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    Wednesday
    Apr132016

    Re-imagining Career Guidance by Peter Beven  

    In this new article, Peter Beven argues for a rethink of what good guidance might look like.

    Reimagining career guidance: towards a pluralistic perspective

    Abstract

    Difficulties concerning the identified mis-match between supply and demand sides of the labour market are discussed. The variability of career guidance services for young people across Europe is illustrated together with policy initiatives in some cases leading to problems of professional identity. Risks concerning a monoculture of “one size fits all” approach to guidance practice are discussed. The principles of pluralistic approaches to counselling are discussed with the suggestion that this might prove to be a fertile way forward for career guidance practice.

     

    The problem of youth unemployment in the European Union is not new. Youth unemployment has been double or even three times the rate of general unemployment in Europe for the last 20 years. 5.6 million young people are unemployed across Europe, and a total of 7.5 million are neither being educated, nor are they working. Moreover, while young people are eager to work, more than half of those without jobs say they simply can’t find one—while at the same time businesses across Europe insist they struggle to find young people with the skills they need. (Mourshed, Patel, and Suder, 2014)

    As for many young people, the system is not working for most of them, either. A McKinsey survey conducted in 2012 asked young people a combination of attitudinal and behavioural questions to understand how they thought about the transition from education to employment. For those who see themselves as successful (when most do not) this seems to be because they actively manage their decisions about their education and career. The analysis highlights significant numbers who feel disheartened (“I know enough to not care”), those who are disengaged (“I don’t care to know more”) and those who are struggling (“I want to know more”). (Mourshed, Farrell, and Barton, 2012)

    Reports concerning career guidance practitioner competencies indicate a variable picture across Europe too. For example, The European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training published a report about practitioner competencies across Europe. The core message of this report is that there is a huge variation across Europe in terms of professional training available, competences and qualifications acquired through such training, roles and functions carried out by guidance practitioners and settings in which guidance services are offered (Barham 2009). In some countries policy decisions have restricted the nature of support young people can rely upon. For example recent researches undertaken on working models of careers guidance indicate a crisis in the delivery of services, certainly in England. As Reid and West argue (2011, page 399)

     

    “…in a situation where guidance work has become more complex it appears that preparation for the work may have diminished, being restricted to a powerful and instrumental discourse in guidance in the UK…”,

     

    The pressure from successive governments for services to deliver a target driven service has led to what Reid and West describe as a “technicising” of the guidance sector where they argue opportunities for creative strategies in supporting clients with career decisions are perceived as potentially risky enterprises (Reid and West, 2011a). Policy initiatives relating to “targeted” services have also been based upon questionable premises; for example, assuming that those not in education, employment or training are a homogenous group (Furlong, 2006). Within England, changes in the delivery of career guidance have also resulted in many advisers feeling de-skilled and at risk of losing their professional identity (see, for example, Neary, 2014; Hooley and Watts, 2011; Bimrose, 2006 and Colley, 2009)

    The need for high quality career guidance support is arguably greater than ever; however the devolving of the role in England to school based services has resulted in inconsistencies in delivery (Haynes, McCrone and Wade, 2013).  Of course the biggest losers in these developments are arguably the clients of the services themselves. If advisers have to work within strictly limited constraints in terms of outcomes and method then the danger is that “one size fits all” thinking will come to dominate practice. This, in spite of evidence that what is needed in times of increasing complexity for guidance to be delivered by skilled practitioners who are reflexive, open to learning new approaches and able to learn from theory with a view to supporting their client groups in a variety of ways (McCrone et al. 2010; NFER, 2013).

    Given the complexity of career decision making at this time, there is a need to look again at the nature of career guidance support and re-imagine what might constitute an effective service to young people. As a starting point there is a need to recognise that individuals have different needs at different points of time. Motivation will vary between individuals, but also within an individual depending upon current concerns (Miller and Rollnick, 2013). Decision making styles adopted by individuals also have a factor. Drawing upon their longitudinal study of the effectiveness of career guidance with adult clients, Bimrose and Barnes also note:

    “The extent to which individuals espouse an evaluative, strategic, aspirational or opportunistic approach to making decisions about their career progression is crucial to understanding the particular types of support required from guidance practice”  (Bimrose and Barnes, 2008, p. vi)

     

    For some a placing service based on matching against abilities may be what is required; others will require support with more complex decisions involving reflection, self-assessment and career planning. A “one size fits all” approach is clearly inappropriate. Many writers have been critical of prevailing models of guidance systems concentrating as they do around a matching model, variations on the trait-factor paradigm. It has been argued that the matching model was introduced within industrial societies at a time of relatively high employment. It assumes that individuals when matched to an appropriate occupation will have a strong work ethic and be happy with the match; hence society and the individual will benefit. There is also the assumption of a relatively stable labour market (Bimrose, 2009). The trait-factor approach has faced increased scrutiny over recent decades. In particular the notion of “career” has changed significantly (see, for example, Young and Collin, 2000). Questions have also been asked of the applicability of the model in terms of its non- engagement with issues relating to gender differences (Bimrose, 2001), culturally varied groups (Mobley and Slaney, 1998) and individuals from socially deprived backgrounds (Meara et al, 1997).

