Careers education and career-informed degree programmes in higher education

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1 Careers education and career-informed degree programmes in higher education This is a working paper from the Centre for Career Management Skills, written by Julia Horn, with feedback and ideas from Helen Williams and Catherine Reynolds. We welcome any comments or feedback that you have. Please comments to What is careers education? We define careers education as follows: Careers education aims to develop understanding of careers in our own lives and in those of others, in different societies and cultures. This includes developing one s own sense of career and acquiring and deploying the skills, knowledge, and experiences required to pursue personal aims and to respond to external demands after university. Career is properly understood as a contested concept. Some examples of its use include: to describe the paid work we do; to describe the success attributed to our work role; or to describe any course through life in which the individual and the social come together. As such, careers education includes job seeking, work experience and career planning, alongside wider issues of society, personal action and social change. What is careers education for? The field of careers education aims to reinforce the current career-related activities in higher education. It demonstrates that as well as preparing students to compete in the job market, we should also prepare them to consider what career means to them and to consider how their future actions may impact upon society. Careers education, in our view, should not be aimed at promoting any particular labour market or economic outcome for students. Rather, it aims to give students opportunities to think critically and analytically using concepts and skills they have learned in their degree programme about career and the individual s place in the wider world. Careers education also aims to encourage students to gain experiences which may help them to prepare for their future, and which may challenge or substantiate their thinking about career in general, and their personal career in particular. While careers education can be a module in its own right in higher education, we envisage that most students might encounter elements of careers education through extra curricular activities, or through aspects of their degree programme which

2 naturally encourage consideration of career. As such, we put forward the notion of a career-informed curriculum: one which encourages students to contextualise career in relation to their degree, and which contextualises the degree in relation to career. The different areas of engagement with career in a career-informed degree programme can be summarised as follows:

3 The career-informed degree programme The diagram above aims to make visible a field of activities that might form part of any experience of higher education, either in the curriculum, the co-curriculum, or through extra-curricular activities. The diagram presented does not indicate how the study takes place or where it fits in the curriculum, nor indeed does it claim that all degree programmes should incorporate all these elements. We might, however, think of the term career-informed as a guide to how this diagram might be used. Any programme of study in higher education may already be, or may become career-informed in different ways and to a different extent. This diagram can aid those who wish to consider the career aspects of a degree programme either to see what is already taking place, or to consider how their degree programme might address issues related to career. We can also use the diagram to consider where any degree programme naturally addresses neighbouring issues that might appropriately be adapted to include consideration of career eg. a Modern Languages degree considering issues of cultural context, a Sociology degree considering issues related to the sociology of work, or an Engineering programme providing work experience opportunities. As such, many degree programmes in higher education already provide career-informed activities and opportunities. Indeed, we might see career as one lens through which the degree discipline can be contextualised to today s society. David Perkins discusses the extent to which degree learning can remain inert : Students commonly learn ideas about society and self but make few connections to today s news, citizenship responsibilities, or family life. Students learn scientific concepts but make few connections to the physical and biological worlds around them. (Perkins 2006, 37) As such, career and its related issues in the subject discipline can provide a channel through which degree learning is specifically contextualised to both the individual and society. What do the categories mean? We offer here a brief summary of each category, with examples of questions which might be explored or activities which might be undertaken. It will become evident from reading the examples given that there are areas of overlap between each category. Job seeking CVs, covering letters, application forms, interviews, assessment centres, and all other activities related to responding to how employers recruit, including understanding the reasons why they are used and their potential shortcomings for recruiters and individuals involved in the processes. Many careers services and employers currently

4 provide students with opportunities to develop their understanding of job seeking in the UK, including training sessions and one-to-one help. Context-case based learning which implements realistic scenarios related to recruitment (eg. business game for computer scientists in which they recruit to a new enterprise). Exploring the idea of the science of selection in the context of social scientific thinking about human relationships and society. Exploring graduate recruitment via consideration of human resource issues, or exploring the links between education and economy (a module of this type exists at the University of Reading in the final year of the Management course). Neighbouring disciplines: Business and management courses where they address human resources issues; psychology where it considers psychometric testing and other methods of selection by employers; social science courses where they consider links between education and employment (eg. in relation to social class, culture or the economy); history where it considers the growth of capitalist society, the modern economic state and technologies accompanying this. Career planning Setting aims and goals, working out how to try to achieve an ambition, thinking of the elements needed to put a plan into action. Awareness of the limitations of planning and the extent to which all career plans are dependent on other variables (employers, labour markets, governments, chance, etc). Exploring theories of career planning and career management (including those which question the importance of planning) Exploring and evaluating ideas such as matching and psychometric testing as tools for predicting talent and identifying career paths Undertaking planning for oneself. Neighbouring disciplines: business and management courses where they consider personal development and human resources issues; psychology where it considers psychometric testing and other methods of self-assessment for the purposes of finding a career path; social sciences and humanities where they consider issues of identity, identity formation, autobiography. Career planning as a direct activity for students is often part of PDP programmes, but students might also benefit from researching and evaluating the effectiveness of different types of planning, including remaining open to change.

