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Guidance in practice - what's going on where?

This section of the forum provides links to relevant documents relating to recent initiatives affecting the structure and delivery of career guidance within IAG partnerships, HE, careers work in Scotland and Wales, Connexions (England).

Whatever our role, careers work does not take place in a vacuum. Given that much work concerned with the provision of careers information, advice, guidance, education and research is funded by government bodies, it is impossible to think about research in or on practice without recognising the impact of policy objectives. There’s no escaping the influence of government agendas. It has been said that careers education and guidance possess:

‘a chameleon-like ability to change in hue according to the prevailing socio-economic climate and political forces’ (Bates, I., (1990) ‘The Politics of Careers Education and Guidance, A case for scrutiny’ in British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, Vol. 18, No. 1, Jan 1990, pp 66-83)

The Careers Service has, indeed, experienced a multitude of changes in recent years. The following links relate to recent initiatives relevant to these changes.

The IAG Partnerships and careers work with adults


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Higher Education careers work


Here you will find resources of interest to those involved in careers work in Higher Education:

PDP in Higher Education

Unmediated web-based resources on pdp - From here you can access a range of web-based resources, articles and commentaries linked to issues around PDP in a range of settings, using social bookmarking.

e-portfolios in Higher Education

E-portfolios are growing in significance in higher education, extending earlier ideas upon use of portfolios in Hifgher Education.


Personal collection of information describing and documenting a person’s achievements and learning. There is a variety of portfolios ranging from learning logs to extended collections of achievement evidence. Portfolios are used for many different purposes such as accreditation of prior experience, job search, continuing professional development, certification of competences.

Systematic and selective collection of student work that has been assembled to demonstrate the student’s motivation, academic growth, and level of achievement (Norton & Wiburg, 1998, p.237). Box or a folder which contains various kinds of information that has been gathered over time about one student. (Freeman and Freeman, 1994) Portfolio is a concept taken from the world of architecture and the fine arts, where portfolio constitutes an extensive curriculum vitae with which the artist or architect presents his or her work. Portfolio is a collection either of a number of actual pieces of work or representations of pieces of work. In the financial world portfolio is a spread of investments or a block of shares. In business the term portfolio denotes a range of products and services offered. The connecting thread running through all this diversity of specific meanings is the idea of a portfolio first and foremost as a collection or inventory. In education portfolio, in its most basic form, is a collection of exhibits relating to the abilities of students or pupils (Meeus, 2006).


An e-portfolio is an electronic format for learners to record their work, their achievements and their goals, to reflect on their learning, and to share and be supported in this. It enables learners to represent the information in different formats and to take the information with them as they move between institutions. It represents a coming together of several concepts which have a particular resonance at the moment, for example: reflective journals; Weblogs or “Blogs” - and the shared version – Wikis; learning logs; personal development planning; learning centred on the individual learner; and action planning for learning. (Banks, 2004)An electronic portfolio is a collection of authentic and diverse evidence, drawn from a larger archive representing what a person or organization has learned over time on which the person or organization has reflected, and designed for presentation to one or more audiences for a particular rhetorical purpose. (National Learning Infrastructure Initiative, 2003).

Find out more about e-portfolios here.

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Further Education careers work

Key documents on the development of the Further Education sector include:

In 2011, The Further Education and Skills Sector in 2020: A Social Productivity Approach report commissioned by LSIS was published. It provides an independent perspective for the further education and skills sector on possible futures. The report calls on the sector to take advantage of its new found freedoms by breaking away from a narrow ‘delivery of qualifications’ role to place more emphasis on citizen engagement, interaction with employers and civic leadership.

In January 2009, Re-skilling for recovery: After Leitch, implementing skills and training policies.

In October 2008, Ewart Keep placed current policies on skills and performance in a historical and international context in From Competence and Competition to the Leitch Review: the utility of comparative analyses of skills and performance.

