Inaugural Lecture Series: Professor Siobhan Neary video transcript

The title screen appears. A blue background is shown with the University of Derby three hills logo in white in the middle of the screen. The University of Derby's name in white is directly below. White text on the screen reads below:

Professorial Inaugural Lecture Series:

Guiding the Future: A Professionalization Projects for the Career Development Sector by Professor Siobhan Neary

The title screen fades out and the recoding of the lecture starts.

[Paul] Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Professor Paul Lynch, and I am the chair of the University professorial council. I would like to welcome you to Siobhan Neary's inaugural lecture which is entitled "Guiding the Future Professionalization Projects for the Career Development Sector”. Can I then invite Professor Keith McLay, provost of learning teaching at the university to give the full introduction.

[Keith] Thanks, Paul. Ladies and gentlemen, a stick of rock might be thought emblematic of Professor Siobhan Neary's relationship with the University of Derby.

Siobhan's first encounter with the university was in the mid-1980s when she arrived at the then Derbyshire college of higher education to take a combined studies degree in social sciences and American studies. After graduating, she moved to Kent college to train as a careers advisor, never thinking that 30 years later she would return to Derby to become a professor specialising in career development practice.

While training, Siobhan became fascinated by the concept of careers and curious about other people's jobs how they got into them, how they developed and their motivations for the future. Her first job in 1990 was as a career advisor working for Wolverhampton borough council, initially in schools but quickly moving into colleges to work with adults. During her time at Wolverhampton, Siobhan found that she always said yes to any opportunities presented which inevitably (as we all know is the case) led to her managing the whole adult guidance service and developing a role as a trainer.

After five years, she joined the University of Derby as a career’s advisor, working with colleagues to develop career management skill modules for undergraduate students in the combined studies program. She eventually became the deputy head of the career development centre, managing staff on three sites and contributing at a national level to the association of graduate careers advisory services. While at Derby in this period, she developed an interest in the quality assurance of career provision and completed an MSC in research methods for health and social care, to understand better the methods and approaches of measuring impact. It was in pursuit of this interest that she then, in August 2000, took up a position as a quality improvement consultant, working for the guidance council based in Winchester. This role allowed Siobhan to work nationally with schools, colleges, community providers, prisons, and universities to support them in implementing the new guidance council quality standards which have since evolved into the matrix standard for information advice and guidance. Notably, Siobhan is currently part of the advisory group contributing to the latest iteration of the standard.

Following her time at the guidance council, Siobhan worked as a freelance consultant and trainer, supporting organizations with workforce and quality development. In this role, she undertook evaluations for IAG partnerships, developed training needs analysis and competency frameworks for adult guidance providers and she also returned to practice, taking on a role at (whisper it) Nottingham University business school, working with postgraduate students.

In late 2004, the stick of rock emblem reappeared, and she returned to the University of Derby to work as a part-time senior career’s advisor and in early 2005, joined the centre for guidance studies as deputy head, heading the learning teaching and CPD portfolio. Over the next 15 years, her achievements included completing a Doctor of Education awarded in 2014 and working on numerous international projects in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, China, the UAE, and Mauritius.

I pause to reflect that the last one must have been a terribly tough gig (laughs) for Siobhan. The highlight of this work was a three-month secondment to Sri Lanka in 2011, Working on the Asian development bank funded project "education for a knowledge society". While in Sri Lanka, Siobhan trained teachers to deliver career guidance and work with the government departments to effectively align career guides with technical and vocational education.

In 2017, appropriately, she took over as head of the University of Derby's international centre for guidance studies, ICGS. Throughout her time with ICGS, Siobhan has led major research projects to capture evidence about what best supports individuals to make informed career choices across their lifespan.

Key projects have included the enhancement of adult guidance provision for the lifelong learning UK, the learning and schools’ improvement service and the education and skills funding agency. Siobhan has led numerous projects for NAHT, DFE careers and enterprise company and the service children's progression alliance. Siobhan is simply preeminent within the professional bodies across the sector. She was a board director for the national association for educational guidance for adults, she represented England not once but twice on the career development institute professional development committee and is currently vice-chair and a fellow of the national institute for careers education and counselling as well as one of the inaugural CDI fellows.

Siobhan's research has extended the understanding of the career development workforce, specifically focusing on professional identity, CPD and professionalisation. Her interest in the composition of the careers workforce has contributed to a better understanding of the challenges for the sector, specifically the need for diversification. She regularly works with the career development institute to promote the professionalisation of careers practitioners.

