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Launch Seminar: UK policy and practice: comparing and contrasting delivery models

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Sally-Anne Barnes
19 November 2010

Final programme

9:30-10:00 Arrival & coffee.
Introduction: Professor Jenny Bimrose, Institute of Employment Research, University of Warwick.
‘Preparing for Success. Delivery of an all age Careers Strategy for Northern Ireland’. Judith Shaw, Head of Careers Service, Department for Employment & Learning.
‘Career IAG in Scotland - A framework for service redesign and improvement’.  Martin McDermott, Head of Information, Advice and Guidance Strategy Team, Lifelong Learning Directorate, The Scottish Government.
11:35-12:05 Coffee & small group discussions on issues arising from the first two sessions
‘A new all-age careers service for England’ [title to be confirmed]. Gerard McAlea, Quality, Support & Guidance Division, Young People’s Participation & Attendance Group, Department for Education.
12:45-1:25 Lunch
‘A Community of learners: Lifelong Learning Accounts’. Stephen North, Advancement Division, FE Directorate, Department for Business, Innovation & Skills.
'Moving from Learner Demand to Economic Demand’. Owen Evans, Director, Skills, Higher Education & Lifelong Learning, Department for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills, Welsh Assembly Government.
2:45-3:40 Coffee & small group discussion on issues arising from the 3rd, 4th & 5th sessions.
Final Discussion. Professor John Arnold, School of Business & Economics, Loughborough University. 

Extra content

Notes from the final discussion session of the seminar

Seminar participants were invited to identify negatives and positives from the proceedings at the end of seminar. The following are summary notes taken by two QCG students,Sarah Hollands & Helen Kwan, University of East London


  • The description of the All Age Guidance Service - seems like a service for young people without much thought given to adults - may turn into primarily a young person’s service.
  • Simplistic division between adults and young people - adults go through many life & career stages.
  • Many young people view the notion of a career as a race or a competition. It should be promoted as a journey.
  • Career as a life journey – lifelong needs to be life-wide (biographical). Career support later on in life is essential – career as a sequence, with segments.
  • Providing services for adults places a huge demand on careers professionalism.
  • Best practice risks being undermined with the introduction of three different channels of delivery currently a feature of the Adult Advancement Careers Service.
  • Wales - what exactly is meant by a ‘demand- led service’? Need to understand what this means in terms of practice and structures for delivery.
  • The time frame that has been suggested for the implementation the all age guidance service in England will put huge pressure on professionals. Practitioners under tremendous pressures, currently with structures disintegrating around them.
  • Evidence of impact more crucial than ever before. Need to assemble a different type of evidence – establish the impact on an adult of 50/55 years who did not have access to careers support – lack of careers intervention makes an impact.
  • Obsession with occupational sectors and careers within them – not careers as a flexible journey between sectors.
  • The focus on making Careers Guidance more internet -based could lead to only the most disadvantaged people  receiving face to face contact while others will be left to use on-line guidance methods.
  • Differentiated services – adoption of this practice has resulted too much on targeting demographic groups. We need to think less about population groups having similar needs and more about individuals and their particular needs. The impact on an individual of getting a choice wrong – and the nature of these issues – represents another way of targeting provision.
  • Language - the jargon that professionals use – the general public do not understand it.
  • Use of the word ‘customer’ or ‘consumer’ – deficit concept – these terms are relevant only where s/he is a perfectly informed member of society in a free market. Within the guidance profession, service users should be seen as clients or individuals.


  • High visibility – in all four home countries of the UK, careers is high on all political agendas.
  • Ministers in all countries who seem committed to careers guidance – some passionate with a broad vision of what could be achieved.
  • Careers Professional Alliance (body set up to represent the major Professional Associations) – mandated to produce a set of professional standards by end March, 2011. Need to re-examine what we mean by our profession.
  • Budgetary restrictions can stimulation innovative thinking/creativity. Provide the chance to step back and review what is being provided and then improve. It gives us the opportunity to achieve what we want to achieve.
  • ‘Nudging’ (providing information/ reminders via text messaging) could be used in a positive way as we can reach lots of people and those that are potentially not being reached at present. Could be used to raise the profile of careers work.
  • Social networking sites – provides an exciting opportunity - the potential to offer something more personalised to users.
  • The focus on Labour Market Information is positive – careers guidance should take more control of LMI.

Please add your own thoughts by starting a discussion.

Jenny Bimrose
17:58 on 6 December 2010 (Edited 08:11 on 7 December 2010)

Summing Up from the seminar- by John Arnold  C.Psychol, FBPsS
Professor of Organisational Behaviour and Director of Research
School of Business and Economics
Loughborough University

Aims of the four home countries for careers policies are multiple and varied – including:

  • Social mobility
  • Economic performance
  • Personal ambition/preferred lifestyle/individual fulfilment

Tensions are being played out across the career policies for the 4 home countries of the UK. The different policy aims are sometimes compatible, sometimes not. In particular:

  • Skills development – is this about personal development or economic investment? Who is expected to invest and who is expected to benefit? Is there a danger of mismatch between different stakeholders?
  •  Effective guidance – do we know what effective guidance looks like? Is the most effective help given through a personal relationship, on-line or on the telephone?
  • Impartiality – we need to question this concept as central to 'objective' guidance. No-one is ever impartial – no objective scientific truth exists. For career practitioners to be truly effective, they need to be located within the school and within a personal relationship.
  •  Inclusive or not –  the ‘all age’ concept, used across all 4 home countries – is appealing, especially when being applied for individuals across their lifespan. But policies indicate that services will, nevertheless, be targeted to particular, disadvantaged groups. So 'inclusive' policies not quite what they appear? The use of demographics (e.g. disadvantaged young people – is a very blunt instrument for targeting provision.