In September 2008, Caroline Mager of the Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) published a policy briefing on 'The world we’re in – the policy context for FE and skills and for LSIS'. The paper sees a new role for strategic leadership in the sector, with the government arguing that it will draw back from the micromanagement of service delivery, taking on a more strategic leadership role, giving greater scope for service leaders to take a localised approach which is more likely to deliver the responsiveness desired by citizens.

In June 2008, the government published Excellence and fairness: achieving world-class public services, which argues that world class services are characterised by excellent outcomes, personalised approaches, fairness and equity and value for money.

In April 2008, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills was set up. A short introduction to the work of the Commission emphasises how the UK's national employment and skills systems should optimally serve the twin goals of economic competitiveness and social cohesion.

Earlier developments included the July 2007 'Leitch Implementation Plan'. The House of Commons Education and Skills Committee published a report in August 2007 on Post-16 Skills that was broadly supportive of government policy but raised a number of concerns about the direction of current policy: 'The Government’s approach to skills is one predicated on a direct relationship between prosperity—both social and economic—and skills. Our evidence suggests that skills are only part of a very complex equation, and simply boosting training will not necessarily lead to increased prosperity—particularly in economic terms. What is needed is more coherent support for employers to develop their businesses as a whole, addressing skills needs alongside other issues such as capital investment, innovation and workforce planning. This should be coupled with a much stronger focus on management skills than is currently the case. Improving the national stock of qualifications has been a central aim of skills policy—and Lord Leitch’s ambitions are also framed in these terms. However, an increased national stock of qualifications will not necessarily be an accurate indicator of an increased national stock of skills. What is more, the tying of funding to courses leading to full qualifications goes directly against what many employers and individuals say would be of most benefit to them—'bite-sized' learning that can be built up over time. The new Qualifications and Credit Framework, which makes it possible to accumulate units over time is very welcome, but needs also to be accompanied by more flexible, responsive funding' (p. 3).

In December 2006, Lord Leitch had published his final report into UK Skills: for the full report, see: Prosperity for all in the global economy – World class skills. A Summary of the Leitch review: a roadmap directing the UK towards world class skills gives a concise summary interpretation of the report.

2006 White Paper Further Education: Raising Skills, Improving Life Chances.

2005 14-19 Education and Skills White Paper

'Skills Strategy' sets out a series of reforms intended to raise skills and qualification levels for young people and adults to world standards.

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UK policy and practice: comparing and contrasting delivery models

With funding support from the ESRC, the Warwick Institute for Employment Research and Loughborough University, are organising a series of seminars entitled'Re-framing service delivery, professional practices and professional identities in UK careers work'. The aim of the seminars is to contribute to and integrate knowledge in relation to three major policy agendas that all have careers guidance as a key strand: Europe-wide lifelong learning agenda; social equity agenda; and up-skilling agenda. The series provides a forum in which academics, policy makers and policy shapers, trainees and practitioners can contribute to the understanding, and solution, of crucial issues, as well as their inter-connections. In so doing, it will make a timely contribution to current policy formulation and debates about high quality services. To find out more about the seminar and contribute to discussion go to the project website on Cloudworks.

The first seminar held at the University of East London on 1 December 2010 compared and constrasted UK policy and practice in the four home nations. Presentations from this seminar can be downloaded:

A summary of these presentations and the proceeding discussions can be accessed here.

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Devolution and diversification: Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland

There are significant differences in how career guidance services are delivered in the four home nations. The following reports relate to the different countries, together with presentations given by 'expert observers' from each of the four home countries at the Institute of Career Guidance Symposium held at CeGS on 17 March 2006 to explore the theme of devolution and diversification in career guidance.

Careers work in England

Careers work in Scotland (************partially updated***********)

In 2011, The Scottish Strategey Career Information, Advice and Guidance in Scotland A Framework for Service Redesign and Improvement was publicshed. This strategy makes clear this Government's commitment to all-age, universal Career Information, Advice and Guidance as a central feature of the Scottish skills system. Alongside this Skills Development Scotland's new web-service, My World of Work, was launched. Using MyWOW, people across Scotland will be able to draw upon a range of material to support their careers. This will be replacing Careers Scotland.

