Welcome to Space4Careers

Welcome to Space4Careers, the blog of the Centre for Career & Personal Development at Canterbury Christ Church University. This blog does what it says on the tin, it provides an opportunity for anyone who is interested in all aspects of careers work to find a little bit of space in their busy lives to think about current issues and trends. If you like or dislike, agree or disagree with what you see, please respond and let us have your views. We'd love to hear from you.

Please note, the content of this blog represents the views of the individual blogger, not those of

Canterbury Christ Church University.

View the website for the Centre for Career and Personal Development

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Vocation, Vocation, Vocation: placing meaning in the foreground of career decision-making

The Centre for Career & Personal Development’s latest Occasional Paper is the first to be available on-line – follow the link at the end of this blog. It offers a collection of articles from presentations at the Centre’s biennial conference which took place in May 2011. Boy, do we live in challenging times! When planning the conference in 2010 we wanted to move away from an event focused on policy and were determined to concentrate on the core values that career guidance practitioners hold dear. We had the heady days of supporting statements for career guidance from the Conservative minister at the Institute of Career Guidance annual conference in November 2010. And then what happened – the coalition spending cuts in public services. It then felt that not to pay attention to the impact of these cuts would be like ‘fiddling while Rome burns’. However, mindful of the challenges and the effects on jobs for many colleagues in the field; we still wanted the conference, and the collection of papers, to be an opportunity for sharing both current purpose and future possibilities. Our aim was to pay attention to the core values of impartiality and listening to the client and their story – what we view as a return to our professional roots. Beyond this, we wanted to assert the place of beliefs, values, culture, biography and narrative: to give these concepts space in the foreground of career decision-making. Why? Despite (or maybe because of) the haemorrhaging of talent in some sectors, it is essential that we retain, but also develop relevant career guidance interventions for the 21st century. It is all too easy for these core values to get lost in the call for ‘realism’ in an economic recession. Of course, with reduced and restricted opportunities clients, students and practitioners have to be resilient. But supporting the development of resilience and reflexivity is different from encouraging a person to take any opportunity available.  Knowing what is important to us; spending time reflecting on our beliefs and values can aid effective decision-making: it is not just ‘wishful thinking’ or dreaming. As Savickas states, ‘Intentionality serves biographical construction in times of uncertainty. During transitions, individuals should engage in autobiographical reasoning to cope with change and risk’ (2011:131).

Recognising that career education, development and/or guidance does not take place in a neutral context, all the presentations at the conference and the papers in this collection reflect our desire to understand better and do things differently.  Take a look!


Hazel Reid

Savickas, M.L. (2011) Career Counselling, Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011


Last night was the premier of the latest production of the famous spy thriller ‘Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy’.  Not that I was there of course but bill boards and newspapers were full of it. It reminded me of a playground game of my childhood which I imagine is where the title came from: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor, Rich man, Poor man, Beggar-man, Thief.  On my train journey home I mulled over this rhyme and how then and perhaps to a lesser extent now, the titles of a person’s occupation really defined them. In other children’s stories there are similar characterisations: Fireman Sam, Postman Pat, Bob the Builder and so on. Then there was the entire cast of ‘the Shoe People’; anyone remember Trampy (the tramp shoe) , Margot (the ballet shoe), Grandpa (the slipper!!!) PC Boot (well it’s obvious isn’t it?) and of course ‘Baby Bootee! Where, I wondered, are the adult versions of these stereotypes; these characters entirely defined by their jobs and gender (and in the case of the Shoe People by their footwear!!) After 10 mins and approaching Woking it came to me…the soaps!
Now I and at least one other colleague here at CCPD are Corrie Fans and I know that I’m not the only one who listens to the Archers. So what about some of these characters?
Let’s start with The Archers where there is at least an attempt to present the non-stereotype. Debbie, and I suspect Pip could be good examples of female agricultural professionals and to be fair dear Ruth (oh no!) does do her bit on the farm. But for most of the other characters stereotypes abound! Successful business man Matt (the crook) runs rings around his ever faithful partner Lillian and that bounder Brian Aldridge is also an alpha male whose wife puts up with everything and comes back for more. In the working class representatives it isn’t any better. Jo and Eddie Grundy are the classic lovable rogues, making a living where ever and however they can. Susan is in retail and Clarrie is an occasional barmaid.
Now, what about
Coronation Street
? Men’s work includes motor mechanics, shop owners, restaurant owner and successful business man. OK there’s a gay man working in an underwear factory and one in his grandmother’s hair salon but no great surprises. Loads of the female characters work in the underwear factory (with Sean of course) or behind the bar, but apart from the alcoholic Carla who is terminally miserable, they are all either desperate for babies, worried about their men or after someone else’s man.
Don’t get me wrong – I love it! But how can we  encourage young people to aspire to the non-stereotypic, broader opportunities that the global economy will offer them if from the cradle they are influenced by such strong images of ‘women’s lives and work’ and ‘men’s work and lives’? Wouldn’t it be great if Tina (barmaid and usurped by boyfriend who married a Chinese immigrant to get her a visa!!) took up an access course and got a scholarship to study engineering at Manchester Uni. Then she could come back and buy up the garage and offer apprenticeships to the other aimless women in the street! I wonder if young people would agree or would that be too far fetched?
Let me know your possible story lines – perhaps we’ll forward them to the writers!!

