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Why school-leavers should not see the join

David Henderson talks to Dermot Dick, head of the new careers advice set-up in Lothian, about whatthe future holds. The long-established local authority careers services in Scotland may be vanishing into the mists of market-place ideology, but in Lothian there is more than a whiff of continuity about the new structures. Parents of all 15 and 16-year-old pupils will this month be sent an innovative booklet called It's Your Life, which will spell out the options available to school-leavers. Will they notice any difference from the previous regional council service?

Lothian Region and its partner, Lothian and Edinburgh Enterprise, which run the new service, will hope and expect that pupils and parents will not see the join. As Dermot Dick, chief executive of the new charitable company CDEL - Career Development Edinburgh and Lothians - put it: "At a time of unprecedented change and with local government reorganisation imminent, along with the reform of the upper secondary curriculum heralded by Higher Still, schools and colleges can look forward to a stable relationship with our company which will benefit pupils, parents and teachers alike."

Unlike the open tendering for careers services south of the border, the more cautious Scottish Office merely invited the existing education authorities and their partners in the local enterprise companies to submit joint bids to run the service for five years after the break-up of the existing councils next April. They were to be preferred bidders.

In Lothian, the marriage of necessity led to the emergence last March of CDEL, which won the contract to provide careers guidance services in the four new councils: West Lothian, Edinburgh, Midlothian and East Lothian.

This month's launch of the careers booklet for parents will demonstrate the extent of collaboration between the education authority and local employers. Standard Life, one of Lothian's largest employers in the region's strong financial sector, is backing the venture along with Stewarts Colour Printers.

The booklet, which was given a preliminary trial last year, has aroused much interest and is believed to be one of the first of its kind to target parents - key figures in influencing their offspring's destinations.

Mr Dick, former principal careers officer for the region, said the booklet will be mailed directly to homes and will provide information about pupil destinations. It also uses cameo portraits to highlight the progression routes of recent school-leavers and emphasises equal opportunities in education, training and employment.

David Dimmock, community and education liaison officer at Standard Life and a careers board member, said he was "delighted with a quality product which is supporting the work of careers advisers by communicating directly to the parents of our future workforce the range of opportunities and sources of help available".

Mr Dick said the booklet was one of many quality information products the careers company has introduced this year, adding to the 1995 editions of Your Choice at 16-plus in Edinburgh and Lothians and Scottish Higher Education - Your Choice, both of which are used extensively in careers education programmes.

The 16-plus booklet offers 140 pages of information on employment, training and college courses, while the higher education booklet covers the full range of degree and higher national diploma courses available at Scottish universities and colleges. Courses are listed by occupational area and with entry requirements, subject combinations and graduate destinations.

Among the other services are careers clinics, individual interviews with pupils leading to careers action plans, and inputs to careers education programmes. There is also support for school-based work-experience programmes and work shadowing for senior pupils. An agreement with the further education colleges means school-leavers and potential students will receive information about Skillseekers, including their own personalised Skillseekers card and information about related vocational qualifications. Apart from its contractual obligations with the Scottish Office, the company is offering a guidance service to adults and a Training Access Points service of training information for individuals and employers.

Under a contract with Understanding British Industry, it also co-ordinates the teacher placement service which arranges "work-experience" places for teachers in industry and commerce. It also houses the Lothian Education Business Partnership, which provides a focus for developing education and industry links.

Not the least of its services is the Opportunities '96 exhibition next March which will have more than 80 exhibitors from employment, training and further education. Mr Dick feels able to forecast: "Our future looks bright and rosy."

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