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crunch time for the professional alliance

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Bill Law
8 May 2011

Bill Law

I think we are approaching a critical phase in the work of our careers profession alliance.  It has been set up to carry forward  the work of a task force on our professionalism.  We are concerned: my blog on it has attracted more than 700 views since February.

We certainly need the alliance to establish and maintain a framework for our work.  And it needs clearly to mark out our theoretical and ethical underpinning.

But we also need it to maintain independence of external pressures.   Our pursuit of business and political priorities has led us up blind alleys.  Business and politics do what they do, but they are the same as what we do.  And we run a serious risk of being trapped by them. 

There are underlying questions here: did we come into careers work hoping to increase national prosperity? or to help recruitment people select candidates? or to facilitate better behaviour in students and clients?  All are claims made on our behalf.   Or did we hope for something we thought more important?  And is that the thing by which we now need to explain ourselves to others? - and to ourselves?  We have a lot more to say about who we are, what we do, and why we do it.

The task force is right to urge unity in facing this situation.  And the unity we seek certainly rests on professionalism.  But professionalism  is characterised by its independence of arbitrary pressure.  That means finding support for saying ‘no’ to what we cannot see as part of our work.  Our claims to ‘impartiality’ are not the same as the heart-and-mind independence that people have a right to expect from us.

We need the alliance to win that trust from our clients and students.  We need it to attract good people into our professions.  And we need it to win funding free of hampering strings.

We have plenty to draw on.  Out professionalism rests on a range of thinking, some of which underpins curriculum and some guidance.  They are different from each other.  They belong to more than one profession. And they need more than one association.

But their diversity will support a shared professionalism.  With so many sources of information now available we must link to a widening range of partners and stakeholders.  They all need to value, understand and work with what we do.

An open and flexible professionals alliance is our best hope of establishing the scope, depth and independence of that kind of story.  But it is a new story.  It is for reform.


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