This post has been re-blogged from our UK website.
At South Staffordshire College in England, Career Coach has been used to prompt students 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 recognized nationally as the most successful college in Staffordshire, according to the UK Data Service. The college has four campuses in Staffordshire, with extensive facilities including an art gallery, an equestrian center, and a zoo.
We were very pleased to have Belinda Ball, head of tutoring and development at the college, present at our 2013 UK User Group event. She gave a detailed presentation on South Staffordshire’s use of Career Coach, most of which is summarized in this post.
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 students. Throughout the week, progression coaches also made sure to highlight Career Coach as an effective way for students to plan their career paths. The coaches made sure that every student was aware of Career Coach and was familiar with the tool and its uses. The college also developed an “augmented reality” campaign that allowed students 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 students to seek career information independently of their progression coach and careers advisors. Career Coach, being so readily accessible to the students, both inside and outside of the college, allows the coaches to spread their influence much further and more effectively. And students are often apt to be more honest about their desired career when they have unlimited access to an impartial web-based computer program.
Since the college has incorporated Career Coach, students have created and downloaded 587 resumés — all stress- and error-free. One student sent her resumé to the company that she wanted to work for and received a reply within half an hour. She got the job.
Students find that the most useful part of the Career Coach tool is the resumé builder, in part because it is the most imminently practical. Everyone needs a resumé if they want to get a job. Since the college has incorporated Career Coach, students have created and downloaded 587 resumés — all stress- and error-free. One student sent her resumé 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 students automatic access to a simplified version of Career Coach on their VLE (Virtual Learning Environment), which has proved effective in getting the students to interact with and make use of the tool. Some students 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 students on their own time and the full version, which is only accessible with staff guidance.
The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (OFSTED) recently emphasized the impartiality of careers guidance offered in UK colleges. In light of this, 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 students 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 students are getting their education. It shows them the labor market in their local area because these students are likely to pursue jobs that are geographically near by. Impartiality in careers advice is stressed because colleges should not pressure students into particular courses or careers that are in the best interests of the college rather than of the student. Career Coach puts no pressure on students to choose one career over another. The data speaks for itself and leaves the students 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 students is receiving a degree and finding a quality job. Career Coach enables the college to measure the success of that goal. The mission of any FE college is to prepare students for the workforce. While Career Coach does not fill in every gap in the students’ 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.