For any Careers Adviser working in the Further Education Sector, they will know the importance of enrolment, and what this period means to an adviser working on the ‘front-line’. Traditionally it involves long hours, queues of students waiting desperately to see an adviser to help them with a range of issues such as; from not getting a place on college courses or to change a course or to not knowing what course to choose in the first place. This usually involves short-bursts of interviews were you as the adviser has to work quickly and effectively to find out the initial issue and to trouble shoot effectively and resolve the situation and help the student move forward in a relatively short space of time.
The interaction between the student and the adviser normally is an isolated incident, with the adviser rarely having time for any follow-up from the student. The period is exhausting and relentless, matching students to courses that will ultimately play a part in their career progression. The adviser has to multi-task and is both mentally and physically fit to cope with the incoming student-traffic and the huge caseload of enquires from not only students, but parents, tutors and admissions staff.
Traditionally the face to face approach has its advantages as those that are prepared to wait to be seen by the careers adviser get seen albeit in short bursts of interaction. In my experience nothing can prepare you this enrolment period, many advisers including myself have felt physically worn out as they deal with a never-ending barrage of enquires, all that need resolving.
This year post-lockdown, the FE sector opened up its doors to all colleges and sixth-forms after a summer spent home in-doors, a new batch of students returned to study in September 2020, to a new normal, and a new service provided by most career services. But had much changed? How did careers services in schools and colleges respond to the need for advice and guidance in a crucial period in sixth form and college’s calendar. Traditional methods of working with students providing a face to face service was not possible with the coronavirus pandemic showing no signs of easing, how we provide careers advice in the new normal had to be reimagined, with Careers Advisers embracing new technologies and forcing Careers Advisers to be more creative when working with students in the enrolment period of 2020.
With many services still providing a service remotely, careers advisers have had to take a front-facing service delivered in small interview rooms, face to face to a more blended one. In which Careers Advisers provide a service through telephone, email, and a virtual service using Microsoft Teams, which in its essence has a reimagining of the traditional way careers advisers work with students.
The service post lockdown of March 2020, is a robust service in student enquires are responded to quicker and in a way that suits them this has allowed them to interact with the adviser using array of means that many are already familiar with. In many cases the reluctance for change has come from are ready or confident to use new technologies and embrace change. The result has been that the clients can access careers advice more easily as the referral process is much quicker and issues and concerns can be dealt with in a shorter time period.
There also seems to be less ‘no shows’ as queries are dealt with in specific time frame, and responded to by a preferred means whether this be by telephone, email or through Microsoft Teams, which has allowed face to face interviews taking place in a way that is convenient for the client. By delivering careers guidance in this way, this ensures that health and safety remains a priority, and clients do not have to leave their homes to access careers advice. Presentations can also be delivered through Microsoft Teams thus having the potential to reach a wider audience. The presentations can also be recorded and made available to tutor groups and uploaded for ease of access to platforms such as Moodle. Students can even download the content, pause, rewind as required.
As a Careers Adviser who has worked both in the traditional sense of 1:1 and group work delivery model and has now been actively involved in the reimagining of careers advice in the new normal, I must say that careers advice in the new normal works well for both the adviser and client. As we feel we are very much responsive and communicating in a way that client wants and needs and thus allowing the adviser to able to be more productive. Through the use of technology they are able to provide a service that is both accessible and safe and more importantly available to help clients manage their career interventions and progression.
Are we pioneers or revolutionaries?
I feel if there is a return to our interview rooms in the post-lockdown era of 2020 could see the delivery of 1:1 face to face actually decrease and be superseded by Microsoft Teams, Telephone and e-guidance as well as ‘chat’ available and used by many career services? It is important to point out that this new way of working requires both the adviser and client to be confident in embracing new technologies.
Today as I write this, within a few months I have seen a complete turnaround whereby we are providing a service that is not only responsive, but accessible that meets the needs of those that need to access careers advice. Recent feedback and statistical evidence has proven that the quality of the service is appreciated and valued by our clients, which include parents, staff, tutors and our stake holders, certainly this new normal has been welcomed and appreciated in a time where good careers advise has never been more essential.
Sarfraz Ahmed, A member of the Careers Writers Association
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