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Cunninghame House, Irvine, KA12 8EE

A Day in the Life of a Careers Adviser

Throughout 2023 we have continued our series featuring articles that focus on a ‘day in the life’ of people working in a variety of services and organisations across Ayrshire. The dedication and efforts of these people are key to reducing reoffending and improving outcomes for people in contact with the justice system and the wider community who are impacted by justice issues.

We would like to thank Craig for sharing his story with us.

Skills Development Scotland is the national body responsible for promoting the development of workplace skills in Scotland.  Their policies and various training initiatives have a direct impact both on crime prevention and breaking the cycle of reoffending.

Skills Development Scotland are a statutory partner to community justice through the Community Justice (Scotland) Act 2016 and are represented on the Community Justice Ayrshire Partnership Board.

Craig is employed as a post-school Careers Adviser with Skills Development Scotland, covering two schools in South Ayrshire.  As a post-school Career Adviser, it is Craig’s responsibility to offer support, information, advice, and guidance to customers of all ages. This means that there is often a lot of variety in his work, as not only is no day the same but no customer is the same either.  Craig tells us this is the mantra that Skills Development Scotland carries forward with customers daily to ensure the individuals he works with receive the best tailored service possible.

The Service

SDS Careers Information Advice and Guidance Service is universal. What this means is what we offer is available to everybody. For those facing one or more barriers, such as mental health issues, low education attainment, homelessness, or involvement / previous involvement with the justice system we will be flexible in our approach in order to best support the individual. Our main aim is to offer a service that is tailored to the needs of every individual, help them to understand and remove their additional barriers / challenges and most importantly raise their awareness of the wide range of organisations available to offer appropriate support.

There is currently joint work progressing between Skills Development Scotland and Scottish Prison Service to try to get MORE career guidance support for young people in Young Offender Institutions (YOI).

Skills Development Scotland have a Careers Adviser in Polmont YOI for example who will support the young people in custody with their career planning in preparation for their release. The Skills Development Scotland Adviser in Polmont YOI will then alert local Careers Advisers if a young person is leaving Polmont YOI to come back to their own local authority. When this happens, Careers Advisers can link in with partner agencies and offer the young person career guidance support at the appropriate time.

Skills Development Scotland also manage the data hub, which is a database containing the status of sixteen to nineteen year-olds in Scotland. It contains information on who is attending college, university or in work or training. Young people in custody are also recorded in the data set. This therefore provides a national database that can provide information on sixteen to nineteen year-olds in custody at any time. The database can be accessed by Skills Development Scotland and local authority staff and can be useful for monitoring the whereabouts and progress of young people who may have recently left custody. Skills Development Scotland can then work with partners to support these young people if they need careers guidance.

How I got where I am

The truth (and this is something I share with my customers too) is that I never set out to be a Careers Adviser. I left school with 3 C’s having studied a range of subjects and concluded that the best thing for me to learn at college was Social Sciences. My mum was a headteacher and she explained to me that a qualification in Social Sciences would lead to many available career options. When I joined the course; I remember on the first day my lecturer joking with a student that their response to a question was like “something a Marxist would say.” Everyone laughed whilst I sat and pondered on the meaning of the word Marxist.

The turning point for me during my studies was learning about many of the issues society can be faced with and recognising that I could play a part in helping people overcome them. This was something I would go onto mention in future interviews because the way I saw it was, any job where I could support somebody was a job worth doing. Despite reaching this conclusion I did not move into careers guidance right away. Before that point I found myself working in retail, hospitality and even teaching. Most importantly I had very briefly worked as an intern with Skills Development Scotland and once I realised all the diverse ways they can support people, I knew that I wanted to find a way to come back.

“As a helping profession, Careers Advisers must be aware of how trauma can impact on service users and importantly how this may affect career decision making readiness.”  

A typical day

In careers guidance there is no such thing as a typical day. Since the service is entirely tailored to the person’s needs, I often find I’m learning new information all the time. I find one of the easiest ways to try and capture the conversation I’m having with the customer is to compare this with the Career Management Skills (CMS) jigsaw. The CMS jigsaw is designed to help that person develop their skills in several different areas. The purpose of it is to act as a checklist for the customer, with progress being made in each area being viewed as another skill they can feel more confident about having. By mapping the conversation to this tool, the customer can get a better idea on what goals they are focussing on and what this can lead to.

All Careers Advisers are also trained in Trauma Informed Practice. As a helping profession, Careers Advisers must be aware of how trauma can impact on service users and importantly how this may affect career decision making readiness.

Outside of one-to-one appointments I am always networking with employers, training providers, colleges, and universities to try and seek relevant opportunities for my customer to move back into a positive destination and kickstart their career journey.

Challenges affecting my work

The job does not come without its challenges. Something that impacted us all has been the pandemic. Although we are all fortunate to be in a much better position now than we were a couple of years ago, as a Careers Adviser it was difficult to engage with a lot of my own customers and employers for a long time. Really this came down to the world having to shift to online engagements rather than face to face. Although I recognise, we were all faced with our own challenges, to feel as if there was more, I could do to help someone, but quite simply couldn’t do as much as I wanted to, was a hard lesson to learn.

However, the way I tackled this was to imagine myself in the customer’s position. I thought about all the services they were used to accessing and how that had changed for them, and then I thought about the efforts Skills Development Scotland made to continue to support these people. Happily, I was able to continue to offer customers the support they needed through online contact.

One moment I’ll aways remember

Having only started this role a couple of years ago there are already a lot of moments that I think about regularly. The biggest one for me was being told by my former team leader that I can’t always be expected to fix everything for the customer. What they meant by this was that the customer should take some responsibility for their career plans too. This helped me to realise it was not my job to have everything resolved for the customer in one appointment. I always see myself as someone who is extremely passionate about helping people, so to dial this down slightly was quite challenging for me. I’m grateful to have been given this advice because it’s helped me to not just improve in my own practice but build ongoing working relationships with my customers.

“Understanding that I’ve played a part in positive changes for that person’s career journey is what makes the job worthwhile.”

What I love about what I do

The thing I love the most about this job is seeing the progress a customer can make in achieving their goals over a period of time. Understanding that I’ve played a part in positive changes for that person’s career journey is what makes the job worthwhile.

What would I say to someone considering this career path?

My advice to anyone considering this as a career would be there may be days where you feel as if you’re not making much of a difference but to the customer, you’re working with YOU ARE THE DIFFERENCE!