Erica hood is a Trust Careers Manager at Yorkshire & the Humber Co-operative Learning Trust who completed our MA in Career Development and Coaching Studies in 2018. She recently won an award for Best Practice in Research by a Careers Practitioner from the Career Development Institute. We spoke to her recently regarding her experience of studying with CLL and what she gained from the course.
Why did you choose to pursue an MA with the Centre for Lifelong Learning?
I originally qualified under the old NVQ level 4 In Careers Guidance as a Connexions Adviser. When the level 6 was launched it prompted me to consider upgrading my qualifications.
I explored all of the options and felt that the MA at Warwick offered the flexibility I was looking for to fit around my hectic work and family life. I was also keen to undertake research to enhance my practice, therefore the fact that the course has a distinctive focus on the integration of theory and practice was appealing to me. Also of particular interest was the breadth of experience available within the team and the support provided to undertake research.
What did you enjoy most about the course?
The opportunity to network with people from a wide range of backgrounds. The mix of people from the private sector and varying educational institutions, in addition to self-employed coaches really enriched the experience. In addition, sharing experiences with students from across the globe added another dimension.
Would you recommend the course to others?
Absolutely, although juggling work, life and study again after such a long break was challenging, it was also incredibly rewarding. The support from staff was fantastic, particularly when I had a major wobble whilst completing my dissertation!
Can you tell us a little bit about your career history prior to the MA?
I have worked in and around employment and education for most of my working life. Roles include working as a benefits adviser for the Employment Service (now Job Centre Plus), Postgraduate Admissions Secretary at Hull University, and Project Administrator for an ESF project at Humberside University focussed on upskilling existing staff mainly within engineering and manufacturing industries.
I have worked specifically within careers for almost 20 years, starting as a trainee careers adviser in 2001. During that time I have worked largely within state secondary schools, also spending a significant proportion of that time supporting Pupil Referral Units and young people who are educated at home. In addition to this, I spent a period of time as an Intensive Support Generic Adviser focusing on safeguarding and family liaison.
You are now the Trust Careers Manager at Yorkshire & the Humber Co-operative Learning Trust, can you tell us a bit about what your role entails?
My role is to lead the development, implementation, review and continuous improvement of the Trust’s CEIAG strategy. A main focus is to develop proactive collaboration between academic departments, pastoral services, pupils and parents to raise aspirations and attainment and improve EET destinations for Trust pupils.
A large part of my role is working alongside employers, education, and training providers to develop innovative ways to help pupils improve employment aspirations, skills and capabilities and ensure the Gatsby Benchmarks are achieved. I work closely with Young Enterprise and local employers / business ambassadors to encourage pupils to develop entrepreneurial skills.
On a day to day basis, there is a lot of organising and event management, securing additional funding and co-ordinating services. I have less time now for one to one guidance which is the only down side to my role.
What are the most challenging and rewarding parts to your job?
There are over 2100 pupils across the two schools within the trust. Ensuring the programme of activities offers something for everyone is the biggest challenge. Although the Compass Tracker Plus tool will help us to identify gaps and provide equality of service.
The most rewarding part of the job is definitely seeing student’s progress into their chosen pathways. Careers is the end outcome, it is the culmination of all their hard work, and we are lucky enough to be able to play a part in that. Hearing success stories from our alumni is the best reward!
What are the key things you need to know about (knowledge) and be able to do (skills) to carry out your role successfully?
As a careers adviser the main misconception is that you have all the answers, be it about a specific career or pathway, or what is the ‘best’ option for your client. The important skill is being able to coach others to develop their own capabilities to effectively research their options, alongside the ability to empower them to have confidence in their own decision making skills. Above all you need to be a good listener, you can only help students overcome barriers if you take time to find out what they are.
As a careers leader the ability to develop effective networks and persuade and negotiate are probably the most important skills. The key to the role is getting others on board and encouraging everyone to play their part in careers education. Keeping up to date with changes in policy and developments within the sector is also key.
And finally, you have also won a CDI award – congratulations! Can you tell us about more about what the award was for?
The Award was for Best Practice in Research by a Careers Practitioner. I undertook an Action Research Project aimed at developing practice to enhance pupils learning of the apprenticeship pathway. The project charted the evolving process of designing, delivering and evaluating five lessons and an employer visit with the objective of identifying and addressing gaps in the pupil’s knowledge of apprenticeships, tackling misconceptions, alleviating young people’s concerns relating to the world of work, and enabling pupils to develop skills to help them research and plan for the transition from school to education, employment or training. The project was developed in collaboration with pupils, employers, training providers, CEIAG professionals, and the Careers and Enterprise Company. The conclusion highlighted how my own practice had improved, in addition to providing a model of best practice to be disseminated to the wider CEIAG community.