This week we hand over to our colleague Joe Billington, director of the National Careers Service (NCS), who tells us why digital tools must be at the heart of user interaction.
Last time I wrote I was reflecting on how it is natural for the National Careers Service to be a Digital First service because it is, in its very bones, a service about responding to user needs and helping users to realise an outcome.
However, on the other hand, the priority customers of the National Careers Service are often those most disadvantaged, most disillusioned, at greatest distance from the labour market and least motivated to seek out help and make use of a digital route to progression. How can a service designed to help them be “Digital First”?
From October this year the National Careers Service has focused most of its funds on people that have been employed for over 12 months, people with special educational needs and disabilities, single parents, people between 18 and 24 not in education, employment or training, people with skills below level 2 and people over 50 who are unemployed or at demonstrable risk of redundancy.
These circumstances are a recipe for demotivation, distrust of learning, poverty of opportunity, low skills, limited ambition and poor access to technology. The priority groups of the National Careers Service are usually people that are not likely to seek out services to help them progress and have few opportunities to do so either.
For this reason the National Careers Service contracts Area Based Contractors all over the country to reach out, engage and support priority groups. It’s their job to help people to explore and exploit careers information, advice and guidance and take control of their lives by setting goals, making plans, gaining new skills and progressing in learning and work. The professionally qualified careers advisers across the country who understand local communities, labour market information and business needs, are best placed to deliver careers advice to people. They do their job in the places where our priority groups are, in the places they go, in a context in which they are comfortable to facilitate their easy entry in to the service.
The purpose of careers advice however, is not to keep a customer inside the service. It is not a service that supports the customer to get by in the circumstances in which they are. It is the very opposite. The purpose of careers advice is to help people become more independent, to take control of their lives, to establish plans that can help them have the skills to earn more and be less dependent. Careers advice is intended to help people change their circumstances and change their relationship with the world.
This imperative of Careers advice makes the National Careers Service a prime exponent of channel shift. While we know that we will engage our priority customers face to face in their own space and time, it is our primary aim to help people to be more independent, to manage their careers without our support and use sources of information and advice that are available to everyone. To channel shift.
So the National Careers Service is naturally driven to encourage customers to move from our intensive, face to face careers advice towards digital channels, because that represents a movement towards independence that it is our very purpose to achieve. Irrespective of any other reason to encourage people to move towards digital channels, a careers service has at its very core, a desire to help people be more independent and self-serve in their career management.
And this is why the National Careers Service is becoming a Digital First Careers Service. It is not just about providing access to a customer journey through careers advice to all, as I set out in my last blog. It is much more than that. It is about embedding digital tools at the heart of our interactions with the most disadvantaged customers so that we harness the power of digital to enable customers to self-serve, which furthers our main purpose: to help people to become more independent, more in control of their careers and their lives.
The National Careers Service is a Digital First service because its purpose is helping people take control.