How career guidance support helps people get jobs

Jenny Bimrose

Blog by Professor Jenny Bimrose, Institute for Employment Research

 

 

Most of us need paid work to earn the money we need to survive. As well as earning money, many of us enjoy those jobs (or at least parts of them). That is certainly a common (though not universal) aspiration – that we should enjoy the jobs we do, because then it is more likely that we will perform well. Just how we end up in those jobs, and how people can be helped to get jobs, is at the heart of career guidance support.

Understanding how people get jobs
For well over a century, models, frameworks and/theories have been developed to help us get a better understanding of how individuals move into paid work. The more we understand about how we move out of education into training or jobs; how we move from one job to another; or how we get back into work from a period of unemployment or absence (because of caring responsibilities or ill-health) from working, the better career practitioners will be able to provide relevant career guidance support. Until relatively recently, the majority of people made one significant transition from compulsory education, when they left school for the first time and moved into training, work, or further/higher education. With labour markets having become more volatile and less predictable over the past decade or two, the majority of people will need to make more transitions in their lifetime, with many needing to weave courses into their career pathways, perhaps more than once, that upskill and reskill as some jobs disappear and other jobs are created.

The question of choice

A key issue for career guidance support is the extent to which individuals are able to make choices. Do individuals exercise individual choice in the job or career decisions they make throughout their lifetimes? Should they be able to exercise choice?

Do individuals exercise choice?
This is a controversial issue, with some denying that they are able to exercise any meaningful free choice, because of various social constraints over which they have no, or limited, control, like gender, race, socio-economic status, disability, age, etc. Labour market statistics collected over decades show how these social constraints, both on their own or in combination with other constraints (where these variables intersect, like gender, race and age) operate to reduce individual choice. As a consequence, many argue that the options open to members of certain social groupings are (at best) limited, with members of these groups having to navigate their job transitions within these limits. Others argue that everyone is able to exercise, at least to a degree, their free choice over their decisions. Of course, yet others argue that it is not as simple as choice versus no choice. Rather, that the extent to which an individual can exercise choice depends on their life-stage and circumstances.

Should individuals exercise choice?
Social and/or cultural values and attitudes can come into play regarding the degree of free choice individuals should exercise over their job transitions. Cultural sensitivity requires an understanding of individual worldviews, where different value orientations have been identified by international researchers. So, western societies predominantly espouse an individualistic orientation, where individual autonomy is important and there is an assumption that we should plan for the future, typically sacrificing today for a better tomorrow. Here, it is assumed we control our own destiny. Most career theories and models have been developed within this paradigm. There are, however, other worldview orientations. For example, collateral, where there is a strong value around consulting with families and friends, taking advice and sometimes direct instruction regarding which job is suitable. It would be inappropriate for an individual to pursue their individual preferences. Imposing career models or theories developed within a western worldview is unlikely to be seen as relevant to people from different worldviews.

How do we get jobs?

So, there are many different ideas about how individuals get jobs. These are reflected in the many and varied career theories that each propose different ways individuals both get into jobs and change jobs. Theories that have had most influence on practice are from the academic discipline of psychology. Probably the theory that has had most influence of all on career practice is the ‘trait and factor’ or ‘talent matching’ approach to job choice.

Talent matching
In summary, this approach to career guidance support argues that the process of getting a job is a three-stage process. First, individuals identify, or assess, their own talents, abilities, skills, aptitudes, values, attitudes, etc. Second, jobs in the labour market are analysed in a similar way, identifying the skills and competencies required by a particular job. Third, individual profiles are matched to the best fit jobs. It assumes that individuals exercise free choice and that the labour market is relatively stable. This is the theory that underpins the Skillsometer, where you can complete an assessment of your own skills and these are matched to jobs that require the same, or similar, profile of skills.

Conclusion
The profession of career guidance support was established at the turn of the last century. Now about 120 years old, it has a robust research base that provides the evidence to support different approaches and strategies to help individuals undertaking labour market transitions. Like all professions, there are different schools of thought to which career practitioners subscribe and which provide a framework to guide their practice. New theories are being developed to respond to new world orders and to accommodate the realities with which people requiring support are grappling. The Skillsometer represents one approach, the matching approach, to career guidance support. Many will find this extremely helpful. Others may find it limited, for reasons identified above. For all users, it is likely to represent one powerful way of starting, or continuing, to think about themselves in relation to new and changing labour market conditions.

