Since Southampton Solent University (SSU) launched its Career Coach, the university has rewritten the formula for careers education, information, advice and guidance (CEIAG) and widening participation in the greater Hampshire and Isle of Wight area. With a forward-looking engaging process, centered around impartial, data-driven applications and trained support, SSU gives students and hard-to-access groups a new way to look at career and education planning.
In the wake of economic downturn, high youth unemployment (exceeding 20%), dropping application numbers, decreasing government funding and a simultaneous growing need for more tertiary education in the business world, SSU faced a unique challenge. Fundamental shifts in the structure of industries in the economy have led to higher demands for skilled workers across the board—including adapting displaced and redundant younger workers. Increasingly, higher education institutions like SSU are being called upon to address the issue.
Enter Career Coach.
Southampton Solent’s Solution: Mobilise
Many people (including youth) struggle with access to credible information and guidance. Recognising this challenge, SSU launched Career Coach, an EMSI career guidance information system. SSU commissioned a single-decker coach, equipped with state-of-the-art software, computer monitors, work stations and a big screen monitor, to bring skilled advisors to schools, colleges, public areas, events and even military camps. The role of SSU’s Career Coach is simple: to provide key, easy-to-understand insight on labour market information, workforce demand, salary expectations, qualifications and career possibilities to people who need it.
In a market economy that struggles with high youth unemployment rates and displaced workers, Career Coach allows for more concise clarity on what a person can do in their professional life. When paired with trained advisors and information on any specific needed training, youth and the unemployed can be more firmly placed in the driver’s seat of their careers. The information is at their fingertips.
Career Coach allows students the freedom to explore ideas and options for their education and ultimate career aspirations.
Dr Stephen Lake, Head of Student Recruitment states, “Career coach is a powerful tool for engaging potential students. It allows us to give context to our discussions with them about coming to Southampton Solent University and allows them the freedom to explore ideas and options for their education and ultimate career aspirations. Whether they are looking for career ideas or choosing the right course, the software provides a ‘way-in’ to an exploration of our course portfolio. We have used the package extensively with schools, colleges and at community events and the effectiveness of career coach is evidenced not just by excellent feedback, but by the number of requests for repeat visits.”
To date, the SSU Career Coach has logged more than 2,000 miles and over 5,000 visitors across Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and the rest of the UK.
In September 2012, the Career Coach “docked” at the PSP Southampton Boat Show, staffed with trained professionals and students to provide support and guidance to students and maritime-minded individuals who are interested in taking their love of water to the next level.
More recently, Professor Les Ebdon, Director of the Office for Fair Access to Higher Education (OFFA), praised SSU’s Career Coach. “I was delighted to have been given a presentation on board Southampton Solent University’s innovative careers coach today”, he said. “I was particularly impressed by the way it was being used to reach out to schools and colleges, including primary schools, across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.”
Since then, SSU has made Career Coach part of their official 2014/15 OFFA Access Agreement, stating:
It is essential that key messages about the costs and benefits of higher education are communicated to students and at the right time. We will continue to devote considerable resource to communicating with potential students, their parents/carers and teachers/advisers. We have invested in our ‘Career Coach’ to provide supplementary information, advice and guidance to schools and colleges throughout the region.
In early August 2013, SSU Career Coach made an impact on the military. The coach rolled into Middx & NW London Sector ACF and Zulu Company Sea Cadets camps at Crowborough and HMS Bristol to provide careers information, advice and guidance to more than 200 cadets. SSU provided this service in partnership with CVQO, a UK-based charity focusing on changing the lives of young people and adult volunteers through vocational training and development.
Steve Taylor, head of communications at CVQO, added: “We are delighted to be able to offer the cadets this fantastic opportunity with Solent University to start thinking seriously about what the future holds for them in terms of further education and ultimately on into the workplace. It also highlights one of the exciting benefits of the partnership accord between CVQO and the University in that it puts into context the value of the CVQO-led BTEC qualification when it comes to looking at university courses and employment.”
As the future unfolds, SSU’s Career Coach is poised to address changing economic and social conditions. The coach is a powerful resource to deliver needed CEIAG to individuals of all backgrounds.