Career development research in Scotland

  • Young people: their career aspirations and decision making (2002) - This research was commissioned to chart a group of Ayrshire young people’s developing and/or changing career ideas and aspirations over a period of three years as they prepared to leave school and enter post-school education, training or work.
  • Young People's Transitions: Careers Support from Family and Friends (2002) - Young people’s informal network of support, mainly from their parents and other family members, has a greater impact on their career development, decision-making and transitions than formal careers guidance. This 2002 Briefing draws on a study of a group of young people in the west of Scotland to explore this informal network and its impact.
  • Role of parents and families in enterprise in education (2004) - This 2004 paper considers the role of parents and families in Enterprise in Education and how their influence may be appropriately harnessed in the interests of young people.

Community guidance

The Dumfries and Galloway Community Guidance Action Plan includes a working definition of Community Guidance as: ‘the totality of information, advice and guidance services provided by organisations from the guidance and learning community. This action plan details partnership working that seeks to improve guidance services and facilitate lifelong learning through lifetime guidance’.

This Community Guidance in Scotland article was written by Doug Govan. It puts the Dumfries and Galloway Community Guidance Action Plan in the context of national developments.

Guidance in secondary schools

This Guidance in Secondary Schools study by Howieson and Semple, published in March 1996, was funded by the Scottish Office Education and Industry Department. The aim of the study was to examine the guidance needs of pupils and their parents, the organisation of guidance provision and the effectiveness of this provision in meeting their needs.

Assessing provision in Scotland (2001)

The effectiveness of careers services – This research was commissioned by the Scottish Office in 1997 to map Careers Service provision across Scotland and consider its effectiveness after a period of major change to its organisation and management. It defines effectiveness in terms of the extent to which provision met clients’ needs rather than whether Careers Service Companies (CSCs) were operating effectively within their existing resources.

Pupils’ experiences of the career service – The Careers Service is the main provider of careers guidance to young people. This Briefing reports the experiences and views of some of the Careers Service’s young clients – 4th and 5th year pupils – who were surveyed as part of a wider research project on the Effectiveness of Careers Services.

How would you know? Assessing the effectiveness of careers guidance services – This Briefing draws on a recently completed study of the Effectiveness of Careers Services in Scotland to consider some of the issues involved in assessing the quality and effectiveness of careers guidance work.

Careers work in Wales


Careers Work in Northern Ireland

The Future of Educational and Career Guidance: where next?

The Educational Guidance Service for Adults (EGSA) holds an annual 'Julie Hamill Memorial Lecture'. In May 2006 Deirdre Hughes was invited to Belfast to speak on the theme of 'The future of educational and career guidance: where next?'. The presentation and transcript are available here.

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ICG Symposium

The Institute of Career Guidance hosted a symposium, which brought together five of the six authors who contributed to the ‘Devolution & Diversification edition of the British Journal of Counselling & Guidance (2006, Volume 34, pp1-91). Overhead transparencies from each of the four presentations can be accessed here.

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Targets as a means of improving practice?

Contribution from Bill Law

It once appeared that some guidance people could not think of anything to do, unless a target had been set for it. Targets seemed such a good idea at the time. Research-and-development projects were concluded with lists of targets which bore no recognisable relation to the evidence they adduced.

And now? Many targets have been set; fewer have been met – and life goes on. There may well be something more that we should be doing about targets; but in order to know what that is now, we need to understand why we got so over-excited about them then.

Professor-of-politics David Marquand is helpful. He traces the culture of targets to a late-twentieth-century loss-of-faith in public provision. He is talking about civil society - where, over the years, the likes of religious traditions, municipal parks, local clubs, civic schools, public libraries, helping professions, broadcasting and campaigning NGOs have been found. Civil society provides shared spaces, in which we gather ourselves to meet life’s pleasures and pains.