In 2020, she was invited to co-chair a policy connect inquiry into information, advice and guidance support for transition into employment. Siobhan is the author of numerous peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters, and scores of research reports and is on the editorial board of the British journal of guidance and counselling.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure and delight to welcome to the lectern professor Siobhan Neary, professor of career development practice, to deliver her inaugural lecture "Guiding the Future: a Professionalisation Project for the Career Development Sector. Professor Neary. (Applause)

[Siobhan] Good evening. Wow, who thought this would happen? It is an absolute privilege and pleasure to be here this evening and to be able to talk to you and share some of my research and some of my thoughts that I’ve accumulated over the last 30 or so years working in the career development sector. It's an absolute pleasure to have so many of my family, my colleagues from many years ago, my current colleagues, our students and colleagues from across the career development sector in the university. It is a real privilege. When I first started to think about this lecture, after the initial panic (which is actually still there let me just say) I realized that this was a real opportunity to have the stage to myself to talk about what I want to talk about, which is quite a rarity. I am always happy to do presentations, but this is actually different as there is an element of self-indulgence but also a celebration because what I really want to celebrate this evening is the tenacity and the resilience of the career development sector.

Over time, I want to explore the professionalisation, de-professionalisation and re-professionalisation of the career development sector over the last 30 years, which is the time that I’ve been working in it. An inaugural lecture is a vehicle for reflecting on your research and the impact it has on your time as an academic. When I started to think about this, I realized I could not separate my professional practice career from my academic career, they are intertwined. I’m a researcher because my practice and my contributions to practice are related to my research. Throughout the lecture, I’m going to present my career in careers and explore the challenges that have impacted the profession resulting in de-professionalisation and hopefully what I’m calling the current re-professionalisation project. So, this is just a brief overview of what I want to talk about.

So first of all, defining the context, because not everybody here is from the careers background and I know there are many of you who get this, but there are some people which it will be new too, so I’m going to talk a little bit about the context. I’m going to talk a bit about my practice and the research I’ve been involved with and I’m looking at the career sector in three phases, so pre-93 94 to 2013 and 2014 to the present and it will all become clear as to why I have arbitrarily divided it into those three areas or three timelines.

I’m going to talk about some of my research around the careers workforce, particularly around professional identity and CPD and then I’m going to talk about what we know about the careers workforce because ironically, even though our major specialism is around the labour market information and supporting individuals to understand local opportunities we actually don't know an awful lot about our own workforce and that's something I’ve been looking at for the last few years. And finally, just some thoughts about what I’m calling a re-professionalisation project.

So, defining the context. We could spend all evening debating career definitions, but I’ve selected two here partly because there's some similarity in them in terms of talking about the intersection of human biography, economic and social structure and also that relationship with a personal identity which I think really encapsulates quite a lot of what I’m going to talk about and the research that I’ve been doing in the sector. The bit that I want to draw on really is the last sentence in the Colin and Young one where it refers to the patterns and sequences of occupations and positions occupied by people across their working life. And, for me and many colleagues, a career is about life generally. Work is one part of it but actually, it's about caring, it's about homemaking, it might be about volunteering, it might be about learning skills development training. It's a whole range of activities that intersect.

Looking at work by Donald Super and the life rainbow (for those of you familiar with it), those priorities will weigh in throughout our lives and at one time, one thing might be more important than another. So, the career development profession. Who are we? This is my definition and others may define it differently, but I think that our work is about helping to locate life transitions, it's about helping individuals to make choices about learning work and life choices generally and I am passionately committed to adult guidance and lifelong guidance and that everybody should have those opportunities.
Our work is informed by a commitment to social justice. Career guidance is transformative and emancipatory, but we have challenges, we do have major challenges. Not everybody is fortunate enough to have the same opportunities; they lack the social and cultural capital which allows them to access the career of their choice, so they need somebody to help them who understands their context and the job they are trying to navigate. This is problematic and increasingly important as the education skills and work environment is evolving at such a fast pace that it's hard for those of us who work in the sector to understand and keep up to date with what's going on, never mind those who are starting off on their career or looking to change career after many years, perhaps in one sector. People need a guide to help them, someone who knows the journey and what to expect, where the dangers lie and where the easier parts are to navigate. There are lots of people who can help with different parts of the journey, but professional career guidance practitioners have the training, skills and knowledge to help at whatever point of the journey people are starting on.

So, another definition. There are a few in this first part of the presentation. So, one of the things that we want to try and communicate effectively is really about what the work is that we do. It's often something I think we don't do very well, and I think it's something we could do better, but we do have definitions. This is from the council of the European Union which I think articulates quite well some of the activities that we do as guidance professionals. It links to the highly complex set of roles that we take that require a wide range of knowledge about the labour market and around the skills that we need to facilitate discussions that can be used in in-depth counselling skills, as well as the skills we need, and we develop in our teaching roles and our coaching roles. We have multiple roles and on top of that, we will have a set of techniques that we can customize and individualize for every client that we work with. So, it's a highly, highly complex role that we do.

Just to finalize some of the professions... those are some of the definitions rather. As I said, my work has been very much around professionalisation and understanding the barriers and the enablers and what challenges and encourages both systemically from a policy perspective as well as from a practitioner perspective and there are a couple of definitions here and I think the one that I want to perhaps focus most on is the professionalising one at the bottom. "A group of individuals who adhere to ethical standards, are accepted by the public, possess specialist knowledge and skills in a widely recognized body of learning derived from research education training at a high level and who are prepared to exercise the knowledge and skills in the interest of others" and that I think does conceptualize who we are or where we're aspiring to be. Sometimes we're there, sometimes we're not there but we're always on the journey to try and achieve those goals.