     

     The issue is to ask what might usefully develop career guidance practice. Various contributors have argued the case for approaches such as person centred approaches (Bozarth and Fisher, 1990) using narratives (Savickas, 2013; Cochran, 1997; Reid and West, 2011b; Brott, 2001; McMahon and Patton, 2006), cognitive behavioural approaches (Sheward and Branch, 2012) integrative models (Egan, 2013) and Motivational Interviewing (Beven 2009). All of these perspectives on practice may be useful in different ways; some will be a better fit than others for any individual circumstance.

     

    At this point it may be helpful to draw upon evidence from research findings in counselling and psychotherapy. These are cognate areas to career guidance and counselling, in that they contain a variety of approaches from client centred through to directive methods, and are all concerned with helping individuals finding a way forward in their lives. Some key findings are:

    1)      Different clients want different things from a counsellor or therapist. For example, in a study offering a choice to depressed clients in primary care; a choice was offered. Would clients prefer non-directive counselling or cognitive-behaviour therapy? 40% of clients chose non-directive therapy (King et al, 2000).

    2)      Clients do better in their preferred therapies. In their review of 26 studies, Swift and Callahan (2009) demonstrated that clients who received their preferred treatment had a 58% chance of showing better outcome improvement, and were half as likely to drop out of therapy. These findings have a resonance with the research on career decision-making, as cited earlier (Bimrose and Barnes,2008)

     

    Pluralism in counselling is an attempt to move away from individual modes of helping (e.g. person centred, cognitive-behavioural, narrative etc.) in their different modalities. Instead the approach(es) should derive from client’s wants and clients’ (Cooper and McLeod, 2011)

    The question that needs to be asked here is: how is pluralism any different from existing models of guidance practice? Arguably the influential Egan “Skilled Helper” model and derivatives of the model are examples of integrative approaches drawing their inspiration from a range of sources, including person centred counselling, cognitive behavioural ideas and decision making theory. However, there can be a tendency here for the practice to involve replacing a single model with something very similar despite having elements drawn from a variety of sources. Egan’s problem management approach advocates a highly specified set of procedures for helping clients addressing their concerns about life and career (Egan 2013).

    Of course, without doubt, there are already many career counsellors and guidance workers who think and practise in pluralistic ways but they have always tended to be over-shadowed in the public policy arena by more singular, single model thought and practice.

    What might a pluralistic approach to career guidance look like?

    Pluralism is a demonstration of an ethical and political commitment to respecting, valuing and being inclusive towards ‘other worldviews, of other career and guidance practitioners and our clients. Proponents of pluralism in counselling and therapeutic practice have described pluralism as a form of humanistic-existential ethic in which there is ‘a commitment to conceptualizing, and engaging with people in a deeply valuing and respectful way.’ (Cooper, 2007 p. 11) Drawing upon the work of the philosopher Nicholas Rescher, the philosophical assumption supporting the notion of pluralism is defined as ‘the doctrine that any substantial question admits of a variety of plausible but mutually conflicting responses’ (Rescher, 1993, p.79). 

    With respect to career guidance, a pluralistic standpoint holds that a many different models of working are valid and that there is no need to try and reduce these into one, unified model. This might be illustrated by a case study.

     

    Case Study: (all names anonymised)  Jane is a bright 17 year-old who has no qualifications as she needed t be at home to look after a chronically sick parent, which she is continuing to do. She is seeking advice about what she can do to earn some money to support the household. She is worried about her lack of qualifications and very concerned about what the future may hold for her, and was doubtful she had anything to offer a prospective employer. The support Jane did receive was an interview that looked at current vacancies- that was it- no attempt was made to discuss with Jane what might be most helpful for her. The adviser simply addressed the initial presenting issue. This might have been satisfactory to a point- but as it stood there were no suitable vacancies, according to the adviser, and Jane was asked to return in two weeks’ time. There was no attempt to engage with Jane on broader issues relating to herself or her future.

    For a skilled guidance worker, the issue might have been approached in a wide variety of ways. There might have been an attempt to prioritise what was most important for Jane- it may be that advice about vacancies might indeed have its merits, but perhaps not as useful as it could have been if the discussion paid no attention to possible future scenarios. The adviser might have instead gently challenged the notion that Jane had nothing to offer, using tactics from CBT; alternatively the support could have proceeded from a client centred, solution focused or narrative perspective.  A skilled practitioner will have many possibilities to draw upon. Some advisers may have preferences that lead them to use similar tactics with a range of clients. Others will have developed their own eclectic approach drawing from a range of theoretical orientations.

