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Chris Targett
8 October 2016

Came the cry of an individual with a vested interest in these websites. It could be argued I have a vested interest in the counter argument, as it is my job. However, let’s have a look at the evidence.

We have hundreds and possibly thousands of different careers websites at our disposal, from those that offer matching services to those which are information led. We even have area prospectus sites, providing us with details about courses on offer. So why was it that yesterday I sat with a client trying to make sense of careers information, his head in his hands? He was bright and capable but could find no sense in what he was looking at.

A week before I had sat with several Year 11 students as they made some late applications and heard them echo what their more organised and career ready counterparts had said earlier in the year. “What courses do I need?” and “I can’t find them!” were some of the comments I heard as they flitted through and around the area prospectus. This was echoed by the teacher nearby who remarked that she didn’t know enough to make sense of the information on the website either. She felt that she didn’t know enough about where the courses led, nor how careers develop, and how the students and their ideas will flux and change as they discover more. This teacher admitted to being frustrated at times that the ideas of the students won’t stay neatly fixed, although I know she recognises that this is half the fun and joy of education. Students will develop their ideas messily and need access to more than one opportunity to discuss how their ideas are evolving and to receive help to make sense of the plethora of information available.

Now these are generally good websites, well designed and full of great information. Yet they cannot help students extract meaning from the information presented. These websites put us in danger of drowning our students in options until they can no longer move and they are stuck by the weight of choice, in much the same way we are stuck when offered too much choice whilst shopping at the weekend in the supermarket.

So why do they need us?

We help clients find what is meaningful for them out of all the choices, narratives, opinions; from the various data sets which have the depth to be factual and useful, to those stats masquerading as facts but really marketing and those openly out there as marketing. We help them sift and sort, analyse the information and their own feelings and thoughts. It can look and feel a bit like chaos, which it is at times. We help clients find order in the mess, even if it is helping them to recognise that there are no certainties, nor guarantees but, that there is a path that may give them the chance to achieve their dreams and aspirations.

It is for the same reason that we need teachers and not just a YouTube video or webinar for individuals to learn. Whether through face to face contact, in groups or alone, telephone or webchat, individuals reach out for help; they cannot rely on information alone. It is possibly why the Open University provides access to tutors and why University courses don’t rely on lectures alone but have seminars as well. If we are to learn, to grow and understand we need the space within which to do this; whether virtual or real, everyone needs a guide they can trust. For our students the best learning is often when they can discuss what they have learnt, to embed learning or check facts and implications. Arguably, different environments suit different people so if we are to meet the needs of as many individuals as possible, we need as diverse a range of environments as possible; we must remember this in our careers work.

As an example, in many of the schools I work in, I provide access to group guidance, email guidance, one to one guidance, guidance in pairs and guidance at lunchtimes, before school and after school, sessions with parents or carers and sessions without. Different students thrive in different contexts, some get a lot from being in a small group and hearing what others are doing; social influence has a huge impact here. Some come and “check in” with me for weeks on end, at my lunchtime drop-ins, taking their career learning in bite sized chunks and steps. Some prefer Mum or Dad to be there. One client did better with their older brother at the session.

So, why do you need us?

We unlock the magic from the myth and clear the pathways ahead from the weeds and distractions. We add signposts, we find detours which work and understand that the first step on the path is one of many. We understand that a discussion with a guide is just a catalyst for change and not a route they must follow blindly. Paths may change a hundred times or none but, whatever happens we are there to be a guiding light, empathise and make sense of the mass of information with kindness and a non-judgemental, positive regard.

It is all of this that websites can’t do and it is why schools can’t meet the Ofsted criteria for Careers Guidance through access to websites alone.

Written by: Chris Targett

This article was first published on the CXK Blog on Tuesday 21st June 2016

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