So, moving on to talking about my practice and research. Keith's already done this far more eloquently than I have so I’m not actually going to go back to any of that. I think it's the dates that I’m keen to present really as much as anything else because they do reflect many of the changes I’m going to talk about.

I started in the career service during the start of what became some quite major changes and worked prior to a privatised career service. Working in Wolverhampton was an amazing experience, it was a just a phenomenal career service and one of the things that I really benefited from as a brand new and very inexperienced practitioner was the opportunity to learn from my colleagues, the community of practice that we had and the role models that I had were second to none and the passion that those colleagues brought to their work. I learned the job from them, I got the skills and the theory from my training but I learned to do the job with my colleagues in Wolverhampton and we were part of the first tranche of what became the privatised career services; partly because they wanted to test out how London would work so they thought they'd try it out in the black country to start with and that brought new tensions that changed some of the ways that we worked.

The introduction of procurement did continue I think to impact the dynamic, but Keith’s already told you a lot about that, so I won't come back to all of that. But a number of key points in there; one around privatisation, one around quality in terms of the guidance council quality standards and also around working in the curriculum within higher education and how we effectively support our students to be better career managers, which was a key part of my role for a number of years. One thing I do want to say is about the importance of ICEGS and the centre for guidance studies as it was before that. The centre has had a huge influence I think on the career development sector. It's our 25th anniversary this year (well next year actually) and we have to look at our back catalogue of research and look at the impacts of the research that we've been involved in. We have been influential at every stage in understanding the impact of our work with young people and with adults throughout all of that time and I feel very proud and privileged to have worked with ICEGS for the amount of time that I have and to work with some amazing colleagues, many of whom are here today.

So, the three phases. I’ve already alluded to pre-93, led 93 started leading to the privatization of local authority services, 94 onwards the transformation of the sector and then 2014 and what I’m calling redefining the career sector. So, pre-93. I wasn't there in 73, I will admit that, so I can't talk about 73 and I’m not asking anyone to put their hand up who might have been there at that time but what we got in 73 really was the establishment of what became the career service through the employment and training act.

All local education authorities were required to provide careers support for young people as that was (and quite rightly) seen as a key part of the educational experience of making decisions, so to all intents and purposes we were a public sector profession located in local authorities working in FE, HE and community education quite often as well but I think the points that I want to make really at this point is around consistency in terms of training and qualifications that the majority of people would have had the diploma in career guidance which those of us who trained at that time all did and had been around since the 1960s. We had established our professional credibility and our professional credentials very early on as a profession and it was a higher education program. It was delivered in universities or if you went to Swanley a monotechnic, there's not many of them around now and there weren't many at the time. But all of all the qualifications were awarded by the local government training board, so there's a consistency in terms of training, practice, qualifications and the levels of those qualifications that practitioners shared. We also had greater consistency of provision across the UK. We still had, to all intents and purposes, similar services which have changed dramatically over the last few years, but the services generally would have looked quite similar.

In England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, it’s always been delivered through civil servants. We had multiple professional associations that were potentially problematic, and it was perceived as problematic, they all represented different specialist views. So, we had the ICG which was the generic professional association that covered a range of practitioners, NAGER which I was involved with which focused on adults, ADCAS which is higher education career services, and ACEG which was careers educators in schools and the ACPI which was private sector and private practice. And there probably were other smaller ones as well, I’m not claiming that's definitive, but that dilution challenged in many ways... because policy and government makers are... well, who do we talk to? who is the voice of the sector? Well, it depends on who you're talking to really and what the issue is. So, that was a problem for us, but we had very strong school-based careers education and careers educators supported by that professional association, so, we do look back with a sense of retrospective falsification and rose-coloured spectacles, we thought things were really good and they were good, there were problems, there were challenges but we had more consistency I think in terms of the profession.

We then move into the 1990s and obviously we had major changes in terms of governments and in terms of ideologies and the embedding of neoliberal agendas and ideologies that challenge the public sector and how the public sector is funded and measured and the effectiveness of it and the career services were put out to be privatised to all intents and purposes and the portfolio was issued by Anne Widdecombe in 1993, so we'll blame her for that one. But that did have a profound effect and having worked in a privatized career service I’ve got a real sense of those sorts of impacts.

We also later in the 90s had the devolution agenda which separated our career services if you like, with Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland choosing to have integrated all age services and England sticking very, very close to having separate services for young people and adults. We've also got a whole list of things that are there, I won't go through all of these, I’ll pick out a few. One of the ones that I was really impressed with at the time was the learn direct helpline which was set up in 98 and the reason... well not the only reason but one of the reasons for that was that it gave visibility to careers. It's hard to believe now but you could be watching coronation street and when the adverts came on there would be an advert asking you how comfortable you were with your career, did you have the right skill set? Was there a better fit? They were advertising career support in the middle of coronation street. You would not get that now, you won't get any adverts at all like that, never mind trying to encourage people to review their career plans. But that visibility and that service which is all delivered by telephone helpline were seen as one of the best in the world, if not the leading standard in the world at that time. There were problems with it; we had a huge debate about it but what they offered was telephone career guidance, not quite 24-7, but seven days a week and delivered in community languages. That had never been seen before. That centralized and normalized career discussion which is something I think we've never been able to maximize previously.

