It can be a job to choose

11th July 1997 at 01:00
Careers teachers in schools have a long track record of delivering eff-ective guidance with limited res-ources. I know of many colleagues whose "library" is a shelf in a corridor and whose time allocation is their lunch break.

I am fortunate to work in a school with a well-equipped careers suite, a budget to keep my resources up-to-date and senior management support. This should be the norm in this new era, signalled by the privatisation of the Careers Service and the clauses in the Education Act 1997 establishing statutory careers education in state secondary schools.

Young people today need more than help in making a sensible decision about what to do when they leave school. The buzz phrase of "lifelong learning" is one to be taken seriously when the current realities of the labour market mean that young people leaving education now can expect several career changes in their lifetimes.

Among the skills they need are those of career management, which includes knowing where and how to access knowledge and resources. For many of the sixth-form students I see, a career is something for which you have to be qualified and which should last several years. A job, on the other hand, is what you do in the summer or during your year out to raise funds for higher education.

Year 11 school-leavers (who have no qualms about saying they want a job rather than a career) are also delaying their entry to the labour market by doing vocational qualifications with a clear perception that these will be of long-term use to them. The bane of every careers adviser is the amount of money which has to be set aside for replacing vital reference books which are updated every year. This means of course that less is available to spend on the many new books and other resources whose publishers bombard us with persuasive and compelling advertising.

There are some crucial basics I would not be without. For younger pupils in Years 9-11 the emphasis should be on self assessment and exploring ways of matching their abilities and skills to different career areas. The publishing arm of the Department for Education and Employment, the Careers and Occupational Information Centre (COIC) produces particularly good materials for this age group: Occupations 97 (#163;25) is a comprehensive reference book containing details of jobs of all types, from manual to professional work. Each occupational article has a wealth of invaluable detail and the book is updated every year.

From the same publisher, Signposts is still going strong and is especially useful for group work with Year 9. This boxed card index system which acts as a mini careers library is issued free to each school or college in Great Britain which has students between 13 and 18 years. Further sets are #163;25 each.

COIC also produces micro-DOORS, a computer program which allows users to search for occupations matching personal interests and qualification levels. The database provides accurate, unbiased information on 570 occupations. Trotman's Question and Answer series (see below) is also extremely popular with this age-group.

There is a huge variety of resources aimed at Year 12 and 13 students. Some standard reference books I consider a must, foremost among which is the Official UCAS Guide (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service #163;18.95). This gets bigger and bigger every year but is still conventiona lly bound and lasts for about a week in my careers library before it starts falling apart. I cannot let this opportunity pass to plead with UCAS to produce this guide in a more user-friendly and durable format.

Other much thumbed books include the Which? Degree series published by the Careers Research and Advisory Centre (#163;19.95 per book or #163;71.82 for the 1998 four-volume set) and Trotman's irreverent PUSH Guide at #163;9.95. CRAC's A Year Off . . . A Year On? (#163;7.99) is always in demand, as is the same publisher's Sponsorship for Students '98 (#163;9.50).

For Year 12 careers lessons I frequently use CRAC's invaluable loose-leaf ring-binder edition of MAP (#163;49.95). This photocopiable resource has practical, easy to use exercises which encourage students to think about a wide range of issues connected with decisions and choices for moving on.

Many reference books are linked to software programs or videos, encouraging pupils to research information in a variety of ways. Jobfile 97 (Hodder amp; Stoughton #163;25.99) is produced by JIIG-CAL and complements the various software packages with which careers advisers will be familiar.

This book is subtitled "the essential careers handbook" and it certainly provides a wide range of useful information. Each section has helpful notes for adults, as well as further references and addresses. You do need to decide which of these encyclopedic guides to buy every year: this one warns in its preface that you "should only use the up-to-date version of this book".

Hodder amp; Stoughton also publishes the Just the Job! series of books at #163;5.99 each. These draw from the CLIPS software database developed by Lifetime Careers Wiltshire. The books are lively, well-presented and cover the most popular career areas, including some with a wider brief such as In Uniform or Working with Your Hands. As well as the usual information, each section considers the working conditions of a particular career (very helpful in discussions about appropriate skills and aptitudes) and the text is enlivened with cartoons and case studies.

