The third Careers Champion competition final was a keenly fought contest with over 1300 votes cast and the result in the balance until the final minutes. Working Adviser meets winner Monira Ahmed, Careers Adviser at the University of Central Lancashire.
Tell us a bit about how you got into Careers work?
I’ve been in the higher education careers advisory sector now for almost 14 years working in a variety of roles. It wasn’t something I had planned specifically when I was at university, but I had quite an interesting journey into this sector. I studied politics related subjects at university, and I recall being really unsure of my career direction. I went onto to do a Masters, and it was during this time, I attended a talk by a journalist on the work of the Runnymede Trust, which is the UK’s leading independent race equality think tank. Here, I heard about work being done to tackle inequality and discrimination and I was really inspired. Pursuing a career where I could help others to overcome barriers and make a difference really resonated with me. It took some time for me to get there; after two years of working in temporary roles, I heard about a job to run a diversity mentoring programme at the University of Liverpool Careers Service. I felt like my dreams had come true when I got the job, finally a role where I could help and support others! So this is where I started my life as a careers professional. I went onto spend nearly 10 years in Liverpool, and for the last 4 years, I’ve been working at the University of Central Lancashire.
What are the main challenges facing Careers professionals right now?
I think it has been a really challenging time for careers professionals with all the recent and ongoing developments. A rapidly changing labour market, rise in new jobs, complexity of career paths, more options for work and learning, and the gap in skills demand/supply and expectations means we need to look at how we effectively engage with clients, industry and businesses but also look at different and often creative approaches to career planning. There is of course the impact of government policy, for example, for international students which is a group I do a lot of work with. The stricter visa rules around working in the UK after graduation has had implications and means there is a challenge on how we can manage their expectations and best support them in their career development.
Is face-to-face Careers Guidance still important?
Absolutely, I think it still is a very important part of careers provision. It’s great that with technology and online developments we now have alternative ways of delivering careers support, and this is crucial to give clients and practitioners more flexibility. But that face-to-face and personal support can be vital when, for example, engaging with vulnerable groups and those from challenging backgrounds.
Why are awards like Careers Champion important to the profession?
I think it is fantastic that awards like this exist, it’s definitely a much needed platform to showcase the work that professionals are doing every day. Over the years I’ve often read some very negative articles on careers work and advice in this country, and this has been a great opportunity to raise awareness on how we are making a difference and hopefully change attitudes.
Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the Careers sector?
My hope is that the Careers sector and work of professionals continues to receive the focus and attention it deserves, and that we can continue to see enhanced partnerships between the sector, educators, businesses and other stakeholders to deliver high quality information, advice and guidance that will enable all groups to achieve their full potential. I also hope that as a sector we can do more to reach out to the most disadvantaged and underrepresented groups in our society; I’ve had a personal interest and involvement in this field for all my higher education career and I very much hope to continue to play my part.