As I’ve mentioned, quality standards were coming in then as well but the biggest change at that time for us was the creation of the universal connection service which was brought in by the Labour government to address disengaged young people and those that were at risk of being not in education, employment and training and the word neat came into common parlance. That had huge impacts and I know a number of colleagues here today work for connections and who are far more familiar with it than I was at that time, but to all intents and purposes, the connection service was a multi-agency, holistic offer for young people. It was visionary, there are many things that worked well and should have worked well but didn't, partly because of the target and the universal tension that went with it, but again, that's a whole lecture in and of itself. But also, we started having our qualifications downgraded, whereas previously it had been university level which also has strengths and weaknesses because it does mean that there were issues around inclusion. Not everybody could give up their job for a year and go to university to train to be a careers advisor, so we did have work-based qualifications coming in which did open the market and did open it for a much broader range of people to come into the sector.

But there was concern over the quality of a lot of the training that happened at that time. In 2010, we got the careers profession task force which I think was a really important piece of work. It was a really important report that reviewed where careers were at that time and made a number of recommendations, particularly around the qualification level where it recommended that it should be a minimum of level six rising to level seven. It challenged the sector around the number of professional associations and that we should try and reduce that and combine what we've got concerning the importance of CPD for practitioners and those practitioners weren't getting the help to develop their careers.

So, we then move on, and connections get dismantled, wide-scale redundancy and major trauma within the sector. But I think the important thing was that career guidance was transferred directly to schools and colleges without any support and without any funding, so depending on which quote you look at (and I’ve listed both of them) we either lost 240 million, 50 million or 400 million and I’m sure there are people in the audience that will tell us for definite. But that disappeared out of the sector, and schools and colleges were left to deliver the services without any resources and without a lot of help, either because we've got this major shift going on or because we've also got the introduction of the national career service which focused on adults and that was face-to-face guidance for adults, not young people. And, we've also got the merged new professional association, the career development institute, which was a merger of four of the key professional associations.

So, I’m just going to talk now about some of the research I was doing at the time and the reason why I’ve sort of chunked them in those sorts of patterns is because I was collecting a lot of data around that time, specifically around practitioners. I was running the MA in guidance studies here and I was really interested to understand why, when things were as bad as they were, practitioners were investing a lot of money, time and resources in doing a master's degree. What did they want out of it? And how did they think that this would help them?

So, one of the things I was interested in was their professional identity and how they perceived themselves, and these were sort of the generic statements that came out when I talked to practitioners. These practitioners were essentially involved in a wide variety of activities, some were careers-based, schools based, adult guidance, open university, universities etc. Working in a whole variety of roles, and this was quite pertinent I think really. Some felt they had no concept of professional identity, some of them had been incredibly damaged by the continued change that had happened from being transferred into a private company then being amalgamated with paraprofessionals and then doing more qualifications and having a lack of clarity about the role. They found it very difficult to talk about their professional identity. Some were really clear, and interestingly, all of those tended to define themselves within a client sector, so they talked about "I’m an adult careers advisor, I don't work for connections." Which is what they often said or "I work with young people" or "I work in HCA", it's a really clear definition of "I’m a careers advisor but actually this is the client group I work with." Others were unsure about how to describe or how they saw their professional identity and often talked about "well, it depends on who I’m talking to." This is really problematic, because if we're struggling to identify what we do but we change the words that we use to describe it all the time then it's massively unclear, it's opaque about what the role is because different people will have different explanations provided to them about what the role's about.

And finally, there were those that had multiple roles. It's not uncommon in the FE sector or the adult community sector where you might be doing careers work, but you might also have a responsibility around safeguarding or being the fire marshal or a whole range of other things. So, a lack of clarity in terms of being able to define it.

Now, there are other colleagues who have done research on professional identity and there is differentiation in terms of the context which I think is interesting. What my participants shared though were these key areas. These were the things that they felt reflected who they were as a professional. All of them were hugely committed to the clients and the client was at the centre of everything that they did and that related to the ethics and the ethical framework that everybody worked to in terms of being impartial, confidential... all the frameworks that we're familiar with. They also felt that their personal attributes were part of the identity of a careers professional in terms of being empathetic, being a good listener, self-respect and respecting the client that they were working with, professional attributes in terms of commitment to CPD, being a strong role model, having professional expertise, being highly motivated, being motivated to work with the people that need help is incredibly important in any environment but particularly in this environment. And specialist knowledge around the theory that informs their practice as well as labour market information.

