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If your career is taking a backseat or maybe you are seeking solace from heartbreak, then the Government's careers service for young people, Connexions, might just be the people to help!

The Connexions service has developed the "Connexions Direct" (CXD) information system to provide information, advice and support to 13-19 year olds on a number of issues such as careers, family issues, general and sexual health, despair calls, finance, housing and drugs. CXD is an additional resource for young people and it offers a confidential advice and support service seven days a week via telephone, web chat, e-mail and SMS text.

CXD has been evaluated in a number of sample areas since it began on a pilot basis in September 2001. In 2004 the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) commissioned Taylor Nelson Sofres (TNS) Social to carry out a pilot study to develop, test and appraise means of obtaining a representative sample of user views from what can be an anonymous service.

Specific Improvements

Some of the specific improvements and changes made for the main User Survey included introduction of face-to-face briefings for all advisers to ensure they were comfortable offering the survey; questionnaire length of less than five minutes and the web survey was offered using a pop-up upon exiting the Adviser Online (AOL) session.

The specific objectives of this study were to test out the quality of the service delivered during the first year of the contract with the new provider of Connexions Direct. The survey was designed to measure young people's (and other users") satisfaction with the service received immediately after they had used it, thus locating any areas of weakness to be improved upon as well as praising any successes from the service.

Specifics of the Survey

The research, carried out between 31st Jan and 28th Feb (by telephone) and 28th Jan and 3rd March (web "“ based methods), included interviews with respondents specifically aged between 13 and15 years and with other demographic profiles based on gender, profession and ethnic background. The questionnaire included respondent's views on the nature of service provided by CXD. In the analysis of telephone calls, the call record forms indicated a surprisingly high proportion of adults (52 per cent) who might be calling on behalf of their children.

Regarding the main activity of the survey respondents, 53 per cent were in full-time education. After enquiries regarding careers or learning, personal or family relationships turned out to be the most common cause for the respondents" contacting CXD. When asked about the overall satisfaction with the CXD service, 89 per cent of respondents were either very or fairly satisfied with the service, although this did vary significantly between the two completion methods - with 78 per cent of telephone respondents very satisfied, compared with 44 per cent of web respondents.

A Mixed Response

A significant minority (10 per cent) claimed to be not very, or not at all satisfied, with the majority of these coming from web completions. Satisfaction increased as the respondents got older, from 51 per cent who were "very satisfied" in the 13-15 age group to 78 per cent in the 20 years and older age category. These "older" respondents were predominantly completing the questionnaire over the telephone, whereas in the younger age categories there were a higher proportion of web respondents.

And as only 9 per cent felt they were unlikely to use the service again, in spite of teething troubles it looks like a programme with value for a difficult world!

Aakriti Kaushik

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