SPOC: Students Planning Their Own Careers (Abstract)

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This post is based on a paper I presented at INTED2013 (7th International Technology, Education and Development Conference)


In our ever more complex world, as illustrated by the video “Shift Happens“, the idea of careers being planned in some linear manner is increasingly untenable. However individuals still need a way of identifying the skills that will underpin their future professional and personal development. The challenge is this: how do they decide the skills they will need in the short, medium and long term.

Conventional careers Information Advice and Guidance (IAG) is based on the idea of central authority predicting future job demands and careers advisors matching students to that demand. Students then use this advice to choose the “right” qualifications for their chosen career.

In this instance the process is re-engineered, placing the student at the heart of the planning process and involving them in the development process. The concept is based on the quotation: “Tell me and I will forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I will learn”.

This case study is a workshop session run by the author for Wolverhampton University in the UK. The objective was to find an interesting but structured way of engaging students with the idea of them planning their own career.

The students were in the final year of a BSc in architectural studies in the School of Technology. A key element of the final year was helping the student understand the world of work and the challenges of getting a job and doing well once they had a job.

In consultation with Professor Chike Oduza of Wolverhampton University the author designed an interactive module in which the students worked in groups, using the techniques of scenario planning and forecasting to develop a view of the future and back-casting to decide what practical actions they needed to take to prepare themselves for it and hence be attractive to employers.

The future world was envisaged in terms of its degree of social stability and its economic prosperity, and the time horizon was set at 10 years. From UK age profile data it was certain that this world would have a high ratio of older citizens and a decreasing ratio of younger workers.

Working in two groups, one was asked to consider a world of high social stability and good economic prosperity while the other looked at a world of low social stability and poor economic prosperity.

The process worked in stages:

  1. Scenario development: Constructing an populating a framework
  2. Describing: Developing textual descriptions of possible future worlds
  3. Forecasting: What technology solutions would be needed to create that housing?
  4. Forecasting: What skills will the students need to have by then to create those solutions?
  5. Backcasting: What should the students be doing now and in the short/medium term to acquire those skills?

At the end of the process each group presented its findings to the other and the similarities and differences were debated. It was notable that the same advanced technologies, such as 3D-printing, were present in both scenarios.

Workshop feedback suggests that involving the students, giving them the basic information they need to plan their own careers in response to likely future events, creates a much higher degree of ownership than conventional careers IAG.

The students were very positive, stating that they could now see why they needed to understand new and emerging technologies, and to have a personal and professional development programme.

Wolverhampton University Staff were pleased stating that the students were much more engaged with own career development than before.

Read the full paper


I hope that you have enjoyed reading this post. If you have thoughts on what I have written so far please leave a comment. Also if you have an idea for another business topic let me know and I’ll be delighted to find a space for it.

Thanks again

Bob windmill

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