But there are tensions that arose... and again, I’ve alluded to some of this which is around the generalization of some of the terminology that we had at that time. So, career guides essentially became known as information advice and guidance or IAG, which drives me nuts still when I hear people talk about IAG. I do IAG and interestingly, having worked in the adult sector for so long, my understanding of information advice and guidance was linked to funding models in the old IAG partnerships because you got paid x amount of money for information. You got more for advice, and you got a bit more if you did guidance, but those terms became adopted within young people's services as well and that was problematic for practitioners who struggled to articulate their specialist knowledge and their specialist skills within these generic terms.

The term "careers advisor" was no longer recognized, the term "career" was not accepted anymore in common parlance and terms like "personal advisor" were really challenging for many professional practitioners who were highly skilled and had worked very hard to achieve the level of expertise that they've got. We've also had a continuing issue around job titles and nomenclature; some of the research I did at this time was telling us that practitioners really struggle with what they were called, they often didn't like the job title they had, they didn't feel it reflected what they did.

In some work that we did in ICEGS in 2014 for the CDI, we reviewed 214 jobs that were advertised over a period of time and 103 different job titles were identified. So again, this is reiterating this lack of clarity and how the job titles were just being manipulated or merged into what was relevant to the employer at that point in time. So, employability was a key term that was often used within the careers and employability agenda and has been a huge driver for university career services and interestingly, in some work I did only recently with colleagues at the University of Nottingham, we asked them about job titles... and again, people were saying "well actually, I’m a consultant because that better reflects the role because I’m working in a consultancy role with academics." And some didn't like being called advisors, they found that a reductionist term and it didn't effectively describe their roles. So, in terms of CPD, I wanted to find out more about people's CPD and their views on it and for many practitioners, they really couldn't differentiate between training and CPD, they were one of the same.I was interested in this, particularly because of the task force report and what did CPD look like etc. And many of them really struggled to talk about any other CPD other than training.

I’ve since written a book about this with my colleague Claire Johnson and it's available on Amazon if anybody still wants a copy, but there was also differentiation and a variation in purpose for CPD between how employers saw it and how practitioners saw it. Practitioners saw it very much as helping them develop their practice to work more effectively with their clients to be more highly skilled, to develop new techniques, to engage in... to just be better at what they were doing. Whereas employers were perceived as being more interested in what was contractually required, what were the legislative requirements? Now, that doesn't mean to say that they weren't important but it's it became a binary of practitioners seeing their needs as different to what employers were providing, although practitioners and FE and HE were perceived as having stronger and greater access to CPD. They did feel that it was a core element of being a professional and that they saw that as important and interestingly, some of the people in my study felt that their colleagues weren't professionals, they were professionals because they'd invested in CPD and they engaged in CPD, but some of their colleagues said nothing since they'd finished their training and really didn't see them as professional, they saw them as technicians of the role rather than being professionals. But, those who did do the master's study found that engaging in the postgraduate study as a form of CPD increased their professional, personal and social capital. They had greater autonomy over their professional differentiation between themselves and how they saw colleagues.

Many of them got promoted throughout their course and some of them didn't lose their jobs, but everybody was losing their jobs and their services and a lot of them retained their jobs. They had a greater sense of professional pride, they were empowered and some of them came for intellectual stimulation because they realized that when they'd done their level four they'd got no exposure to theory. They were taught to do interviews without any theoretical underpinning about why they would do this or what models they should be using or how this would help them better support the client and it gives them space for reflection.

Interestingly, there were a number of my students who, after doing their studies, left the career service, they couldn't actually go back to do the role anymore and they went on to some wonderful and exciting things let me tell you. So, the theory was quite an important element, particularly for that initial training. So, the research that I did sort of suggested a typology in terms of three levels if you like, with formal CPD (or what practitioners often refer to it as proper CPD) which was externally accredited and had finance attached to it, whether it was around conferences or an external trainer coming in. They didn't value internal trainers, that was just somebody they knew. They wanted that externality and that was valuable in terms of experiential CPD. They did see that this was beneficial, but again, it didn't have the same kudos. They did recognize that they learnt from their daily practice but maybe not to the extent that they could have done, or recognized the importance of reflective practice and finally they were really resistant to what I termed operational CPD which was mandated by their employer for contractual compliance legislation etc.

So, starting to come up to date a little bit. This is only eight years ago, although it feels a lot longer. As we said, the career development institute was developed in 2013 and I think one of the things that are important around the professionalisation agenda is that we've actually had a professional association within this sector since 1922 because the CDI is celebrating 100 years of the professional associations this year, although obviously as our different names, but they developed a professional register responding to the task force report.

Colleagues at ICEGS were involved in developing the research around what good guidance looked like which resulted in what became known as the Gatsby benchmark. So, I think what's interesting about that period of time is that, although there was a huge change in terms of who's delivering career guidance or not as the case may be in schools that there was a growing understanding that this was so good and that young people were losing out. OFSTED did a major review, Gatsby got interested in this and they undertook it with colleagues. This was the research to identify what good guidance looked like, resulting in the benchmarks. As a result, within that level, six minimum was defined for career guidance and personal guidance as it's called. It's benchmark eight and it requires a careers advisor to have a level six qualification. We've also got the establishment of the careers and enterprise company which were brought in to connect schools and employers because employers were felt to be the answer to all of this.

