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Careers switch hits jobs

Privatisation of careers services south of the border and cuts in school budgets are forcing a leading Edinburgh software company to abandon its 20-year operation.

Jiig-Cal Careers Research Centre, based at Edinburgh University, has announced it is to stop trading at the end of March next year. Twenty staff produce software and support materials, update a database and train teachers. The business extends across Britain and overseas.

In a formal statement, the independent, non profit-making company says it can no longer produce products in the current commercial climate. Jim Closs, the managing director, states: "Rather than compromise our standards by producing cheaper products of inferior quality, we have decided that Jiig-Cal Ltd will make an orderly withdrawal from the field of computer-assisted careers guidance."

Pam MacLean, deputy director, said: "We have cut our charges to rock bottom but we are still finding school budgets are so tight. It is very sad. Teachers are saying they are very sorry, the software is excellent, but they cannot afford it."

Ms MacLean said the crisis had deepened following the privatisation of careers companies in England and Wales. The situation in Scotland was less serious although careers companies had to operate commercially. Careers services had historically provided, either free or subsidised, Jiig-Cal materials for schools but were now charging a market rate. "Schools cannot afford the services from the careers companies," she said.

Some products such as a careers information package can cost up to Pounds 100 while others are charged on a per capita basis and can range from 70p to Pounds 2 per pupil. Schools and careers services can take an annual subscription and receive updated information once a year.

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