Anne Chant

Monday, 18 July 2011

Tutor Support

When I did my own Masters dissertation ( not at CCPD ) I attempted to contact the tutor assigned to me at the time agreed , only to find he had been offered an unexpected research project in Iceland , so had made a speedy departure was non contactable for 3 months. No other tutor was willing to help me at the time. I particularly remember this incident at this time of year, when the summer tem is coming to its end at CCPD. This term is always a very challenging one for the students with all the practical skills assessments together with a flurry of written assignment deadlines. It is a time of year when more than ever, as tutors, we need to be available to help support our students.

With short time scales for students to submit their work, we must be able to offer tutorial time when the students require it and be able to respond quickly to questions asked. My status as a ‘part timer’ has implications for my availability. So, with that in mind, as well as face to face tutorials I promised I would check my emails everyday whether in work or not and would be happy to receive home phone calls. I knew that only a few students would probably need to take advantage of this - but for them it could be crucial to have the help when they needed it.

In the event I responded to quite a few emails but received only one phone call at home, from a male student. At the time of the call I was all soaped up, lying in my bath, as a precursor to going out for the day. “Is it a convenient time to call?” he asked. I thought about this. As I needed to go out immediately afterwards I said that it was probably as good as any, so to go ahead. He did. My first ever bath tutorial!

I think we were on the phone for around 15 minutes. I realise now there is an art to it. Trying to move around to keep warm under the water without making tell tale splashing noises, at the same time as talking seriously about academic matters is not easy. In this case, talking to a student who I knew would be horrified to think he was present at such a private moment in his tutor’s bathroom.

However, it was all worth- while - he passed the assignment!

Barbara Shottin

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Youth Support Workers

Youth support workers in a range of job roles are experiencing first-hand the effects of government cut backs to the services they offer young people. It goes without saying that their work is demanding and challenging at the best of times, when services are well resourced and fully staffed. So when cuts in funding (but not in clients) begin to bite, youth support workers may find themselves under increasing pressure to work longer hours, see more young people or take on additional responsibilities. It is at times like these that the need for quality support and supervision in the workplace is essential.

Workers need a place to share the load that they are bearing with a fellow professional who can understand, empathise, guide and support. Not only are many youth support workers continuing to manage their client work, but they are also processing issues such as colleagues' redundancy (survivor guilt as it was recently described to me) and a severe cut in resources (this can include work premises closing down).

Historically the youth support sector has taken a somewhat patchy approach to supervision. Good in parts (the youth service) non-existent in others (career advisers, for example). It is imperative that those who remain in employment and work hard to offer a quality service to young people feel that, in turn, they are supported by their organisations and receive an equally quality service as employees. In the words of Dr Hazel Reid, ‘taking care of self, in order to take care of others.’

Jane Westergaard

Monday, 4 July 2011

“What’s going on?” as they say on Eastenders! (With apologies to all those who have no familiarity with the BBC soap opera.)

On the programme every traumatic event (and there are many) requires one of the characters to enter stage left and ask this question. So in the style of Eastenders – what’s going on with career guidance in England? How does removing ‘ringfenced’ funding for an impartial and independent service which helps young people to make informed choices about education, training and employment, chime with the coalition government’s focus on addressing issues of social mobility? And it looked so hopeful just a few months ago. We had Dame Ruth Silver’s excellent and – apparently – influential Careers Profession Task Force, which led to the forming of the Careers Professional Alliance of the major professional associations in the field (no mean feat). One outcome was to call for level 6 qualifications (i.e. graduate) and strive for level 7 (post graduate) qualifications for professional guidance practitioners within 5 years – well, of course – many would say – it is a profession! This desire resonated with the Minister for Skills, John Hayes, in his support of the careers profession and the move to an ‘all age service’ in England. Ah, such ‘heady days’ at the time of the Institute of Career Guidance’s annual conference in Belfast in the autumn of 2010. There is no doubt that Hayes remains an advocate for professional career guidance (and the need to keep emphasising the word ‘professional’ is an indication of how far the service is perceived to have been de-professionalised over recent years). But what happened to the excitement generated by Hayes at the ICG conference?