If we could get employers to work more with schools, then young people will be better at making life choices. We've also got the introduction of career leaders in schools and colleges who are meant to be senior staff members who will coordinate and support the careers agenda. We've also got employability metrics. They're huge, they drive so much of what we do, and graduate destinations are increasingly important criteria that we're all very familiar with, but we also got a career strategy in 2017 which we haven't got another one since then, we are campaigning for another one but we haven't got one. But within that, it required that all schools and colleges should have a careers leader and have achieved the Gatsby benchmarks by 2020.

We're now in 2022 and that has not happened. I don't think we're near it happening yet but it's progressing. But what we have got at this moment in time is we do have a major recruitment and retention crisis, we have major issues with schools trying to recruit careers advisors and the adult service struggles to recruit their careers advisors. HE is not anywhere near as challenged in this way and many careers advisors choose to work in HE. They see often that it is much more an area that is more highly valued and salaries are better and there's greater security. Many of the careers’ advisors are on short-term contracts, they are regularly used depending on who wins the contract, and procurement is impacted significantly. We've got national career service advisors who are going to work for the public employment service for Jobcentre plus, they're going to work for welfare, to work providers etc because they pay better. So, they are being underemployed in roles because the salaries aren't there in the career sector at the moment. I don't have an answer to that one by the way so please don't put that question in at the end about what we can do about salaries because we're all in that one.

I’ve shared this research before, and this is one that I really found incredibly interesting. I was keen to understand who the workforce was and what brought them into the career sector. Things weren't quite as bad when I was doing this research, I hate to say but some of the thoughts were... this quote "A bunch of nice ladies and cardigans who sit students down for a lovely wee chat about their futures." That came out of the research, I did not allocate that, but I think it's a really interesting term. But what the research suggested and again this was done across the sector... I had 453 responses to a survey, 149 came from school practitioners, 143 from HE and then arranged from FE private practice community. I didn't have a huge number from the adult sector, so I went back out to the adult sector, and I managed to get another 193 responses. So, it's quite a nice data set that tells us a bit about who our workforce are but what the research was telling us at that time was that 77% of the workforce is female.

You do wonder, around de-professionalisation, feminised workforces and major salary issues and how these are interconnected in terms of our profession. 94% define themselves as ethnically white, 65% are aged over 45, they are qualified to graduate level and most of them had qualifications relevant to guidance and counselling. They look like me, they don't look like the clients that they need to be working with and this is something we really do have to work on, this is something we have to address, we need a much more diverse workforce to enable us to be to challenge the status quo and to try and see if we can do something that addresses some of these professional issues we've talked about. Why did they come into this career? For most people, is very much about wanting to give back. It was very much about altruism, social justice, wanting to support, wanting to help those that they could help. They wanted to contribute to making a difference, they wanted to act as a guide and for money. They'd planned... happenstance came into it, they just happened to be in the right place at the right time but a lot of the people in this sample came into careers because they had a really powerful conversation with a professional careers practitioner about their own career.

They became inspired by these people, and they wanted to do something themselves, they wanted to have a similar type of role where their expectations were met when they came in. Most were attracted because of the client-focused... But were challenged because of targets and contractual compliance. Three quarters felt that their expectations were met but there were many that really struggled, and they found the role much more complex, but again, a lot of this is perhaps about what they perceived it was about. A very sort of... one-to-one counselling type activity, whereas as we know that the careers role has evolved massively and teaching and being able to work with large groups is equally as important as doing that one-to-one and being able to target the right approach depending on particular client needs. They were involved in marketing and managing events; there was a lot of administration, there were concerns about levels of professional esteem, some didn't feel valued and interestingly, work I’ve recently done in universities with careers advisors feel exactly the same, that they don't feel valued in universities for the work that they do. The expectations were contextual with schools, in particular, having concerns about salary and progression.

So, we've got this sort of balancing act going on at the moment where we're attracting lots of really highly qualified professional people who have got amazing skill sets and who have worked in very high-level jobs. Many of the people in this sample, they've worked in banking, they've worked in high-level education, in HR, in the arts. Somebody, I think had worked in filmmaking, so a whole range of amazing life experiences that they're bringing. But, the challenges are for many, it was around the opportunity for progression, a lack of status that some of the contexts, some of the conditions, the services etc have already alluded to and the variety was different depending on which part of the sector you happen to be in.