    How does pluralism differ from this? A pluralistic approach would involve engagement with the client at various stages of the encounter to ascertain what might be most helpful. In a way this is an advanced version of contracting with the client concerning her preferences in working together with the adviser. This discussion would concern not only the goals the client may have, but also the type of approach preferred. To facilitate this, from pluralistic counselling practice come a range of tools from relatively formal questionnaires pre and post interview to informal questions about preferences about the type of support. This therefore is a type of meta- dialogue (Cooper and McLeod, 2011) inviting clients to explore what they want from therapy (goals), and how they may be most likely to achieve it (methods). This is not doing whatever a client initially asks for and then sticking to it regardless…but rather it is dialogue, a subtle, complex, on-going process which draws on expertise of both client and adviser -and acknowledges limits of both perspectives. The best support will come through this co-construction of perspective and methods.

     

     

     

     

    Unlike integrative or eclectic approaches the pluralistic approach does not view multi-orientation ways of working as necessarily superior to single-orientation practices: for some clients at some points in time, a purely non-directive approach, or a highly behavioural approach, may be exactly what is needed.

    Conclusion

    Requires revisiting professional training (Neary, 2014), the political will to develop sustainable provision of career guidance that recognises its potential for individual and societal benefits…..Pluralism cross cultural internationalise

     

    References

    Barham, L. (2009) Professionalising Career Guidance: Practitioner Competences and training routes in Europe Luxembourg: The European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop panorama series 164)

    Beven, P. (2009): Client Narratives, Language and Motivation, Constructing the Future Volume V, Stourbridge: ICG Publications

    Bimrose, J. (2001) Girls and Women: Challenges for Careers Guidance Practice. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 29 (1), pp.79-94

    Bimrose, J. (2009) Careers guidance, identity and development Warwick: Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick

    Bimrose, J. and Barnes, S. A. (2008) Adult career progression & advancement: a five year study of the effectiveness of guidance Warwick: Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick

    Bimrose, J. (2006). The changing context of careers practice: Guidance, counselling or coaching? Derby: Centre for Guidance Studies, University of Derby.

    Bozarth, J. D. and Fisher, R. (1990) Person centered career counselling in Walsh, W. B. and Osipow, S. H. (eds.) Handbook of vocational psychology Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum

    Brott, P. E. (2001) The Storied Approach: A Postmodern Perspective for Career Counseling The Career Development Quarterly, 49: 304–313. doi: 10.1002/j.2161-0045.2001.tb00958.x

    Cochran, L. (1997) Career Counseling: a narrative approach Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications

    Colley, H. (2009) Becoming, unbecoming, and not-becoming in professional careers:  A case study of career guidance practitioners Manchester: Education and Social Research Institute, 

    Manchester Metropolitan University

    Cooper, M. (2007). Humanizing psychotherapy Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, 37(1), 11-16.

    Cooper, M., & McLeod, J. (2007) A pluralistic framework for counselling and psychotherapy: Implications for research Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 7 (3), 135-143.

    Cooper, M., and McLeod, J. (2011) Pluralistic counselling and psychotherapy London: Sage Publications

    Egan, G. (2013) The Skilled Helper 10th edition Cengage Learning

    Furlong, A. 2006 “Not a very NEET solution: representing problematic labour market transitions among early school-leavers.” Work, Employment and Society 20 (3): 553-569. DOI: 10.1177/0950017006067001

    Haynes, G., McCrone, T. and Wade, P. (2013) Young people’s decision making:

    The importance of high quality school-based careers education, information, advice and guidance, Research Papers in Education, 28:4, 459-482, DOI: 10.1080/02671522.2012.727099

    Hooley, T. and Watts, A. G. (2011) Careers Work in Transition Interim Paper Derby: International Centre for Guidance Studies, University of Derby

    King, M., Sibbald, B., Ward, E., Bower, P., Lloyd, M., Gabbay, M. Et al. (2000) Randomized controlled trial of non-directive counselling, cognitive-behaviour therapy and usual general practitioner care in the management of depression as well as mixed anxiety and depression in primary care Health Technology Assessment, 4 (19)

    McCrone, T., Gardiner, C., Southcott, C. and Featherstone, G. (2010) Information, Advice and Guidance for Young People (LG Group Research Report) Slough: NFER

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    Mourshed, M., Patel, J. and Suder, K., (2014) Education to employment: Getting Europe’s youth into work McKinsey Research report

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    NFER (2013) Consultation on careers guidance for schools, sixth form colleges and further education institutions NFER Policy Paper , January 2013 Available at: http://www.nfer.ac.uk/publications/99920 accessed 31/03/14

    Perdrix, S., Stauffer, S., Masdonati, J., Massoudi, K. and Rossier, J. (2012) Effectiveness of career counseling: A one-year follow-up Journal of Vocational Behavior 80 (2012) 565–578

    Reid, H. and West, L. (2011a) Struggling for space: narrative methods and the crisis of professionalism in career guidance in England British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, Vol. 39, No. 5, November 2011, 397-410

    Reid, H.L. & West, L. (2011b) "Telling Tales": using narrative in career guidance, Journal of Vocational Behavior, 78, pp 174-183

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    University Press

    Savickas, M. L. (2013) Career construction theory and practice In R. W. Lent, & S. D. Brown (Eds.), Career development and counseling: Putting theory and research to work (pp. 147–183) (2nd edition) Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.

    Sheward, S. and Branch, R. (2012) Motivational Career Counselling & Coaching London: Sage publications

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