Well, a sweeping and severe budget cut to public expenditure is one explanation of the stalling of developments; leading to the worry that we are facing the disintegration of career guidance provision in England (and we can add career education as the other significant and related casualty in this collapse). The all age service is to be called the National Careers Service and it is supposed to build on the best of both Connexions and Next Steps. But the funding does not match the rhetoric. Recent estimates suggest that the overall budget for the National Careers Service will not be taken from the merging of the career guidance element of the Connexions Budget and the Next Steps budget, just short of £300m, but may be confined to the £83m from Next Steps and the £7m from Connexions Direct. So, what will be ‘going on’ may be limited to web-based and telephone guidance. And in schools? With the transference of any funding to schools, individual guidance for young people, it seems, will rely on what schools are willing to pay for. The widespread redundancies within Connexions have, anecdotally, led to some guidance practitioners forming clusters of career guidance professionals offering services that can be bought-in by schools. On the one hand this is enterprising and self reliant – on the other it fulfils Michael Gove’s rationale that the previous partnership model is no longer required – i.e., “there you are you see this does open up a free market in guidance”! One view of the impact of the DfE’s Education Bill is that schools who can afford to pay for one-to-one career guidance will and those who can’t – won’t. There may still be some guidance for ‘intensive’ work in some schools as part of the Local Authorities’ brief. But, if the Bill goes ahead unchanged, it will be the majority - those in the middle - who will be squeezed out, receiving little more than ‘access to on-line services’. How could you deny access? It’s all a bit bonkers really - they’d be less polite on Eastenders!

Hazel Reid

Monday, 27 June 2011

Innovation, Innovation, Innovation

I went to a great workshop yesterday, about ‘Innovation in the workplace’ organised by social enterprise London and facilitated by KPMG.  Interestingly, the facilitator was actually a tax advisor employed by KPMG who had a great teaching style!  I was struck by how ‘innovative’ it is of the organisation to utilise staff in this way – maximising skills and perhaps even aiding retention by offering diversity and a ‘break from the norm’ (the extremely plush building in Canary Wharf signalled that this was not an efficiency saving!).  I went along because I have been reflecting recently on the need for creativity and innovative thinking and action in the austere times that we face.  The research collaborators in my own doctoral study about collaborative working between statutory and non-statutory sectors, have spoken about the need to be responsive and flexible and creative whilst as one of them stated “keeping your balance on a floating raft”.  It seems that human capital is a valuable currency, more so now than ever – when financial currency is scarce and we are expected to do ‘more for less’.  Doing more for less would surely necessitate innovative thinking and thinking outside of our own norms?  Participants in the workshop spoke about innovation defining their own random thinking and some key ‘behaviours’ that were conveyed as necessitating innovative thinking included ‘bravery’ and ‘playfulness’.  Perhaps the current climate has prompted a step change…that whilst cautious spending is inevitable, creativity could be invited, initiated, nurtured, embraced and valued.  Innovation perhaps is less about doing or being anything else but is about drawing on the playful, creative, unself-conscious parts of us and letting go of the restrictive messages about what we can and cannot and should and should not do in our respective professional fields.
Jo Oliver

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Personal Reflections - The Need for Careers Education

Now that my children have left school; one in the final year of a degree course and one in a gap year, I am having some interesting discussions with them about career and how poorly they feel that they were prepared for the choices that they now have to make. Now I like to think that I did my best to plug the gaps in their careers education and guidance but we all know that supporting our own is a very different business to that of supporting others. I did my best to make sure that they knew about alternatives to their own school sixth form and to going on to University. None-the-less they both chose to stay on into the sixth form and to go to University and honestly I had no problem with those decisions. However it is clear to them both now that progression onto higher education was expected by their school and by their peers. Although the ‘odd’ person didn’t do so it was the natural next step. However, like perhaps many young people now they are acutely aware of the financial cost of higher education and that the challenge to ‘get in’ is far from the end of the story. Many of their friends have found themselves unhappy and unprepared at University, in particular those who didn’t take a gap year. Those coming to the end of their degrees are anxious and often unclear what to do next. Now I know that university careers services do a brilliant job but I imagine that they too wish that young people were better prepared for this launch into the world of work. Quite basic things seem to be missing such as good, reflective self awareness, and an understanding of the complexities of the world of work.