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Piloting a new online job-scraping tool

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As part of extending the data available in LMI for All, the team at IER is currently piloting a new web scraping technique to collect UK vacancy data. LMI for All brings together different sources of labour market data, but a complete and reliable vacancy dataset has been difficult to find.  Over the last few months, the LMI for All team has been busy developing a web scraping method to create a constant stream of updated vacancies and to map these to the UK occupational classification system. Web scraping consists of a computerised method to automatically collect information from across the Internet (e.g. job portals).

For the LMI for All pilot, the vacancy information is being scraped daily from three significant job portals in the UK. These job portals are significant because they receive a high number of visits per day and include lots of information about the jobs being advertised.
The pilot data will be released in Autumn this year and further refined over the next few months (we will probably have some gaps to fill and we refine our programming!). The dataset will include current vacancies and links to the advert, as well as some useful variables including occupational classification, location of job at local and regional level, education level required and salary offered. We are also working on identifying the skills in the advert. The aim is for users of LMI for All to be able to ask for vacancies by occupation, location and skills.

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Analysing the trend data
Whilst these data will enable vacancy data to be added to the LMI for All database, extending the service, it also enables the creation of trend data to analyse real-time labour demand in the UK. So, we have been playing around with the data. Professor Chris Warhurst and Dr Jeisson Cárdenas-Rubio from IER did some analysis earlier in the year, see A tale of two job vacancies: waitering and nursing.

Occupational variation in vacancies
New labour market data released by the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows a continued rise in unemployment levels. The collapse in job vacancies earlier this year was a strong indicator of the massive unemployment to come and this is now seen in the statistics. However, the aggregate vacancy data masks some significant variations by occupation and analysis of the vacancy data reveals falling and increasing demand for different jobs in the UK labour market.
The data showed some very bad news for some occupations. The obvious example was waitering jobs, as vacancies for these jobs have collapsed during the Covid-19 crisis. There was some good news and other jobs showed a step rise in job vacancies. Not surprisingly given the health crisis, nurses have been in big demand, with a steep rise in the number of job vacancies. More broadly, this vacancy data shows that the shape of the UK workforce is likely to change and the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on jobs will not be even. The stock, or volume, of some jobs will decline, others will increase.
Over the coming months, the LMI for All team at IER will be analysing these data to capture changes and providing key insights into the UK labour market.

Can Big Data fill your data vacuum?

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Traditional data sources do not have the timeliness or the level of detail that many organisations using labour market information (LMI) need. NESTA is funding a project on novel sources of data that can yield reliable LMI in real time and at a level of detail (granularity) that can satisfy even local area organisations such as Skills Advisory Panels, Local Enterprise Partnerships and learning providers.

Derek Bosworth from IER is leading this work and would like to invite you to identify your data needs by filling in a very short questionnaire, which can be found here.

Labour market and skills projections: 2017 to 2027

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The latest ‘Labour market and skills projections: 2017 to 2027′, undertaken by IER’s Professor Rob Wilson and his team, including IER’s Sally-Anne Barnes, Derek Bosworth and David Owen and researchers at Cambridge Econometrics, have just been published by the Department for Education. Working Futures 2017-2027 is the latest in a series of quantitative assessments of the employment prospects in the UK labour market over a 10-year horizon. It presents historical trends and future prospects by sector for the UK and its constituent nations and the English regions.

The study shows that overall the number of jobs in the UK is projected to rise by around 1 million over the next decade with more of these jobs expected to be taken by female workers than male. The unemployment rate is expected to rise slightly and the expansion of the UK’s labour supply is forecast to slow over the next decade, curbed by slower population growth (than during 2007-2017) and an ageing population. The reports are now available to download.
Follow the LMI for All twitter account for updates on other published outputs from the study, including the release of updated data in the LMI for All database.

Professional identity transformation: supporting career and employment practitioners at a distance

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The need for countries to provide appropriate support to all individuals making labour market transitions into, and through, volatile and complex labour markets is uncontroversial.

What is controversial is, despite this, that the professional identity of career counselling and employment practitioners across Europe remains somewhat fragile, partly because of the need to balance tensions around funding targets and reducing unemployment, with the individual needs of clients.

Maintaining professionalism can similarly prove challenging because time poor practitioners find it difficult to update their learning needs, continually, in the face of operational pressures, placing at risk their ability to familiarise themselves with new theories, research and ways of working.

This article by IER’s  Professor Jenny Bimrose and Professor Alan Brown examined how career guidance counselling and employment practitioners can be supported at a distance using technology, to facilitate their professional identify transformation. Drawing on empirical results of European research (2014 – 2018), the article presents findings from an international online learning course designed to support practitioners’ professional identity across Europe and discusses the implications for practice. Fifty free downloads are available here.