The increased use of technology by young people is placing new demands on Connexions/careers Personal Advisers. The IER project team together with Graham Attwell conducted a small-scale, mixed-methods research study exploring the skills and competencies required by PAs to deliver internet-based guidance. Importantly, The study gave young people the opportunity to express their views about how they want information and communication technologies (ICT) to be used in the future to deliver guidance services.
The purpose of the project was to research the skills and processes required by practitioners and managers to respond to the changing interface between internet-based guidance and individual user behaviours, and to identify the additional or specialist needs of Connexions practitioners in providing careers and guidance-related interventions to young people through internet-based delivery methods. The fieldwork involved 46 young people and 17 PAs and managers of Connexions services, across six dispersed geographical locations in England.
The study found that a distinction needs to be made between the generic guidance skills required by Connexions PAs to deliver internet-based guidance and ICT user skills. Generic guidance skills need to be transferred selectively and adapted to different operational contexts. For example, telephone guidance requires highly developed active listening skills to establish client need, whilst skills of analysing text-based communication are required for the same purpose when working with text-based methods such as email and chat rooms. Other guidance skills are common across all methods of internet-based guidance (e.g. empathy, contracting, challenging), with ICT user skills (to operate a telephone helpline or to lead discussions in a chat room) needed in parallel. Generic digital skills classifications are helpful in identifying skills gaps amongst PAs. Using one such classificatory system, the research study found that the established digital skills profiles of PAs were encouraging, with only specialist technical skills (like web design) identified as a particular gap.
Also, the study indicated that there was an urgent need for a training and education programme to raise awareness of the potential of internet-based guidance services amongst Connexions PAs and their managers, together with encouragement to seek training support to address skill gaps.
Bimrose, J., Barnes, S-A. and Attwell, G. (2010) An investigation into the skills needed by Connexions Personal Adviers to develop internet-based guidance, Reading: CfBT Education Trust. (Executive report also available)
The second part of the project piloted an internet-based training module on competences and skills development of PAs to deliver internet-based services. The purpose of the pilot was to:
- pilot an internet-based training module for P.A.s that can be used within continuing professional development (CPD) staff training and development programmes
- implement findings from the research into skills and competencies required for internet-based guidance, so maximising impact
- identify any additional or specialist needs of Connexions practitioners in providing careers and guidance-related interventions to young people through internet-based delivery methods
The training was completed by PAs from across the CfBT network. The training was reviewed and evaluated by the team.