Public provision and civil society are, David Marquand admits, inchoate concepts. That doesn’t mean that they are meaningless or useless; it just means that they are dynamic and adaptive. In order to appreciate them you must look for a centre-of-gravity, there may be no clearly-defined boundary. But, in all its manifestations, civil society stands separately from - on the one hand - the market place, and - on the other - central government. What they offer cannot be accessed by the sort of consumer choices that individuals and families make; but neither can it be appropriately designed and controlled by national government.

Those who work in pubic provision, argues David Marquand, respond to argument rather than demand. They need to be approached in different terms than would be appropriate to (say) an estate agent. They have their own way of understanding what is going on and what should be done - whether professionally, scientifically or civilly. This means, I suppose, that they would not be easy to push around. And this is where, for most of its life, guidance was found.

So what happened? David Marquand, in an authoritative and – at times – refreshingly intemperate account, points to neo-conservatism. From it we got special versions of the enterprise culture, the case for competitiveness, the celebration of new technologies, an appreciation of globalisation and the claims of market forces. All were urged as a way of knowing how to shape a sustainable future - for families and for the nation. All, he says, was presented as a ‘there-is-no-alternative’ scenario. But, he argues, capitalism did offer alternatives. And our own commercial leaders were never convinced by the neo-con version; although it suited them not to voice too many doubts.

And so it was not too difficult to lead guidance into buying the analysis - lock, stock and policy agenda. Maybe we were not well-enough prepared; our DOTS analysis had clear places for individual choice and what came to be thinly labelled as ‘labour-market information’. But we found no place for the civic, social and cultural context of career.

So guidance made its moves, and there were consequences. Now in command, the neo-cons followed through with privatisation, marketisation, the weakening of local and civic provision, and all the apparatus of market making. By this time, guidance was hardly in a position to resist.

The marketing of a service needs information. That, argues, David Marquand, is why and how we got targets. Actually, provision was articulated in terms set by a whole raft of performance indicators: audits that identify deficits, outputs that could be measured, outcomes that could be verified, standards and targets that could be costed, league tables on which we could compete, and focus groups to tell us how to voice it.

David Marquand characterises the movement as ‘kulturkampf’ – a massive turn-round in the way in which we think – and talk - about what can be done. That struggle for dominance displaced an older language - of understanding - with a newer language - of compliance. Words and phrases, which articulated a shared search for clues about how to do this work, were lost.

David Marquand takes an academic’s legitimate pleasure in pointing out the contradictions, missing links, and non-sequiturs in all of this. It’s a good read.

But it leaves us with a serious task. We need a model for the use of targets – with a secure chain of probable causes and effects. At the moment it is not there. Know it or not, we are in real practical difficulties:

  • our most vulnerable and needy clients are rarely in a position to exercise the kind of choice that targets imply;
  • targets are arbitrary – unsupported by any evidence that meeting them means that people get a more useful and effective service; > they shape provision – providers become more interested in meeting the targets than in thinking about what would be useful;
  • targets distort provision – some user-needs are neglected because meeting them would not meet the targets;
  • targets are centrally generated - offering little chance for local knowledge to modify the terms in which performance is validated; > choice is a mantra – we would do better to develop an informed and trusted argument that provision is as good as it can be.

This is not to abandon targets. There is a case for them: people have become worried and distrustful about public provision. The policy wonks who argue most ferociously for marketisation of public provision tend to reveal their own underlying distrust of providers. And professional providers are not sea-green innocents. David Marquand argues that public providers need to work harder at ensuring that people understand the-whys-and-wherefores of how a service is shaped. ‘Every client his or her own theoretician!' could be a worthwhile target.

So how do we move on? We must look again at the terms in which targets help and hinder. We must work out how targets relate to other ways in which provision can be understood by our clients. We need to understand how target-setting can usefully be articulated to local economic-and-cultural conditions. Before we were driven by targets we were driven by understanding; and when we understand more about how targets best help we will be in a better position to use to OECD reports urging targets.

David Marquand‘s book is The Decline of the Public - the Hollowing Out of Citizenship (Polity, 2004).

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