which includes the self-reflection and actualization of the quote but Gottfredson also promotes the need for the individual to expose themselves to a wider range of experiences to aid the reflection process.

The idea in the image is closer to Parson’s “trait and match” basis of the client as an unmovable object who, before navigating the labour market along their favoured journey and perhaps even to find a satisfying destination, takes the time to undergo a process of deeper self realisation to understanding their aptitudes and interests. How experience has shaped these traits is not discussed, only that they are present and can be tested. This theory has its critiques in respect to it’s assumption on the stability of the labour market and the stability of the traits of the client. The quote in the image proposes the later and discounts the influence of experience gained along the journey being stripped away and, for that reason, it loses value for me.