5 Career development Ways in which one can try to control and influence the uncertain process of the development of a career or role over time, and ways in which employers may or may not try to manage, educate, train, or develop their employees. Consideration of trends in career development eg. movement between non-graduate and graduate level jobs; movement between occupations and organisations; factors which may influence personal development of a career (life course, chance etc). Exploring and discussing the stories of those who are mid-career or several years in advance of the students in the class; Exploring the role of agency in biography, autobiography, or other life writing; Economic or historical explorations of movement into graduate jobs Theories such as human capital, social capital, relationship between education and performance in the workplace Exploring and evaluating the relationships between academic, practical and emotional learning in the context of different working and social environments (eg. the rise of interest in emotional intelligence ) Neighbouring disciplines: Business, management and other social sciences where they consider aspects of management of the workforce in general, any discipline which takes into consideration issues such as life course/ development over time, individual role in society. Investigating work Finding out more about work and workplaces of all varieties, including the ways in which they change over time and the different roles that can be held within them, and how these might evolve or be influenced by the individuals who take up the roles. Making use of analytical and research skills in the context of investigating work. Researching the evolution of an employment sector or a particular role over a period of time (including looking to the future) Investigating labour markets from economic, historical or societal perspectives (graduate labour markets might be a particularly appropriate focus for this work) Investigating different accounts and portrayals of work from a textual analysis, cultural history or media studies perspective Neighbouring disciplines: potentially all, as research skills and subject discipline might be directly used in this context. Particularly linked to social sciences (eg.

6 business, management, politics, economics, sociology, geography) where work and employment might already be studied as part of the curriculum. The subjective career Investigating one s own understanding and interpretation of career, and that of other people and eras. Developing awareness of the situated nature of career and considering the extent to which we develop our own meanings and are also influenced by those around us. What range of meanings can be attributed to career? By what means can we define and judge success or fulfilment in a career? Is the term career neutral, or does it have different implications depending on one s gender, ethnic background, social class, education, or prior achievements? How do individuals tell their career stories? Are there typical conventions for career stories? What metaphors and language do people commonly use in association with career? What are the etymological origins and what is the word history of career? Neighbouring disciplines: English, Languages and Linguistics, History, Humanities subjects, Social Science subjects where they consider interpretation and personal identity. Cultural contexts Investigating differences in employment and recruitment practices, and differences in meanings attributed to work and careers in different cultures, societies and historical periods. Includes consideration of the nature of globalisation and the impact this might be considered to have across cultures. Are individuals free to make career choices, and to what extent are our choices influenced by society and by the economy? How have attitudes to careers and to the role of work changed over time? Is the term career neutral, or does it have different implications depending on one s gender, ethnic background, social class, education, or prior achievements? How are career and work depicted in different media, eg. popular culture, literature, film and television?

7 Neighbouring disciplines: sociology, cultural studies, other social sciences, arts and humanities programmes where they consider culture (eg. cultural history, cultural aspects of literature, media studies, feminist or postcolonial approaches). Experience (including education and training) Undertaking or trying out work (including learning from it), formal education, training, voluntary work, skills etc. Many experiences will influence thinking about life choices in general, and indeed any formal education (whether vocational or not) will influence individuals both on a personal level and via their position in the labour market. Work-based learning Work placements, a year abroad Work experience Work shadowing Volunteering schemes Participation in extra-curricular activities like sport, committees and clubs Neighbouring disciplines: any which might make use of work placements or work based learning, vocationally oriented disciplines (eg. education, applied sciences). How does this relate to employability? Careers education as articulated here is not primarily about preparing students for the labour markets provided by graduate employers; it takes a broad view of career (to include roles in society beyond those in the workplace) and considers economic gain as only one of the possible outcomes of higher education. Many employability initiatives focus upon educating students according to deficits highlighted by employers, for example with a focus on literacy, group work, or other skills. Employability is also sometimes defined as giving students opportunities to go into the workplace, and in this sense we can see that it features on our diagram as experience. Employability can therefore also be identified on our diagram also with job seeking, for which a key skill is being able to articulate one s competencies and skills in relation to a job description. If employability is largely a response to employer feedback on the quality of graduates that they interview and appoint; careers education overall takes account of these comments but is articulated in terms of students and their perspectives. Employability is therefore a part, but not the whole, of careers education.

8 Bibliography Perkins, D. (2006) Constructivism and troublesome knowledge in Overcoming Barriers to Student Understanding: threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge. Ed. By J.H.F. Meyer and R. Land. London: Routledge.

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