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There is certainly a challenge to introduce guidance as early as possible to help students gain an understanding of the world of work and what lies ahead.This will link their learning to the real world and give them reasons to aspire

In this edition of our monographic journal we would like to focus us on vocations. Do you think the lack of vocation in students is actually a lack of motivation?

A school career can be spent almost wholly within the realm of learning where a student is crammed full of facts and knowledge but without exposure to the practical application of this learning: so called education for education's sake. We advocate a broader world view; that education should be put into the context of the wider world and for most this means linking learning to its application in the working world. If a student can contextualise the study they will do based on the occupations it is useful for, this can underscore the importance of learning. Furthermore if they are really interested in entering an occupation for which the study is used, this can drive them to study harder and succeed further. We believe that if you can raise aspiration, by showing a student occupations that they are interested in and will suit them, you can drive their attainment in education.

How do we achieve that a student discovers and reflects on their interests and innate tendencies?

The challenge is to get the student to reflect on themselves but also to apply this to the world they are going to confront when they leave education. We do this with inventories of questions, e.g. likes and dislikes, skills, qualifications, and health factors, and these inventories are linked through analysis to occupational data. The student is asked a set of questions and presented back occupations that suit their responses, so called "matching". As well as the resultant occupations and how they have been analysed, the user can see their responses and how they are used to suggest the occupations. This process can help the user understand more about themselves, the occupations and how their attitudes or suitability map to the careers. As a user can change their inputs based on what they learn from the system and iterate towards an outcome that suits them. 

Is more information and guidance necessary to promote self-knowledge and motivation?

There are multiple factors that can influence career choice and information, advice and guidance can help the individual balance all of these components. Information can be simple signposting onto the next port of call but it can also be an important decision maker. Weighing up one set of criteria against another is only possible with a full knowledge of the facts! Advice and guidance is important to help those who have more difficult decisions, whether from not knowing what they want or how to get there. Answering these questions positively can have a profound effect on each individual's motivation. 

Do you think the current economic situation has increased the need for academic and professional guidance?

The poor economic outlook has disproportionately affected the opportunities for young people. Recently the EU, IMF and World Bank all spoke about the difficulties of young people leaving school for a world that offers ever more limited job opportunities and the risks this poses for the future. With limited choices the quality of up-to-date labour market information and the guidance around it can help young people immeasurably in the challenge to navigate the choices before them.

One of the characteristics of the products of Cascaid is that they offer lifelong guidance. How do you adapt to the needs of each stage?

In the UK our schools products are segmented by age so that they offer the right features and information for each group of users. Our early years product is built around exploration of the world of work and a sample of the jobs that are available.  Next comes subject choice and how that can be influenced by career aspiration. Then we have the matching program that is used for careers education and information, advice and guidance during the later school years and the transition from school into further/higher education, training or employment. Our adult guidance program uses a whole range of factors to help people to the information or guidance they require and is also linked to multiple sources of information to provide the most detailed view possible of occupations. As an individual develops they can reuse our products and update information on themselves and this can then present new options for further development.  So program use can be iterative across long periods to support lifelong learning and guidance. 

Is more guidance needed in the school years (primary)? And in the adult stages (to promote lifelong learning, retraining, job changes, adapting to retirement, etc.)?

There is certainly a challenge to introduce guidance as early as possible to help students gain an understanding of the world of work and what lies ahead. This will link their learning to the real world and give them reasons to aspire. Then they need supporting through their schooling to make informed choices on subjects and other options that could be important in the future. For adults the job market is ever more complicated and changing. The average number of jobs an individual will have is increasing and new jobs requiring new skills are appearing. So an individual shouldn't stand still but become an active manager of their own career so that they can keep ahead of change. 

What challenges do guidance professionals who work with adults face? What is the experience of Cascaid in this area?

The single most significant challenge is to empower an individual with the skills they need to make choices and act on them. In these straightened economic times poor choices put individuals at greater risk of social exclusion. Guidance professionals want to help clients who face the single greatest symptom of social exclusion: low income, arising from unemployment or precarious or low-paid employment but there are also other causes such as lack of education, disability or even low motivation. CASCAiD has been involved in many specific projects over the last three decades that have improved the guidance for these groups of clients and this has informed the development of our guidance tools.  We now have a multifunctional approach to assist the guidance professional with many of the issues that an adult faces and offer the best choices for each individual.

CASCAiD a leader in careers guidance software in the UK. What are the benefits of using ICT in the guidance practitioner's communication with students, families, teachers, etc..? What about in the creation of materials, resources and tools?

Information and communication technologies (ICT) are both an opportunity and a challenge for the guidance practitioners. ICT becomes more embedded in everyday life but moves forward relentlessly.  It offers new methods of engagement with students, families and teachers but also presents issues of quality and access.  Information management for guidance has to adapt to ever-increasing sources and help the user find and select information related to education, training and the world of work that suits their needs.  CASCAiD's occupational databases have always provided a consistent high quality source of key career data that can then be linked to external sources for more depth and detail.  The tools that are linked to the data then provide a workflow to suit the differing needs of each type of user and take them through good career management processes as well as presenting the information that they require. 

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