Getting ready for Next Step adult guidance service

A new adult guidance service has been in the pipeline for quite a long time, with consultations and review meetings being held over the previous few years.  A few weeks ago, it was revealed the new service was going to be called ‘Next Step’ and recently a Next Step website holding page was launched.

Next Step is available to everyone, regardless of age or situation.  This service is different to a previous service called ‘nextstep’, which was targeted at specific audiences.  There will be three main entry points for entry to Next Step: face to face, telephone and online.

An area that is linked to Next Step is ‘Skills Accounts’.  Skills Accounts is an online portal designed to allow adults to take control of their learning.  Skills Accounts are free to use and includes access to a skills diagnostic tool, a course directory for adult learning opportunities and a funding directory for supporting learning.

I am very interested in support available for adults seeking employment, so a few weeks ago I created my own Skills Account and used the Skills Diagnostic Tool/Skills Health Check.  This tool incorporates three personal skills assessments. These are designed to assess the user’s motivations, what their strongest skills are and activities they find the most enjoyable.  There are also assessments to evaluate the user’s skills for working with numbers, working with written information, checking information and solving mechanical problems.

From completing the Skills Diagnostic Tool, I believe it is very useful tool for profiling and analysing skills.  The tests to analyse numerical, literacy and mechanical reasoning skills were interesting, and different to tests that are usually in guidance tools.  The skills profile is also good for providing users with a breakdown of their skills and motivations, identifying areas for improvement and providing a platform to communicate personal skills on a CV, covering letter or in a job interview.

For users looking to develop their career, change career or return to employment, it is important that they can equate skills to career opportunities.  The Skills Diagnostic Tool does provide a brief list of career suggestions for each user, with limited justification for each career suggestion.  Clients need to understand how their skills and strengths relate to different career opportunities, and how they can develop a route into careers that interest them.  Resources specifically designed for providing careers IAG, such as Adult Directions, provide greater benefits.

In comparison with the Skills Diagnostic Tool, careers IAG tools such as Adult Directions contain a far greater wealth of careers information.  My report from the Skills Diagnostic Tool contained 26 careers suggestions; 16 had no further information or justification/information, the other 10 just contained one line of information such as “this job requires work experience” or “this job requires a driving licence”. 

On the other hand, Adult Directions matches users to over 800 jobs based on interests, health, aspirations and skills.  Adult Directions also allows users to filter careers to show separate lists of full- and part-time careers.  This makes it more applicable for parents wanting part-time employment.  Users can also access information such as job attributes, pay, opportunities and entry routes.  Another interesting feature is the use of labour market information, whereby each career states the number of people that are self-employed, work full- or part-time, etc.  This adds scope to the user’s career selection.

I believe the Skills Diagnostic Tool can be enhanced by complimenting its use with a careers matching tool, such as Adult Directions.  Users can use the Skills Diagnostic Tool to build a skills profile, identify skills to improve and test their numerical, literacy and mechanical reasoning skills.  Adult Directions can then be used to suggest careers based on interests, aspiration, skills and health.

This view is reflected in a recommendation made in the LSC report ‘Evaluation of Skills Health Check Tool’.  The report made it very clear from an early stage of development that the Skills Diagnostic Tool is not designed to replace existing careers matching tools.  In fact, the careers matching element of the Skills Diagnostic Tool was only during the later stages of development.  The report concluded with a list of recommendations.

Recommendation 7.1 from the report states:

“There is some work to be done in ensuring that advisers are clear on the aims and objectives of the Skills Health Check tool and in particular are clear that it is not being considered as a replacement for tools such as Adult Directions which are designed to identify particular careers to which customers may be suited. This could help to counter some of the criticisms that advisers are currently making of the tool.”

I am interested to hear from anyone else who has tried the Skills Diagnostic Tool, for their own personal interest or with a client.  If you have anything to say about Next Step or the Skills Diagnostic Tool, please leave a comment.

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