A little bit of advice…
Students of all ages and academic levels are likely to need some kind of support during their academic career. Many people have problems with their studies and career plans. Likewise, many people have problems outside of their education, which may affect their ability to study.
Most education institutions will offer some kind of student support service and many careers are available in this valuable area of the education sector.
Why is it important? What does it involve?
Student services departments are more likely to be a part of further education (FE) and higher education (HE) institutions than schools. These dedicated teams of people generally offer support and guidance in regards to issues such as careers, health and sexual health (yes, these people might be the ones that dish out free condoms!).
These departments also deal with a wealth of other social issues. Support with housing is a big thing for student services. For HE students this may revolve around student accommodation, i.e. finding a flat and dealing with dodgy landlords. For FE students this support might be focused around helping people find social housing.
These guys might also offer support to people with disciplinary problems, behavioural issues and specific personal problems, such as domestic violence issues and forced arranged marriages.
Financial support is one of the huge areas that student service departments help with, such as student loans, the Discretionary Learner Support Fund (dLSF), bursaries, charity and educational grants, Adult Learning Grants (ALG), and the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund. Furthermore, they might be responsible for handling safeguarding issues, finding and funding childcare for people, and providing extra support for people with disabilities.
If you’re working as a guidance officer, adviser, or even in a front-line administrative position in one of these student service departments, you are likely to have a busy and varied day, where you will be dealing with a range of students with a range of different problems.
You might be conducting one-to-one meetings or counselling sessions with students, you may be helping to run events and workshops, or helping students with the administrative side of applying for funding and travel cards etc.
Student service professionals act as a link between education and social services, and play an integral role in keeping students on their courses and making sure that they are happy, safe and comfortable throughout their time at the institution.
Break it down for me a little bit!
The student services provision in every educational institution will be structured in different ways. However, many will provide similar kinds of support. Keep reading for a taster of some of the roles you might be able to do!
Student counsellors offer a counselling service to students that wish to talk confidentially about personal issues, such as eating problems, depression, study anxieties, bereavements, suicidal thoughts, sexuality, self-harm and anger management.
These people are normally non-medical personnel, who are trained to encourage and support students in coping with their problems and finding solutions. Listening is a major part of their job description. However, they may also offer suggestions of how to resolve problems and may make referrals to different social services if problems are potentially severe.
Understandably, careers advisers provide guidance to students about their careers. These guys play an important role in both HE and FE institutions and provide careers advice to students at all levels. They conduct interviews and group sessions with students, and work to understand their desires, their skills, their qualifications, and their motivations. They offer advice, inspiration and perspective about what careers they could break into.
These people don’t simply tell students what jobs they could do, they help students to make their own decisions and develop a plan of action as to how they are going to achieve their career ambitions. They may offer advice in regards to CVs, cover letter and interviews too.
These guys may also be heavily involved in actively connecting students with career opportunities by arranging careers fairs, publicising suitable recruitment schemes, and keeping up to date with the ever-changing careers market. To become a careers adviser, you will usually have to obtain a Qualification in Careers Guidance (QCG) or an Advice and Guidance level four NVQ.
Some careers advisers offer a service which transcends simple careers advice. For instance, personal advisers (PAs) that work for Connexions (an advisory service funded by local authorities) also offer advice on personal development and may deal with social issues such as housing, substance misuse, and student finance. These guys work directly for Connexions and often provide services to more than one institution, as well as through their own drop-in centre.
People may also work as guidance officers, advice workers or welfare advisers. These guys offer advice on all the social, financial and academic issues we have mentioned above, such as housing, health, welfare benefits and disciplinary problems. However, they tend to provide a much more active and varied service than student counsellors.
These guys might provide important information to students through leaflets, workshops and events; they might offer advice in one-to-one meetings; and they might act as a mediator on behalf of students when dealing with social services. For instance, they might make phone calls or write emails and letters on their behalf in order to facilitate their communication with certain organisations.
Furthermore, they might act as representatives for certain students in disciplinary meetings and sometimes even in court hearings. If you pursue a career in this area, then you will be challenged on a daily basis. You will deal with a wealth of different issues and will forever need to be flexible in different situations.
To pursue any student services career, you will need to obtain a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS, previously known as CRB, or Criminal Records Bureau) guarantee because of the sensitive nature of some of the issues you will be encountering.
Some of the most gifted and intelligent young people can also be the most vulnerable, and the social and personal issues they are faced with can get in the way of their education and development. Working in the careers and welfare advice side of student services is incredibly beneficial and important, and thus very rewarding. If this sounds like something you’d like to get involved in, then it could be the right career path for you to take.