The prime ambition of Chichester College, according to its Principal Shelagh Legrave, is to “provide outstanding teaching, learning and assessment for our students and to prepare them so that Chichester College students are first choice for employers and universities”. This is clearly a big and multi-faceted mission, and one of the biggest challenges in fulfilling it lies within the area of careers advice. Ensuring that Chichester College students are first choice for employers involves not only outstanding teaching, but also an outstanding careers service capable of aligning learners with the right courses in order to get them into the right careers.
Positive About Futures
To rise to this challenge, the college’s careers service underwent a major revamp two years ago under the Positive About Futures banner. Positive About Futures is now the hub of the college’s careers advice and guidance, and aims to be a “bright, fresh and contemporary service designed to inspire, motivate and inform young people about their career choices”. Practically speaking, the service is set up to perform a variety of functions including careers advice and guidance, choosing the right career, CV writing and support with job applications, details of job vacancies and choosing the right course after school. The service is not only available within the college but has been developed as a service for the wider community including offering services to local schools.
Not long after the launch of Positive About Futures, the college also invested in EMSI’s Career Coach tool which, as the college website says, helps to “map out a path through education and training opportunities to help you reach your career goals, whatever they may be”. Career Coach very quickly became an integral part of Positive About Futures, with the college’s 2012 Annual Report describing the tool as “very useful” as it “enables students to see which courses they should take to follow a particular career.”
The Value of Career Coach
So how is Career Coach being used in the college? The tool has been embedded on the college website so that anyone can go online to use it, and to begin with it was made available within the careers department on a number of terminals which anyone could just walk in and use. However, it was soon realised that students weren’t being proactive in using it, and so the decision was made to make the tool available in the college, but with the Positive About Futures team delivering awareness training to all curriculum staff on how to use this valuable tool.
According to Darren Thompson, the college’s Student Experience Champion, channelling the tool in this way has worked well and over the last year Career Coach has been used in more than 1,000 one-to-ones. The value of the system, Darren says, is that after talking to people and setting the scene, “we can then apply Career Coach to add a bit of facts and figures to the decision they are going to make”.
The value of Career Coach is therefore not so much that it acts in an advisory capacity, but rather that it adds real numbers and real facts to the advisory process and, as Darren adds, “it almost never fails to impress those seeking guidance”.
But it’s not just students who have been impressed by Career Coach. In January 2013, the quality assessment organisation, EMQC, were invited into the college to perform a Matrix Assessment on Positive About Futures. The assessment was a success, with the college receiving the Matrix Award, and according to Darren, Career Coach was a big factor: “When we were demonstrating how we’ve improved over the past year, one of the key improvements for us was the introduction of Career Coach”.
This impression was reflected in the Assessment Report, with the purchase of Career Coach being noted as “an extremely valuable addition by students, staff and managers alike”. The report also gave anecdotal evidence of how students see the tool with one saying, “Career Coach is brilliant. It gives you tons of information about different jobs you could do”.
Making a Difference
If the aim of Chichester College is to prepare students to be the first choice for employers, Positive About Futures is definitely playing a big part in this and in making a big difference to the lives of people going through Chichester College. As the EMQC Matrix Assessment noted, “All students spoken to were keen to point out that they felt they had been given comprehensive information and considerable support in making decisions. They described examples such as receiving feedback on personal statements; help deciding which courses were the best match for their chosen career; and what might be the best career choice for them”. Clearly Career Coach — with its ability to provide a wealth of labour market information to those seeking guidance — is an essential part of this process and we are pleased to be supporting Chichester College as they progress towards achieving their ambition.