As government thinking focuses on what might be described as ‘back to basics’ and less support is given to personal development learning, including career learning in the curriculum, I can only imagine that this situation will get worse. The Browne Report made it clear that impartial guidance was crucial for those deciding on a University degree, especially those paying up to £9,000 pa in tuition fees. However let us not forget that unless we prepare young people well for that guidance and for those decisions it will be left to University careers services to deal with the fall out. Now more that ever before careers professionals need to ensure that young people have every opportunity to learn about themselves and about their opportunities, statutory or not.
Anne Chant

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Conference on 5th May 2011

I am on the organising group that is currently planning planning a conference for the centre on 5th May this year. So I thought I’d take the opportunity to ‘blog’ about it. There are some really useful conferences planned for this year around the country and at a time of such uncertainty in the field of careers, particularly in England, such events have never been more important. Many will focus on the emerging all-age guidance service and others on the increased need for expertise in careers education. Although we have included a 'state of the nation' key note from Tony Watts who will reflect on these crucial changes, the focus of the conference is a little different.

The title ‘Vocation, vocation, vocation: placing meaning in the foreground of career decision making’ gives a flavour for this ‘back to our roots’ theme which is rather nicely illustrated on the front of the programme. The thought behind this, when we first began to plan the event in 2010, was that a healthy root system is essential for a plant and also for a profession. No matter how the context for our practice is ‘pruned’ or indeed cut back rather hard, it is the health of the roots, ethics and values of our profession that will ensure that we continue to grow. A quotation from Theodore Roethke ‘Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light’ is used to capture this concept and I certainly can’t think of a better way to say it!

Take a look at the conference brochure via the following link and perhaps I’ll see you there.
Anne Chant


Thursday, 17 February 2011

Education as a route to acquiring voice?

In his ‘foreward’ to Paulo Friere’s ‘Pedagogy of the oppressed’, Richard Shaul acknowledges the ‘culture of silence’ and the role of education as a route to ‘acquiring voice’ and a recent interview I engaged with for my EdD, has inspired me to reflect on my role as an educator, as a researcher and as a narrator.  I wonder how much of who I am, how I am and what I think and do promotes the acquisition of voice within others, particularly those who belong to a socially oppressed group. 
Friere refers to ‘conscientizc√°o’ and presents that the perceived caveat of procuring forums for these perhaps otherwise unheard voices is that the critical consciousness will instigate anarchy. As the oppressed and the oppressors are engaged in an interchange, this so-called inevitable ‘destructive fantacism’ is just as readily a ‘fear of freedom’.  In reflecting upon my own contribution to and perhaps even my obligation to this, I consider that it is about what we do and also about what we do not do to encourage critical consciousness.  
Referring to a video about racism I saw as part of my basic youth work training many years ago, ‘Me feel it’, much of what restricts and oppresses the voices of others happens silently, covertly and sometimes unintentionally.  The person I interviewed for my study stated that: ‘…me as a black person growing up in a white society and having to experience what I have and a lot of other black people have experienced these things…for me to sit in a class room now and listen to some of these phrases and some of these references, I’m thinking ‘ how out of date is it’ you know and what is it, what makes it right for us to follow these people’s processes by the letter?’. 
A final thought, drawing on Friere’s assertions is the importance of perceiving ‘the reality of oppression not as a closed world from which there is no exit, but as a limiting situation which they can transform’.  I hope that my own critical awareness will help to fuel the necessary transformation in my own work, because if education is a route to acquiring voice, then we as educators need to examine the interpersonal, contextual and material in a bid to open the necessary doors to ease this exit.
Jo Oliver

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

All Change and All-Age

Our Minister of State for Education, John Hayes announced the New All-Age Careers Service on Nov 4th 2010 and during his speech made the following statement:

‘A single, unified careers service would provide major benefits in terms of transparency and accessibility. And a single service with its own unique identity would have more credibility for people within it as well as users than the more fragmented arrangements that are currently in place.

There are a range of other benefits, including the ability to support young people more effectively during their transition to adulthood. And that’s why creating an all-age service will be one of my and my Departments’ most important tasks over the coming months and years.

As we go about this, it’s important to recognise that we’re not starting from scratch. On the contrary, we will build on Next Step, and on Connexions because we must not lose the best of either’.

In advocating this, I am certainly under no illusions about the Spending Review settlement. But if we are going to create the sort of comprehensive guidance service that I and many others think we need, then we will simply have to do more with less’

Fine words—but how does this relate to reality?