Jenny Bimrose
08:11 on 7 December 2010

Embedded Content


Stephen North
3:36pm 7 December 2010

I'd be really interested to hear if people thought the Lifelong Learning Account ideas are worth trying?

Laurie Cohen
9:12am 9 December 2010

I was really interested in the ideas you presented on Lifelong Learning Accounts but have just a few observations.

First, I am concerned about issues of social exclusion (raised at various points in the seminar). While the accounts could potentially work as an inclusive mechanism, they could also serve to reinforce and even exacerbate existing patterns - and of course these are not only related to a technical know-how, but also a whole raft of other social, economic, cultural factors.

Second, I wasn't absolutely sure of the purpose of the accounts. Are they about helping people to find jobs (meaningful or otherwise), about on-going learning irrespective of vocational matters, or are they a combination of lifelong learning and growth and vocational development? This seems a fundamental question which will have huge implications for the design of the platform (is that the right word? probably not!), but also for when, how and by whom they are used, and then ultimately for perceptions of their value.

Third, related to usage and perceptions of value, I think that there is a pretty significant tension between quick pay-off and long-term gain. If visitors don't experience immediate benefit, then I guess they might well leave and never come back. But the title itself - Lifelong Learning Accounts - suggests the long view. Do people have to be in a pretty comfortable place to focus on long-term learning rather than training for the here and now? If so, the market for these accounts could be somewhat limited. Here I'm not just talking about people in the Not in Education or Training category, but of a much wider range of people who are not quite satisfied with what they are doing and are looking to move, but need some guidance and direction. For them, lifelong learning might not be their main priority, although they might benefit hugely from the kind of provision you were suggesting. I don't know anything much about website design, but I've heard about the idea of 'stickiness' and I think it's relevant. Here I think a key aspect to consider is the balance between short and longer term views.

Finally (for now!) I think there are important issues about process here, and especially the role of career professionals. During the seminar we didn't spent much time at all talking about processes of career guidance and counseling. Of course the focus of the day was really on policy so on one hand this makes sense. However, were there were references to practice, the old matching models seemed to be implicit. This was a little disappointing because there has been such a lot of important research which has investigated practice, leading to a wide range of innovative approaches. It's really important, in designing Lifelong Learning Accounts, to make the most of these new ideas - and conversely, it would be such a shame to develop this exciting, whizzy website based on what many of us might see as outmoded notions of process and practice. So, the point is that really considered attention needs to be paid not only to technological aspects, but also to notions of best practice when it comes to the nature of the support provided. Central here will be the role that career professionals play in the development of the accounts and in their on-going management.


Sara Bosley
8:28pm 9 December 2010 (Edited 8:51pm 9 December 2010)

Many thanks to the team for bringing together professionals from different contexts and for organising a stimulating day and thought-provoking day.   

My initial thoughts mainly concern the challenges of achieving all-age careers provision that meets the needs of learners, workers and potential workers. I think this involves managing three balancing acts. First is the challenge of balancing the needs of young people against those of adults. Some of the ‘all age’ services seem weighted towards youth. Second, all-age services face a similar challenge as Connexions: ensuring delivery of useful universal services alongside intensive, targeted provision for disadvantaged groups. Third, while we need to ensure that career guidance professionals have a high level of skills, knowledge and attitudes, we also need to acknowledge the important role played by informal career helpers including friends, family, line managers and colleagues. Clients need to know how different people might be able to help with career issues, how to assess the credibility of different people and how to evaluate the information and advice they receive. The following articles explore the value of and part played by informal career helpers.
Kidd, J.M., Hirsh, W. & Jackson, C. Straight talking: The nature of effective career discussion atwork. Journal of Career Development, 2004, 30, 231-45.

Kidd, J.M., Jackson, C. & Hirsh, W. The outcomes of effective career discussion at work.
Journal of Vocational Behavior, 2003, 62, 119-33.

Bosley, S. Arnold, J. and Cohen, L. (2007) The anatomy of credibility: A conceptual framework of valued career helper attributes. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 70 (1):  116-134

Bosley, S., Cohen, L. and Arnold, J.M. (2009) How other people shape our careers: a typology drawn from career narratives. Human Relations, 62 (10): 1487-1520.

A few of other random observations.
If anyone is interested in what young people and adults who are not in education, employment or training, say about their experiences of IAG and the careers help they would like,  NIACE holds data from over 2000 interviews with individuals which cover this topic. If you have funding, the research team will be able to undertake analyse and reporting on these data. Follow this link for more information about the project

The internet is seen as essential in delivering the services in the future. Its effectiveness in doing so will be dependent on users having access and the skills and inclination to navigate and evaluate online resources and social networks. However, we know of that there is a correlation between economic and social exclusion and digital exclusion from Ofcom’s media literacy surveys.

And finally, if you are not familiar with the Social Return on Investment Indicators it may be considering how they could be adapted to capture the impact of careers work on individuals, communities and wider society. Guide.pdf       

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