Michaela Moher's blog
I've created a Word Cloud based on the Belief in a Career project page:
I've found it a good way to reflect on the project: the challenges we faced and also the successes. A great experience.
I've been getting the resources together for the dissemination event next week. I had a very reassuring telephone discussion with Julie Sharma from Leicester College on how our projects will work together (with Pitra from Newcastle College) so that Religion, Belief and Non-Belief gets the focus it deserves.
My conclusion after working on this protected characteristic is that faith/no faith really does impact on career decision making and if we as advisers don't acknowledge that, we are really doing our customers a disservice.
I do believe that the learning journey we have been on would be just as relevant to educators and other professionals so please, do come and speak to me at the dissemination events!
You also don't want to miss Julie's project 'All For One and One For All' and Pitra's 'Canny Faces of Newcastle'.
P.S. Many thanks to Pitra for lending me a display board for next week!
I had a fascinating discussion with a National Careers Adviser based in South London who identifies himself as a Christian.
He told me:
'My belief in the Bible and in God does have an impact on the way I deliver the service because I believe in going the extra mile and just really trying as much as possible to give the clients the best. I put myself in their shoes because that's what God would expect of me.'
He then told me about his experiences advising customers of various faiths including a Muslim who refused to apply for a 24+ Adult Learning Loan because it went against his faith. The adviser said to me:
'I found that very intriguing but I respected him because he wouldn't compromise his faith.'
The adviser gave another interesting example of a customer who wanted to be a medium. He said:
'I thought ok, so what does it take to be a medium? She was educating me. She worked under a medium in another country- I can't talk her out of it as that's what she wants to do. It's just understanding that people have a faith and respecting that.'
'I couldn't find any medium courses!'
I have written up our discussion and it will be presented alongside other case studies in our adviser guide. I have really enjoyed getting different perspectives from advisers, customers and employers on this rich topic.
This has been a really great week for me. I attended the fbfedefinition/AFANdefinition London FEdefinition Faith Forum on Tuesday and was given a slot to discuss our project 'Belief in a Career'. It was very helpful to reflect on the project and what has been discovered and learnt.
I explained that using legal cases looking at religion/belief and employment as a starting point for discussions with careers advisers had worked well. For example, how would we advise a customer who wants to wear a long headscarf but is worried that it will be seen as a trip hazard when working in a nursery? This question was based on a real case which the employee lost as she wasn't prepared to wear a shorter headscarf at work. It was agreed in court that in this case the safety of the children and staff needed to be protected above the employee's wish to wear a longer headscarf. Looking at cases has helped our advisers see the complexity of issues but also the importance of dialogue in order to educate customers, employers and ourselves as professionals. We want to empower our customers so they feel they can express their requirements, make adjustments and also demonstrate the benefits of their faith in the workplace, e.g. charity work; desire to do good deeds; teaching skills etc.
The project has also helped me to reflect on how we train our advisers. For example, when looking at career theories we tend to focus on psychological approaches based on Western academic thought. I will now include other approaches that have also been considered as important in the career decision making process, for example: prayer and meditation. I think having this awareness will make our advisers more sensitive to customers' needs and more confident to support them.
Project update. Our Equalitydefinition Champions - Fatma Emin and Leroy Kraku are interviewing NCS customers to find out their views on religion, belief and their careers. When asked whether she thought the NCS project 'Belief in a Career' was a good idea, one customer who is a Christian said: 'I think it's an excellent idea and should have been looked into ages ago, because advisers will have more of an understanding of someone as a person and their client will feel more valued as an individual'.
We will include the case studies in our training guide for advisers as they present an authentic customer focused perspective on the importance of faith in their lives. We will use them as discussion points that will help advisers reflect on the support customers with a faith may need when applying for learning, training and work.
I met up with consultant Amanda Pavon-Lopez this Monday to discuss the careers adviser guide she is going to write for our project. She was extremely enthusiastic about the project and had lots of ideas and useful insights.
The key areas we are aiming to cover in the guide are:
We delivered the second Belief in a Career workshop on Monday to 14 National Careers Service advisers. Some very stimulating and at times, challenging discussions. For example, one adviser spoke of her experience of a customer who refused to shake her hand because of his faith. She was upset by the experience and also wondered how she could advise the customer about etiquette at job interviews where handshaking is often a common greeting? This led to a discussion about various strategies advisers and customers could use, e.g. researching employers before going to interview, educating employers about possible religion/belief-based needs and supporting customers in explaining their requirements to avoid embarassment and misinterpretation.
I also had a meeting today with one of the Belief in a Career Champions, Fatma Emin who works in Bromley-By-Bow. She has agreed to interview 3 individuals: a female Muslim ESOLdefinition Tutor, an NCS customer who is Christian and a local employer to discuss their experiences regarding religion, belief, non belief and the workplace. She will write up the interviews so they can used as case studies in our Belief in a Career guide. Hearing the voices of our customers - both those in work and job-seeking, plus hearing the employer perspective will enrich our project - so many thanks to Fatma!
I'm delighted to announce that this month we have recruited 2 Equalitydefinition and Diversity Champions who will be supporting our project 'Belief in a Career'. Both Champions are National Careers Service advisers based in London. Fatma Emin who works in Bromley by Bow is particularly interested in supporting the Bangladeshi Muslim women who use her centre. Our other Champion, Leroy Kraku is based in Croydon and is interested in the adviser/customer relationship and how we can create a positive environment in which customers can discuss their faith and its possible impact on employment, training and work without feeling judged. He also wants to help advisers so they feel more confident supporting customers who may have belief systems different to their own. The Champions will do activities to support the project such as customer surveys, observing other advisers and designing training materials.
I was very kindly invited by Dr John Wise to the fbfedefinition National Council of Faiths and Beliefs/AFANdefinition All Faiths and None London forum on 5 November 2013. It was a great opportunity to talk about our project which is looking at training careers advisers so they can better support customers with their religion/belief and non-belief needs in employment, education and training. The group was extremely supportive and suggested useful resources. We also shared contact details so I now feel I have a number of 'critical friends'!
I particularly enjoyed our discussion on spirituality and its place in Further Education. This got me thinking about how career exploration cannot simply be about supplying customers with Labour Market Information and matching their skills to job profiles. For many, a fulfilling career is when one can be in tune with and express one's values and beliefs. Making space to explore this in the career interview has to be of benefit to our customers.
I look forward to attending the forum again next year to update everyone on our progress.