Adventures in A Wet Welsh Careers Guidance Wonderland

Competence, History and Ethics Part One

Back in the nineties, when anything seemed possible, and people got excited about Competence, I ran the PgD Careers Guidance and Counselling at the University of Glamorgan, in Pontypridd. It was actually in Treforest, where Tom Jones came from, but as the larger community, Ponty tends to get whatever scraps of kudos are going. As does Tom.

When I started at the Polytechnic of Wales, as was, I never dreamed that one day, Pontypridd would have taken over the world, with a tsunami of mergers and acquisitions, to become The University of South Wales.

Throughout the Nineties, the course prospered, due to a combination of modernisation, which saw it obtain Post Graduate status, and then integration, incorporating the emerging NVQ standards into a Master’s framework. Not an easy trick. There was also great support from local careers services, Heads of Service, ICG, External Examiners, (particularly David Peck) and so forth, plus funding via traineeships, and centrally funded LGMB places. Ah, the Local Government Management Board, whatever happened to that? One year in the mid-nineties, we went crazy and recruited forty six people, but the usual number was around thirty.

Around the time when football nearly came home, or shortly after, the University, and I got involved in a Department of Employment funded Pilot Project to develop a working version of the emerging Guidance and Counselling Competencies, and underpinning knowledge for the NVQ in Guidance. These days, this sort of work would be undertaken by highly paid ‘hordes’⭐ of consultants, but we actually knew and cared about our subject, and were cheap. Cheap but good value, with added vim.

⭐I believe that is the correct collective noun.

These new things called NVQs were being excitedly discussed at conferences and workshops the length and breadth of the UK. Consultants were rubbing their hands gleefully, and proclaiming that these standards were the finest in Christendom. Or at least, Manchester. I recall a very long hot train journey to Middlesbrough, for an NVQ Conference, not in itself a bad thing, but I had to stay over night. Again, not intrinsically unpleasant, although I did have a stroll round the town centre. However, there was the question of eating that evening, and then there were about twelve hours of presentations, workshops, plenaries, and so forth, to be got through. I did eventually get home, but the experience remained with me. Is still with me.

So that’s a bit of history. There is more of course. I know where a whole bunch of bodies are buried, both in Wales, the Midlands, and the North West, where the Pilot Project eventually went ahead. Competence? Move on up to the next level. Are we in a post-competence phase now, in this #Post Truth #BrexitWorld? Who can say.

What else was there? Ah yes, the thorny issue of ethics, morals and expediency. Some people might say, that the quasi privatisation of the LEA Careers Services, was the Beginning of an End for Careers Guidance, a watering down of professionalism, of systems and structures built up over many years, but of course, the picture is blurred, the glass is dark. Most of the above is probably true of course, if you’re an old cynic like some of the people I talk to these days.

Part Two: Expediency – The Boys And Girls From The Even Blacker Stuff: Where the bodies are buried.


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