Tristram Hooley

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.

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Careers Advice for an unpredictable AI future

All Careers practitioners know that a portion of their professional skills toolbox should be dedicated to gaining an understanding of the future labour market and the winds of change that are likely to shape that market.

For years, Careers Advisers and the wider education system have been accused of practicing their roles with a lack of regard of the skill demands of the business world that young people will enter into. In recent years, curriculum’s have been rewritten, qualification routes come and gone and entire new types of schools founded all with the aim of aligning education to be closer to the labour market.

Careers practitioners know the barometer for the requirements of this word of work that is forever in the future is known as Labour Market Intelligence (LMI). Through the data of job growth and decline in regions, in industry areas and at qualification entry points, the future demand for certain skills, qualifications or numbers of workers can be predicted.

This data isn’t always easily obtainable or decipherable for the (young) members of the public who it would benefit so it falls to Careers practitioners to be the translator and broadcasters of these resources. Sites such as Nomis, services such as LMI for All and local resources such as LEPs offer the data and practitioners determine when to use it, how to use it and what messages to amplify. We rely on the clearness of the message. If the data says that manufacturing jobs are not likely to grow in the north of England, then we paint a clear picture of the challenge facing a young person wanting to work in that area. If our local LEP is clear on the growth prospects of the nearby airport, then we work hard to get to those employers in contact with our young people to shape their employment prospects view.

Facing the Careers profession today though is a very muddled picture of what is surely the most fundamental disruption of the labour market in the next five to ten years; the growth of artificial intelligence, robotics and automation across a wide swathe of workplaces.

For some, T2 is just a skull crushing step away

On the one hand, the prophecies of doom make for more arresting headlines and grab the attention.

These predictions build likely or probable scenarios onto small-scale tests of technology

Consider: Last October, an Uber trucking subsidiary named Otto delivered 2,000 cases of Budweiser 120 miles from Fort Collins, Colorado, to Colorado Springs—without a driver at the wheel. Within a few years, this technology will go from prototype to full production, and that means millions of truck drivers will be out of a job.

to extrapolate out disaster scenarios.

That isn’t to say that they don’t consult expert opinion but the futurists they do consult are unwavering in their belief in the progress of AI.

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And these experts, such as Max Tegmark, MIT Professor, or Martin Ford, author of Rise of the Robots, are explicit in their advice that, not only should society and the State start preparing for the consequences of AI (through policies such as Universal Basic Income) but that children should be receiving advice on this future work space now.

For others, AI will complement people skills

Other studies are reaching similar conclusions that automation and AI will fill the labour market in roles requiring logic, process or repetition but that it will be the very human skills of community building and socialisation that will still lead to in-demand employment.

Research by David Deming, a professor of education and economics at the Graduate School of Education and a professor of education and public policy at the Kennedy School, shows that workers who combine social and technical skills fare best in the modern economy

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And that, educators and advisers, should be nurturing the skills of change management, teamwork and project work in their students to prepare them to succeed in this labour market.

Other skills such as literacy or numeracy (which the current UK education system places heavy emphasis on) are also ones which will computers will (and already do) outperform humans.

Almost a third of workers use these cognitive skills daily in their jobs and yet their competency levels have already been matched by computers. About 44 per cent are still better than the machines. The remaining 25 per cent have jobs that do not use these skills every day.

This is not to say that low skilled jobs will completely vanish but that even those workers will need to build their human skills to be able to work alongside technology

Research by Richard Blundell, an economics professor at University College London, suggests the low-skilled tend to fare better in big companies that invest heavily in research and development. They have higher wages than other low-skilled workers and tend to stay with their employers for longer.

This collaborative ideal is still a fundamental change in the labour market due to the numbers of low skilled roles that will be affected. The question remains on the scope of this new market to soak up the displaced and provide employment at the levels we see today.

And that Governments should act upon the things they can control. If the capital and resources gained by technological progress is more fairly redistributed by the State, then the offsetting factors of commercial expansion and growth would provide new employment opportunities elsewhere in the labour market. The pool of employment opportunities would change shape but not drastically shrink.

In this scenario, Careers Advice becomes a sign poster of the future jobs such as Drone Traffic Controller or Augmented Reality Designer.

And for some, AI won’t make much of a difference at all

Here, the faith is placed in the churn of technological progress and investment in new areas of business to bring new jobs to replace those lost to automation. Economies with high levels of automation such as Germany and Japan have strong job growth. The percentage of people in full-time work in the USA and the UK is growing steadily. In short, there just isn’t any evidence that AI is effecting the jobs market.

How can the CEIAG profession react

In a recent post, Professor Tristram Hooley covered much of the same ground in this post and suggested that, due to this uncertainty between competing visions of the future labour market, advice could be offered across three frameworks:

  1. Adaptive Guidance – Preparation for change
  2. Expanded Career Guidance – broaden concepts of meaningful work
  3. Emancipatory Guidance – encourage realisation of and challenge of the system

and that a possible curriculum

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would plan opportunities for clients to grow these capabilities.

Which is all work Advisers would be happy to cover and would provide clients with enriching learning experiences but what strikes me is the fact that the profession is tasked with preparing for this wide range of eventualities. The lack of clarity from both Governments and Business voices on the shape of the future labour market is unhelpful. The Business lobby is not shy on coming forward with the skill demands they place on education and CEIAG to meet more definitive labour market needs. Whether looking at the strategic needs of nation economies or drilling down to an oversupply of graduates from a particular vocational area, Business leaders are clear on what they require from education. For such a large disruption potential to employment, the lack of clarity on what we should actually be expecting is noticeable. The type of preparation work outlined by Professor Hooley would be much better served alongside as clear guidance from business leaders on what will likely be the reality of the impact of AI and automation on the labour market.

Workshop at David Andrews 17th Annual CEG conference November 2014

David has very kindly asked me to lead a workshop at his forthcoming conference for CEG advisers in schools in November. I’ve been tasked to cover “Practical approaches to building employer engagement activities into a school careers program” in my slot. I’ve never been to this annual conference but some local colleagues attended last year and loved it so I’m very excited about some quality careers learning and hearing from the headline speakers such as Tristram Hooley and Karen O’Donoghue, but also I’m extremely conscious that I want to put on a worthwhile session. Getting the financial backing to attend any CPD isn’t easy these days (even to competitively priced events like this) so I’m very mindful that any delegates that do come and see me (those lost on their way to the toilets, those who ticked the wrong box on the booking sheet etc) feel that they’ve got a lot of value from the session.

So, if you were/are attending, what would you find helpful to hear about and discuss regarding engaging employers and getting them into school? I’ve got numerous hilarious and highly detailed tales of never-ending email trails about organising visits or speakers (“and then, we had to change it to the 14th because it clashed with a science practical!”) but I sense that the CEIAG world might not yet be ready for such high stakes drama. So far my rough plan is to cover not just the different types of interaction we have done and do but the conditions in school that help get those interactions on the timetable in the first place, experiences that have got the best feedback from students, things I’ve thought worked well and some cringe worthy nuggets of when things go terribly wrong thrown in for good measure.

Let me know what you would place value on hearing about either in the comments below or through twitter. Thanks.