Take, for a start, not wanting to lose the best of Connexions. What I actually see is Connexions centres with large CLOSED notices scrawled across their premises, careers advisers pulled out of schools and many receiving redundancy notices. If the careers advisers are not in the schools and the Centres are disappearing, I do wonder how this can be keeping the best of Connexions?

Secondly, there is the ominous ‘doing more with less’. Is this actually possible? Well, given the wonders of modern technology, the Minister may actually be lucky with this one. My own experience of delivering telephone guidance for the Open University opened my eyes to just how effective this can be and it is certainly a more economical option, both for the client and guidance company, than face to face. So with an innovative approach, utilising the latest advances in technology ( I am not suggesting that the telephone falls into this category!) I believe Mr Hayes may ( just) have a chance of genuinely achieving more with less!

During his speech he also emphasised the need to continue to improve the status of the profession and the need for continuing professional development. This has to be good, and is already happening with the new LLUK Level 6 Diploma for adult guidance professionals and the Task Force recommendation of level 7 qualifications as the standard within 5 years.

Another theme was the partnership he expected to see between professional guidance practitioners and the schools who will be able to buy their services in. It was clear that he feels strongly that schools should buy in independent, impartial, professional career guidance for their pupils, however, it also was obvious that who the school purchase this from will be the decision of the individual school. In my opinion this will lead to a very variable provision with only some schools being prepared to pay for quality provision for all pupils, especially if they have to do this out of reduced budgets.

So what do the changes really mean?

John Hayes’ speech demonstrated that he is a champion of change to a better, more professional career guidance provision for all ages of client but the worry is that he may well be thwarted by the present funding cuts and other s in power that do not have his own convictions .

Time will tell.

Please click on the above title to link to the ICG website where you can read or listen to the John Hayes speech in full.

Barbara Shottin

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Careers on the political agenda!

Well done Esther McVey MP for getting an adjournment debate in the House of Commons (13 January 2011) on the subject of careers advice in schools. This was set in the context of the wider debate about careers advice for all ages. It was heartening to find that many MPs recognise the need for young people to get high quality, impartial careers advice from professionally qualified Careers Advisers.

Several MPs raised questions about the transition to the new all-age service, specifically about how it can be staffed when so many advisers face redundancy as a result of spending cuts in local authorities. John Hayes, Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills, was there to respond. I would like to quote from an exchange towards the end of the debate:

Andrew Miller: Given that the Connexions company locally has effectively been told to wind itself up, it will, by necessity, have to put people on notice of possible dismissal

Mr Hayes: Local authorities will retain a duty to provide the service and the new all-age service will begin to kick in from this autumn, so any hiatus of the kind that the hon. Gentleman suggests is present should not be significant. I hope that local authorities would put in place arrangements to ensure that those people involved could move from one service to the other reasonably seamlessly. If he takes that message to his local authority with my endorsement, it may yield more fruit.

Am I alone in thinking that the Minister is in danger of closing the stable door after the horse has been driven out to pasture? The message to local authorities certainly doesn’t, from what I hear around the country, seem to have got through!

Alison Fielding

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Is it just me .....?

Is it just me, or are others out there questioning the sense in decimating services that in recent years have done exemplary work in supporting the most vulnerable young people in our society?

Of course, I am aware that tough decisions have to be made concerning how money is spent at a time when the UK is facing unprecedented levels of National debt. But.... it seems to me short sighted in the extreme, to cut the very services that have been working tirelessly to encourage disengaged young people to take a more proactive role in our society and make their own contributions to the economic growth of the nation.

I’m left wondering what will happen to the numerous young people who have engaged actively with Connexions PAs . Young people who, to a large extent as a result of the hard work of those dedicated professionals, have been enabled to aspire to an alternative life style. A lifestyle that they might previously have thought impossible or not known how to achieve for themselves.

We should, perhaps, remind ourselves of the key reasons that the Connexions service was developed in the first place. Are those young people most at risk of disengagement, anti-social behaviour, criminal activity, long term unemployment, teenage pregnancy or NEET, simply going to disappear with the services that were formed to support them? I think not. And that is why I would urge all those professionals who have worked so hard, with such dedication to encourage the young people in greatest need, to make changes in their lives, not to be discouraged. Take time to reflect on and celebrate the results that you have achieved. And hold on in there. Your skills and expertise have not become redundant. Sadly, as funding continues to be cut across the public sector, the need for qualified professionals able to engage with the hardest to help in our society, is likely to increase in the next few years, not go away.

Jane Westergaard