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ESRC second seminar on careers: Professional associations & Professionalism

2nd seminar in the series: 31st March, 2011, University of Glamorgan

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Jenny Bimrose
11 January 2011

This seminar will explore the ‘Balkanisation’ of careers guidance, the role of the associations and their inter-relationships.

It is being  held on Thursday, 31st March 2011 and is being hosted by the University of Glamorgan at Glamorgan Business Centre, on the main Treforest campus of the University of Glamorgan (link to the campus provided above).


Arrival & coffee.


Introduction: Professor Laurie Cohen, School of Business & Economics, Loughborough University.


How to be a good professional? Existentialist continuing professional development (CPD)’. Professor Rachel Mulvey, Chair in career guidance, University of East London


Value versus values? The challenge of ethical professionalism in times of austerity’, Professor Helen Colley, Professor of Lifelong Learning, Manchester Metropolitan University, and Fellow of NICEC




Can ‘caring’ occupations become professions? What might be lost and gained in the processes of professionalisation?’ Sally Aldridge, Director of Regulatory Policy, British Association of Counselling & Psychotherapy


Tea/coffee and discussion – preparing questions for the panel session

2.40 - 3:40

Panel Session. Perspectives on Professional Associations & Professionalism

Chaired by Professor John Arnold, Loughborough University

Panel Members:

Sarah Finnegan-Dehn, Chief Executive, Careers Wales North West, Vice President, Institute for Career Guidance

Professor Danny Saunders, OBE, Head of Lifelong Learning and Further Education College Partners, University of Glamorgan

Dr. Deirdre Hughes, Careers Profession Alliance, Executive Group Member


Final Discussion. Professor Laurie Cohen, School of Business & Economics, Loughborough University.

Brief Biographies of Speakers:

Sally Aldridge trained as a student counsellor at the University of Keele and then worked as a counsellor and head of Student Services at Staffordshire University. In 1999 she moved to work at BACP as Head of Accreditation, later Professional Standards. Since autumn 2006 Sally has worked as Head of Regulatory Policy and more recently Director of Regulatory Policy.  From 2008-2011 she was the BACP representative on the Health Professions Council’s Professional Liaison Group for the regulation of psychotherapy and counselling. She recently completed a PhD at the University of Leicester on the professionalisation of counselling in the United Kingdom.

 Helen Colley is Professor of Lifelong Learning at Manchester Metropolitan University, and a Fellow of the National Institute of Career Education and Counselling.  She is the author of the award-winning Mentoring for Social Inclusion (RoutledgeFalmer, 2003) and lead editor of Social Inclusion: Breaking Down the Barriers (Council of Europe, 2007).  She has also published numerous articles on vocational education, training and guidance in both academic and practitioner journals.  Her particular research interests include class, gender and social justice.  Over recent years, her research has centred on the workplace learning – formal and informal – of professionals working with disadvantaged young people, with a special focus on the emotional and ethical dimensions of this learning and work in the context of austerity policies.

 Sarah Finnegan-Dehn is the Chief Executive of Careers Wales North West and Vice President of the Institute for Career Guidance. Sarah is passionate about ensuring that the vital role played by specialist professional career guidance continues to be recognised. Having been brought up in Sussex, studied in Hull, trained as a Careers Adviser in Newcastle upon Tyne and worked in Cheshire, Sarah moved to Wales and worked in a variety of roles over a period of 20 years, having during that time become a fluent Welsh speaker! She became Chief Executive of Careers Wales North West in 2008.

 Deirdre Hughes is an Associate Research Fellow at the Institute for Employment Research, Warwick University. She is also Immediate Past President of the UK Institute of Career Guidance and Founding Director of the International Centre for Guidance Studies (iCeGS), University of Derby (1998-2008). She has recently been appointed Lead Consultant on Quality Assurance and Evidence-Base in the European Lifelong Guidance Policy Network. Deirdre is a member of both the Careers Profession Taskforce in England and the UK Careers Sector Strategic Group. She has been actively involved in the newly established ‘UK Careers Profession Alliance’ She has undertaken a major review of careers provision in Wales, on behalf of the Minister for Children, Education and Lifelong Learning, working with Dr Hayden Edwards and Professor Danny Saunders

 Rachel Mulvey is Professor of Career Guidance at the University of East London. A fellow and past president of the Institute of Career Guidance, she is also a fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Rachel was Vice Chair of the parliamentary task force on the career guidance profession which reported October 2010. Her own research centres on public policy for career guidance, and the management of guidance professionals.  Rachel has undertaken consultancy at local and national level, most recently on resilience training for young unemployed people.  She co-authored Brilliant Graduate Career Handbook, to be published Spring 2011.

