At South Staffordshire College, Career Coach has been used to prompt learners to think about their careers and the College has already seen some of the benefits from this service.
South Staffordshire College is located in the West Midlands and has been recognised nationally as the most successful College in Staffordshire, according to the Data Service. The College has four campuses across Staffordshire, with extensive facilities including an art gallery, an equestrian centre and a zoo.
We were very pleased to have Belinda Ball, Head of Tutoring and Development at the College, present at our 2013 User Group. Belinda gave a detailed presentation on South Staffordshire’s use of Career Coach, most of which is summarised in this post.
In order to increase the effectiveness of its careers services, South Staffordshire College hosted an “industry week” during which various vocational speakers visited the College and addressed the learners. Throughout the week, Progression Coaches also made sure to highlight Career Coach as an effective way for learners to plan their career paths. The coaches made sure that every learner was aware of Career Coach and was familiar with the tool and its uses. The College also developed an “augmented reality” campaign that allowed learners to watch a video of several different occupations “through the lens” of Career Coach. (Click on the image at right for a larger version of the “augmented reality” flyer.)
One benefit that the College has seen through its use of the tool is an increased willingness among learners to seek career information independently of their Progression Coach and careers advisors. Career Coach, being so readily accessible to the learners, both inside and outside of the College, allows the coaches to spread their influence much further and more effectively. And learners are often apt to be more honest about their desired career when they have unlimited access to an impartial web-based computer program.
Learners find that the most useful part of the Career Coach tool is the CV-builder, in part because it is the most imminently practical. Everyone needs a CV if they want to get a job. Since the College has incorporated Career Coach into their institution, learners have created and downloaded 587 CVs – all stress- and error-free. One learner sent her CV to the company that she wanted to work for and received a reply within half an hour. She got the job.
South Staffordshire has given learners automatic access to a simplified version of Career Coach on their VLE, which has proved effective in getting the learners to interact with and make use of the tool. Some learners are overwhelmed by all the graphs and numbers in Career Coach, so the College requested two versions of the tool: a simplified version to be used by individual learners on their own time and the full version, which is only accessible with staff guidance.
In light of Ofsted’s recent emphasis on the impartiality of careers guidance, Career Coach is one step in the right direction. The tool is not completely impartial because it highlights the courses offered by South Staffordshire College and not those offered by other institutions and also because it directs the learners towards local employers and businesses. But, to be perfectly honest, impartiality can only go so far. The tool provides information about the courses at the College because that’s where these learners are getting their education. It shows them the labour market in their local area because these learners are likely to pursue jobs that are geographically near by. Impartiality in careers advice is stressed because colleges should not pressure learners into particular courses or careers that are in the best interests of the college rather than of the learner. Career Coach puts no pressure on learners to choose one career over another. The data speaks for itself and leaves the learners free to make their own decisions.
Career Coach is yet one more way that South Staffordshire can quantify the success of their institution. From the College’s point of view, the best result for learners is receiving a qualification and gaining a quality job. Career Coach enables the College to measure the success of that goal. The mission of any FE college is to prepare learners for the workforce. While Career Coach does not fill in every gap in the learners’ career paths, it is proving remarkably effective in helping them become aware of what their options are and in helping them adequately prepare for those options.