Those challenges, some were more prevalent than others. So, actually, I’m ahead of time which makes a change. This was 71 minutes to start off with! Let me just tell you, we are doing quite well. So, I’m just going to pull it all together in what I think of as the re-professionalisation project, and I’ve divided it into two areas really. The first one is sort of the external drivers of professionalisation which I think linked to government and the relationship the profession has with government and policy and particularly around the regulatory bargain which essentially is between the government and the profession where they give legal authority to define the training needs, control entry and define the standards. The profession self-managers essentially.
Some work I did with John Goff was published last year and we did an international comparison, looking to see where we could find countries that had achieved this and we didn't find anywhere that had done it. All we found were some countries that had legislation around young people having access to careers advice and guidance, often in the Nordic countries. We found some examples were having a licensed practice or the drivers who could actually work as a careers advisor. In Iceland, they had to be a member of a professional association for example, so legislation is a key part here. The alignment with government policy, we've got loads going on at the moment; we've got this skills white paper, the levelling up agenda plan for jobs careers guidance was totally missed in money... well, there was one paragraph in the skills white paper but within the other government strategies, planned for jobs, the boot camps etc, there were people didn't get access to careers advice in the way that they probably should have done. People were making choices about engaging in training and possibly changing their careers without having any access to professional support regarding whether they are making the right choices. Are these the right things for them to do? And that is something that we've been working a lot to try and challenge the government to particularly focus on.

Career guidance is an integral part of any of these initiatives. If you look at the skills agenda, we need to have career support. Colleagues in ICEGS are managing a piece of work around charter status and looking at the feasibility of charter status for the sector. We're at a very, very early stage on that at the moment and we're gathering feedback, quality assurance etc. I think it is something we've actually been really good at over a number of years, we've had the matrix standard for over 20 years as it is, we've got a compass and the Gatsby benchmarks, we've got quality and career standard as well. So, there are a number.
Some would say there are too many and that they need to be rationalized. We need to have... again, going back to what I was talking about with the UFI learn direct helpline, we need to have greater visibility. People don't know that there's a national career service available but it's only available to you if you meet a number of criteria, although there is the telephone and web-based support as a universal service, but people don't know about it because it's not advertised, it's not promoted. We need to have greater visibility for the type of support but also to promote the job opportunities we've got and encourage a wider range of people to come in. There also needs to be something around salary and conditions.

We did a piece of work in 2014 and the salaries for careers advisors in the UK at that point ranged between 15k and 35k. The CDI did a survey last year and they found that they ranged between 18k and 43k, with the average being 28k. These are highly professional, qualified people. There is internal ownership and within internal ownership, I’m thinking about us as a profession and as practitioners and what we can do. We have got clear initial training requirements, we've got training for career leaders, we've got training for careers advisors, we've got the professional associations etc. One of the things that I think is really encouraging is that we are working much better together. The CDI works well with... we're developing events collectively with NISEC and ICEGS, we run the national research conference for the career sector and we've done that three years now and we're working more collaboratively on a whole range of things around professionalisation, we have research awards that we're working on etc.

The profession requires CPD for those registered practitioners and we have clear sets of ethics, we're investing more in our practitioner research and the evidence base, and I don't think we have a professional identity. I think that is developing in some areas, I think a sense of belonging is really challenging for many practitioners, particularly those that work in isolated contexts, either in jobcentres or even in schools. They don't necessarily have what I had which was a group of colleagues to go back to at the end of the day to talk about what happened during that day. We need greater commonality around job titles and roles and clarity around that. One of the things that I’ve been really proud to be involved with is the career development policy group which was established a couple of years ago and it is a group of about 10 different organizations that are working together to campaign on some of the issues that we've been talking about.

So, we're currently promoting a career guidance guarantee that came out of the pandemic and that lack of visibility and lack of awareness of support and basically what we're challenging government on is to provide access to professional career guidance for people who need it, and when they need it we need to be critically engaged in our professional practice, the role needs to evolve, we need to ensure that practitioners have access to CPD but can also develop the confidence in their skills, in their practice and in themselves as practitioners to promote their professional practice and to have greater diversification in the workplace. I was very lucky to access some funding from the university and have a PhD student and we're looking at the workforce and we're looking at identifying some strategies to address this so we're trying to do work on this at the moment.
So, this essentially is the end of my presentation, there is an opportunity for questions, and I’ve got a few thank yous to give. Some of you will be up there and if you're not it's not because I don't love you! Thanks to my husband Dr Neil Radford who is just always there for me, and I’ll be honest, I probably wouldn't be standing here had he not had to listen to this I don't know how many times. My colleagues Deidre and Tristan, previous directors of the centre who have built ICEGS into what it is, and I’ve been very privileged to take over that mantle. My colleague Gloria Smith who is the most amazing practitioner in the west midlands and inspired so many people in the career sector. She only retired I think last year, it's absolutely amazing. And finally, I want to mention my colleague Ann Rutherford, who I was a champion of adult guidance and special educational needs and sadly passed away in October last year and I’d just really like to dedicate this to her, so thank you, everybody. [Applause]

[Paul] Thank you, Siobhan, absolutely fascinating. Any questions for Siobhan? Remember she wants nice, gentle ones [laughs]. Kath?

[Kathryn Mitchell] [Inaudible]

[Siobhan] I think it's a really interesting question and I think one of the biggest challenges we've got is that we don't have crystal balls you know. In terms of what the industries are going to need, they often are reacting as we see to the skills shortages. We know that there's a whole generation of jobs that we need to prepare young people for and I think again that's got to be a partnership approach, it isn't just going to be the career sector, it's got to be employees, it's got to be the university, it's got to be apprenticeships, it's got to be training providers. We have to work collectively, but I think we have to have the information and we have to have access and ways of encouraging and motivating and inspiring young people to think about these sorts of opportunities in different ways and there was a piece of work in the FE news last week and one of the things that we were talking about in that is "can we reframe a lot of the stem agenda around climate change?" Because young people want to be activists, so if we can reframe rather than talking about STEM (which we've pumped millions and millions of pounds into and never really got a long way with it) but if we can reframe it about activism and supporting the planet and moving forward in terms of some of these areas of work, we might have a better chance.

