Careers website ‘no substitute for face-to-face guidance’ – UNISON

Date: Tue 18 June 2013

Presentation of new research: What’s the evidence? Comparing the impact of career websites and other career support’
Tuesday 18 June – Scottish Parliament

Members of UNISON’s Scottish careers branch today (Tuesday 18 June) told MSPs that websites like My World of Work – which all Scottish school pupils are now expected to rely on for careers advice – are “no substitute for face-to-face guidance”. UNISON is calling for Skills Development Scotland to raise the profile of the face-to-face service provided by careers advisers.

Independent research into the effect of careers websites commissioned from the University of Edinburgh has found that My World of Work – known as MyWoW – was valued by pupils and teachers, but that it has “limited impact on pupils’ careers management skills”. In fact, the researchers say, “it is clear from the focus groups and open-ended survey comments that pupils, irrespective of their level of family support or attainment, would like face-to-face contact with careers advisers as well as access to websites.”

Derek Cheyne, secretary of UNISON’s Skills Development Scotland branch said:
“This research shows that while careers websites are of value, they are no substitute for expert face-to-face guidance. Young people face the worst jobs crisis in recent times and they need the best possible support to help them move from school to rewarding careers.”

The chief executive of SDS, Damien Yeates, recently told the Times Educational Supplement Scotland that ‘any student who really feels they would like face-to-face advice should get it’. However, the Edinburgh research states: “It is evident, too, that pupils need to be more fully informed about the role of a careers adviser and about access arrangements.”

James Corry, chair of the union’s Non-Departmental Public Bodies sector committee, said:
“This research confirms what we as professionals in the careers service already know – that face-to-face sessions are vital for pupils. It is clear that SDS needs to raise the profile of the face-to-face service provided by our advisers – and that the promotion of face-to-face advice needs to be properly resourced.”

The research was presented to MSPs in the Scottish Parliament at an information and discussion meeting today Tuesday 18 June, hosted by Neil Findlay, Deputy Convener of the Education and Culture Committee.


For information please contact:
James Corry, chair, UNISON Scotland Non-Departmental Public Bodies sector committee, 0772 555 6813
Derek Cheyne, secretary of UNISON Skills Development Scotland branch, 0772 555 6806
Dave Watson, Head of Bargaining and Campaigns, 07958 122 409
Malcolm Burns, Communications Officer, 07876 566 978

Notes to editors:

1. UNISON is Scotland’s largest public services trade union representing 160,000 members working in the public sector in Scotland – including staff providing key careers services in Skills Development Scotland.

2. ‘What’s the evidence? Comparing the impact of career websites and other career support’ by Cathy Howieson and Sheila Semple, Centre for Educational Sociology, University of Edinburgh, will be published on Tuesday 18 June as CES Briefing Number 63, 2013

From the Briefing introduction:
“UK governments expect career websites to fulfil a central role in career information, advice and guidance. In Scotland, Skills Development Scotland’s input in schools is now based on the expectation that all pupils will use its website My World of Work (MyWoW) and many may not need individual contact with a careers adviser. Career websites have the potential to make a valuable contribution but currently little is know about their effectiveness and impact. This Briefing outlines the findings from a study that examined the comparative impact of career websites such as MyWoW.”

Findings from the study include:

• Pupils and teachers valued MyWoW but as part of provision that includes face-to-face support, including from a careers adviser, for the majority of pupils.
• Compared with other sources of career support, MyWoW had a limited impact on pupils’ careers management skills as did the PlanitPlus website.
• Clinic sessions with a career adviser, discussion with teachers and use of the school careers library each had a substantial impact on pupils’ career management skills.

3. A Briefing from the study was presented to an information and discussion meeting in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 18 June at 1pm.

4. The study was funded by UNISON and builds on earlier research commissioned by SDS. The full research report is available from 15 July 2013 at

The briefing is available on UNISON Scotland’s website from Tuesday 18 June