 Danny Saunders graduated in Psychology from the University College of North Wales Bangor and then went to the University of Exeter where he completed a research MSc on the Psychology of Gambling. He joined the Polytechnic of Wales in 1978 as a lecturer, and gained a PhD as well as the Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning. He is a Chartered Psychologist and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Danny is now the Professor and Head of the Centre for Lifelong Learning at the University of Glamorgan. His work involves implementation of the University’s widening access strategy, and facilitating collaborative partnerships. This includes supporting EU and Communities First projects, the HEFCW funded Reaching Wider First Campus consortium, the University of the Heads of the Valleys (involving the Universities of Glamorgan and Newport), and developing research and consultancy initiatives linked to lifelong learning.

He was awarded the OBE in the New Year honours list for 2010.


Extra content

Powerpoint presentations:

Sally-Anne Barnes
10:22 on 10 May 2011 (Edited 11:24 on 10 May 2011)

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

In his closing comments, John Arnold thanked all the speakers and panel members for their excellent presentations, and all participants for playing a part in making a very stimulating and informative day. As had been noted by several present, the seminar was held on a very significant day in carers guidance, particularly in England – the last day of the employment contract for many careers guidance professionals.

John drew attention to eight points arising from the presentations and discussions:

  1. In order to have collective influence, it was probably not necessary for all careers guidance professionals to have the same approach to their work. After all, members of many professions differ in how they meet the requirements of their work, clients, employers and professional bodies. What is needed, however, in unity about the role, values and ethics.
  2. Given the negative experiences of former Connexions staff in England reported in Helen Colley’s presentation, perhaps the only viable course of action (albeit still unlikely to be successful) for careers guidance staff from their point of view is to resist or subvert the managerialism they believe to be undermining good practice. This would certainly require unity, and the sharing of case studies and experiences of success in doing this. 
  3. In academic writing on careers, a popular concept is the so-called “boundaryless career”. The idea is that boundaries (e.g. between organisations, functions, occupations) are barriers to mobility, self-expression and labour market success that individuals need to be able to overcome. Sally Aldridge’s comment that “when you have a boundary, people tend to make it hard to cross” is in line with this view, though it should also be noted that a boundary in itself only marks territory. Such markers may actually be helpful to people in navigating and making sense of their careers. Nevertheless, Sally’s point that career boundaries aren’t just “there”, but are created by people who use them for various purposes emphasises the de facto importance of boundaries, and indeed of careers guidance professionals in enabling people to understand and traverse them.
  4. The idea that people often hold puzzlingly contradictory perceptions of work and career cropped up several times. This is something that Amal El-Sawad, along with John Arnold and Laurie Cohen, has written about in the academic literature. It can be argued, and indeed demonstrated, that people routinely hold contradictory views, and seem either oblivious to the tension, or not nearly as bothered by it as social psychologists would expect. Rather than seeking a “right” or “true” view, it is perhaps more useful to embrace contradiction and use it to explore a person’s perhaps competing values and experiences.    
  5. A number of points made in presentations and the panel session pointed to the importance of the “social” side of career development, particularly the use of networks for job-seeking and also for support at difficult times. Given the fragmented nature of the careers guidance profession, and also the fact that careers guidance is often implicitly seen as an “add on” in many contexts, it is easy for careers guidance professionals to become isolated. Therefore it is important for careers guidance professionals and their professional bodies to take action to support each other, especially at local level and perhaps especially at this time.
  6. In the panel session, Danny Saunders referred to the use of metaphorical terms such as “army” in trying to communicate the nature and potential of careers guidance work. As he noted, however, it is vital to get a metaphor that appeals to the audience. This is echoed in research on cross-cultural leadership, where cultural variations in hierarchy vs equality and individualism vs collectivism mean that different metaphors (e.g. army, family, sports team, community) can gain dramatically different levels of acceptance (or not). So, both in expressing the importance/role of careers guidance work, and in trying to foster professional integration, it is important to pick the right words.
  7. There was some suggestion through the day that different types of contractor (e.g. individual schools, local authorities) may well tend to produce different types of ethical dilemmas for careers guidance professionals. The professional bodies may want to pay some attention to likely ethical issues affecting the work of members in different settings.
  8.  Rachel Mulvey’s presentation was a welcome reminder of the importance of focusing on identity and a holistic sense of self expressed and modified through action. It is helpful to have this fusion of “being” and “doing”. Also, too often there is a tendency to break down individuals into atomised competencies or interests. A focus on identity is a good counter-balance. Care might however be needed to avoid the notion of “self-improvement” becoming an overly guilt-ridden activity, or one where the ethical/moral dimension to self-improvement is used by employers to control and define employees’ behaviour.

Sally-Anne Barnes
10:24 on 10 May 2011

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