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Research: Constructing The Future

The fourth edition of the ICG's biennial publication focuses on constructivism and transformation, says Deirdre Hughes

In October 2006, The Institute of Career Guidance (ICG) will publish the fourth edition of Constructing the Future. This publication is produced biennially with the aim of disseminating selected research and development within the field of career guidance. The ICG research committee has managed and coordinated the production of this new book, lead by Dr Hazel Reid and Professor Jenny Bimrose.

This year, committee members contacted other professional associations that represent career guidance practitioners, in order to explore potential links with their research groups. The findings highlighted that many professional associations in the UK produce a regular journal, similar to this magazine, but we were unable to find an annual or biennial dissemination of research produced in a book format. Constructing the Future is then, it would seem, rather unique.

This new edition has two central themes: constructivism and transformation. Hazel Reid, co-editor of Constructing the Future, says: "Constructivism is linked to what Savickas refers to as developments located within a 21st-century preoccupation with meaning, in contrast to a 20th-century focus on facts (1997)." Constructivist perspectives are not new (see Collin and Young, 1992) but they are being viewed with increasing interest. The theme of transformation is designed to build upon the work of Lynne Bezanson (executive director, Canadian Career Development Foundation).

Within Constructing the Future there are nine articles which offer rich insights into a range of contemporary issues relating to careers work in the UK and further afield.

Reid (Canterbury Christchurch University) begins by exploring constructivism and narrative thinking. She suggests a key concept in narrative counselling is that "it is not the person that is the problem but the problem that is the problem" (White and Epston, 1990). Reid draws upon career guidance practitioners' experiences working across different sectors in the UK and highlights key benefits associated with narrative counselling.

Dr Sally-Anne Barnes and Professor Jenny Bimrose, who work at the Institute for Employment Research at Warwick University, draw upon findings from a longitudinal qualitative case-study approach that investigates the nature of effective guidance for adults. Here, a compelling account of what clients view as effective is provided alongside a model of "guidance in action".

Professor Phil Hodkinson of the University of Leeds, Helen Bowman at Manchester Metropolitan University and Dr Helen Colley at Manchester Metropolitan University report on a longitudinal study that draws on the experiences and stories of full-time Masters students in higher education as they progress from study to employment. At present, the transition from Higher Education to employment is of central concern to key stakeholders within and outside the UK careers sector.

Dr Barbara Bassot at Canterbury Christchurch University explores the impact of widespread societal change on the concept of "career". She illustrates how people can learn more in interactions with others than they can when learning on their own, and discusses what is thought possible in terms of future choices.

Nelica La Gro at the University of East London outlines a study that uses "concept mapping" as a methodology to investigate and compare client and practitioner approaches to career thinking and decision-making. Illustrations are provided that can be applied as working tools in everyday practice.

ICG president Dr Rachel Mulvey explains the significance of "personal meaning" in relation to practitioners' experience of managing and responding to change, at the University of East London. She draws upon relevant research literature from both constructivist and narrative approaches.

Dr Jenny Bimrose, Lucy Marris and Dr Sally-Anne Barnes - all at Warwick University - and Anne Mason at Skillset consider recent policy developments and the role of Labour Market Information. They offer four contrasting yet complementary perspectives where a practitioner, a researcher trainer, a researcher and an employer each share their views. They point to how the National Guidance Resource Forum (NGRF) website can help transform the way practitioners access information to support their work with clients.

Tony Watts, an independent consultant, provides a critical commentary on the policy proposals relating to career guidance in England, as contained in the Youth Matters Green Paper (HM Government, 2005). Watts reviews national and international research evidence relevant to the Government's 14-19 proposals.

Finally, I review some of the key themes associated with assessing and measuring progress in careers/Connexions services. The current accountability agenda is inevitably impacting on practitioner, managerial and policy discourses; the search for meaningful and factual evidence that clearly demonstrates the social and economic benefits of career guidance in the UK is a major challenge.

Deirdre Hughes is the director of the Centre for Guidance Studies

Further Information

* The publication will be distributed to all ICG members on 1 October who, along with a selected group of key stakeholders and influencers, will receive a personal copy.

* For more information on Constructing the Future contact Dr Hazel Reid at hlr9s@canterbury.ac.uk or Dr Jenny Bimrose at jenny.bimrose@warwick.ac.uk.

* For more information on the work of the ICG research committee, e-mail Pete Robertson, a senior lecturer at Napier University, at p.robertson@derby.ac.uk, or Deirdre Hughes, the director of CeGS at the University of Derby, at dmhughes@derby.ac.uk