[Paul] Thank you. Any other questions?

[Audience member] Thank you for the brilliant presentation and very well deserved and strong professionalization. Thinking about the turn towards degree apprenticeships and apprenticeship routes into the profession, do you think the profession is doing enough at the moment to promote that new route everywhere? And might that help in a positive way to achieve the diversity, or might it destabilize that higher level of a professionalized workforce that you mentioned earlier?

[Siobhan] I think we need to do more; I think we need to have a greater number of routes... I mean, one of the things that we try to do here at Derby is that we develop an undergraduate route into careers. We've never got anybody who wanted to do it you know, so I think there is an interesting question about how the profession is presented. I think there is a lot more work to do and the careers companies are developing their own training and their own recruitment to meet recruitment needs because they're not getting level six. We're quite lucky at Derby, our numbers are quite robust, and we have excellent thought leaders in our students here at Derby but there aren't that many people training at level 7, so we do have to look at roots and I think the degree apprenticeships are an area that we've not embraced yet but there's a lot of criticism in the career sector about apprenticeships or about careers practitioners views of apprenticeships and I think part of that is around normalizing the variety of opportunities we've got for training rather than the binary which tends to be higher educational, technical, vocational etc and we need to move away from that.


[Siobhan] Yes, I totally agree and I think that's one of the real opportunities and we get all debts here at the front is around the public service theme that we've got in the university and how we're locating some of our research because that is very much around looking at professionalisation across a whole range of public sector workforces but also learning and I think that's what we need to do and I think there are some real opportunities with us with that particular research theme, to work more closely with other colleagues because some of those issues have been explored over a number of years and other people might be further on than we are.


[Siobhan] Do I have the answers, Ruth? Probably not! I think what is interesting... and I think this is part of this move to this isolationist sort of model that we've almost gone into in the career sector. Back in the day we had teams of people who worked together, worked in teams. You might have a couple of people working in schools whereas increasingly practitioners might be employed by schools, so they're applied just in that school and it's what opportunities are there available outside of that. Or they're employed for the national career service, they might work just in a jobcentre on their own for example. So, I think there are some systemic issues that are quite difficult to address because of the way the market has evolved and the organizations that recruit careers advisors have changed quite dramatically and as a result of those wide-scale redundancies due to the connections, a lot of people went out to work for themselves. So increasingly, people are self-employed, or a small number of careers advisors work together so I think that the sector itself has become much more fragmented which is why things like professional identity and professional associations and creating opportunities for belonging are really important. So, I think it's the market at the moment. Things might turn on that and... just going back to one of the points Bill made, I think there is an argument that there are many careers advisors who don't even have decent work. If you look at the criteria for decent work, some of the people who are employed don't necessarily have that, they don't have the security.


[Siobhan] I think what's interesting is that the career sector is steeped very much in social justice. We see that we are aiming to try and bridge that disadvantage that individuals may experience because of their start in life. I think that we have a whole range of mechanisms that try to address that and I think that a lot of the work that Uni connect colleagues do for example around the winding access agenda, they're the people who want to get into the careers sector because they're doing a lot of that work already, some of them are qualified professionals, they are offering careers support around social mobility but from a slightly different perspective. It's all aiming really in the same direction, I think we espouse a lot around social mobility, but whether we've got the mechanisms in place that really make that effective I think is a real challenge. I think within higher education we've always been very good at doing pre-entry. I think the work that we do in terms of ensuring that our students have opportunities while on the programme and also have support transitioning is often problematic in terms of resourcing, so I think there's a lot of work that we could do there and I think there's a lot more we could learn by actually connecting together and exploring a lot of these different types of work that are going on because they're often done in isolation without actually being connected. I evaluate a lot of initiatives in schools and one of the biggest challenges is that you've got this piece of money and you're doing that but how does that connect to all the other projects that are going on with all those young people on free school meals? it's a bit of an initiative overload in some places and I think that it would be helpful for us to have a better sense of where the funding is and have a more holistic approach possibly.

[Paul] Just finally to again thank you for coming tonight, thank you to our support staff from events marketing etc for actually helping make tonight a reality. There is a reception down in the lower atrium with wine, strawberries and cream to enjoy. Also, to remind you all that the next inaugural lecture in the series is on the 11th of May and is Professor Meziane who's talking about "Natural Language: Processing a Fulfilled Promise", that's around data science and computing. So just reflects the diversity of research we have here at the University of Derby. And again, just a final thank you to Siobhan. Amazing lecture, thank you very much. [Applause]

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Inaugural Lecture Series: Professor Siobhan Neary video

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