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Are you a good shepherd or a wet blanket?

Do you have the first clue when it comes to offering careers advice to your students and trainees? Try Jill Parkin's quiz and find out whether you're a professional prophet or an occupational hazard.

Jade in hospitality training has been running a lunchtime poker den and recently voted in the college student council to keep the cash-only policy in the canteen. Your career advice?

A The professional croupier course at Blackpool and The Fylde college - the seaside town with one tower and three piers is set to become Britain's Las Vegas and is clearly the only place for her.

B A-level maths with stats - but she'll have to keep that big wooden scoop thing away from her friends' exam papers.

C A lot of hungry and tearful A-level students would like to see her trained in something nasty, brutish and short.

D God knows - her psychometric tester said she was playing her cards very close to her chest.

Lee, who is as dim as a Toc H lamp, tells you he just wants to be rich.

Your advice?

A A move to London and a plumbing course, but he'll have to get on with it before all the Oxford graduates move in on the latest pound;100,000 a year earner.

B Come on, there must be a few NVQs in him.

C NVQ? But he never got as far as ABC.

D To mug Jade on the way home.

Debra, a precocious student who reduces male tutors to stammering heaps, says all she wants is a sugar daddy. Your advice?

A A diamond daddy is better. While waiting for him, train as an air hostess (first-class cabin) or a posh nanny. Be ruthless with wives - they're older than you, Debra.

B Enrol her on the sexual health course right now.

C Suggest a desktop publishing course so she can run off her own phone kiosk cards.

D Cancel her study leave. Failing that, tag her.

Carl has just come back in time for his career session, having been excluded over an incident with a cigarette lighter. He's a loner whose sole pleasure seems to be dropping woodlice into the Bunsen burners. He wants to be a fireman. Your advice?

A Do work experience at the local crematorium.

B He'll grow out of it. Meantime, how about an apprenticeship with a welding company - with all personnel in full fireproof suits, of course?

C Tell him he hasn't got the body for the calendar.

D I really don't care what he does - just tell me where he goes to do it.

Angel's mum and dad have come along to the careers session. She was the star of every play while at school and wants to go to drama college. Her dad wants her to help run their expanding chain of fish and chip shops.

Your advice?

A When their daughter is a famous soap star she'll open their new shops for them. It's the smell of greasepaint she wants, not just grease.

B Maybe they're right. Chip off the old block. What about retail management?

C Tell them anyone who calls their child Angel is in for a hell of a time.

B If you play King Lear, it's two to one your daughter will get you for it.

No one in Kelvin's family has ever been to university but he's clearly very bright. Yet he says he doesn't want to be in debt and he'd rather get on with it. Your advice?

A Let's think about where you want to be in a few years' time and then work out how to get there. You might be able to study and work.

B If you get a degree, you can get a good job and you can pay off your debt.

C There must be enough biochemists behind the counter in MacDonalds now to form their own social club. You're right, so why not get on with it?

D You can give me some advice - I'm still trying to pay off my student loan.

The young bully in the vocational centre has just had a successful trial for the local first division football club. He is fiendishly fit and a slouch academically. He refuses to consider any career except professional football.

A Okay, that's fair enough - I'm not going to argue with him.

B Let's suggest sports science at Loughborough - it'll be good for him to be with people even bigger and tougher.

C He needs a survival kit - phone numbers of dependency units and Max Clifford. And matbe biographies of George Best and Gazza.

D Sounds just like the head - he'll go far.

When you do the psychometric tests a remarkable number of trainees come up with an aptitude for the church. Your advice?

A Change the psychometric tests.

B Well, perhaps we've misjudged these trainees.

C Free housing, one busy day a week, dressing-up time. Could be worse.

D Let us pray - especially if light-fingered Laura in childcare gets her hands on the church collection plate.

Rebecca in the sixth form wears long skirts and reads books that aren't on the reading list. She says she's going to take a year out in India, come back and read philosophy at Durham, and then she'll think about a career.

Your response?

A That really is leaving it too late. We must sit her down to play careers snakes and ladders - a board game that makes clear the consequences of certain career choices.

B She'll have to become an academic, that's all.

C I remember feeling just like that. In fact, I remember being told that was one of the points of going to university.

D How quaint, how very Seventies. Go your own sweet way, Rebecca.

When you were a kid your school careers room was a card file, mauled over the years by many sticky fingers. Your thoughts?

A Ah yes. If you could pick your way through it, you could be a future egg packer. Abilities needed: nimble fingers.

B Things have improved now - we have multi-agency intervention, psychometric tests, decision-making training, take-your-daughter-to-work days and work experience.

C And machine packing for eggs, of course.

D The card file said I should be a teacher.

THE VERDICT: check your scores below

BYLINE:Award yourself four marks for an A, three for B, two for C, and one for D.

40-31: You're a practical soul. You want the best for the students and you've done your homework. A perfect careers adviser for an Orwellian world in which the best-laid plans never "gan agley".

30-21: You take this rather too seriously, you know. Has it ever occurred to you that Wayne was winding you up about wanting to be a lion-tamer? And how do you feel about that nasty accident he had when you found him the appropriate work experience?

20-11: You don't always see the best in these young people, do you? They are vessels full of potential. No, not just potential disappointment. Even dustmen whistle while they work.

10-1: You are jaded. No doubt wise, but jaded. Transfer to the oldie armchair in the staff room and keep everyone else amused. Think of it as a career move.

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