Among the latest, Telecommunications, Film and Video warns that "the film industry is not one which absorbs a large number of people every year", a statement which I think I'll have engraved on my careers room wall.

A similar series is Trotman's Questions and Answers - which at #163;3.50 each should allow you to build up a reasonable collection. These pocket-sized books give information in a user-friendly format. They cover a wide range of career areas, from Modelling through Environment to Complementary Medicine. They are an excellent starting point for discovering the answers to the most commonly asked questions - including "Could I become famous?"

Two further resources for the younger age-group deserve a mention: COIC publishes a series of Working In. . .(#163;5 each) books linked to the Careers Library Classification Index (CLCI) which are easy to read with lots of pictures.

For Year 9 classwork I can recommend the video-based resource package Working Options, produced by a consortium of careers professionals and businesses in the West Midlands (Dialogue #163;15). The photocopiable worksheets provide a very helpful springboard to group work.

The problems associated with arranging work experience in a world of diminishing placements do not stop with the sense of relief and triumph when you have placed all your pupils with an employer. The Complete Work Experience Pack by Ann Barlow and Margaret Finn (Hodder amp; Stoughton, JIIG-CAL #163;19.99) goes some way to help reduce the stress of organising it all. This photcopiable resource book takes you through the vital initial administrative preliminaries.

The first section deals with general issues about preparing for the world of work and includes self-assessment, understanding job advertisements and coping with application forms, letters, phone calls and interviews. There are some helpful examples of good practice. In part 2, key facts and problems are considered before a specific placement begins. The third part gives substantial help in compiling a work experience diary. It includes not only what students do but encourages them to observe working conditions and resources, as well as the opportunity to think about the role of trades unions and issues such as equal opportunities.

The last part offers a general debriefing with hints on how to write the thank you letter as well as asking students to consider how what they have learned will influence future decisions. This practical and well-presented pack should prove invaluable to busy careers teachers.

As well as the many general reference volumes for the 16-plus student, there is also a wide range of career specific books to choose from. Most careers advisers will go straight to the Trotman and CRAC catalogues, but I must mention Sarah Duncan's Guide to Careers in the Media and the companion Guide to Careers in the Performing Arts, both of which cover everything anyone could need to know about these popular career areas (Cheverell Press #163;25 each).

Trotman's Getting into... series is a grown-up version of the Question and Answer books and are much used in my careers library. They cover most possibilities from getting into Australian universities to the city for aspiring stockbrokers.

For the student who wants to use languages in the future, present them with the Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research's Guide to Languages and Careers (CILT #163;14.95). This helpful resource is divided into sections, dealing with questions such as which careers need a language, the courses available and how to combine languages with other subjects.

There is a valuable checklist at the end of each section and this book's ringbinder format makes it an easy-to-use and attractive addition to the careers library.

Although I prefer MAP for group work with Year 12, there is an argument for using a resource which takes someone from the 16-plus stage through to adult learning. Framework Press publishes Lifelong Activities by Kate Atkinson, Jean Bolton and Ruth Powell. As its title suggests, this is a photocopiable pack with worksheets which aim to stimulate discussions appropriat e to different stages. The philosophy is that we all need help and guidance on what we're doing whatever our age and this must surely become the accepted idea on which careers education and guidance should be based.

Bridget Patterson is head of sixth-form careers at Northgate High School, Ipswich

Cheverell Press Manor Studios, Manningford Abbots Pewsey, Wilts SN9 6HS

CILT 20 Bedfordbury, Covent Garden, London WC2N 4LB

COIC DFEE Moorfoot, Sheffield S1 4PQ

CRAC Sheraton House, Castle Park, Cambridge CB3 OAX

Dialogue 46 Avondale Road Wolverhampton WV6 0AJ

Framework Press 8 Broomhill Business Park, Broomhill Road, Tallaght, Dublin 24

Hodder amp; Stoughton 338 Euston Road, London NW1 3BH

Trotman 12 Hill Rise, Richmond, Surrey TW10 6UA

UCAS PO Box 67, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL50 3SF

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