Morris Dancers: An unusual skills shortage

I am on holiday this week- taking in the varied delights at Whitby Folk Festival. As often happens, a chance conversation or unusual sight shifts my focus to career-related matters and today is no exception.

I was having a coffee in the cafe by Whitby Abbey, enjoying the views of the old harbour below when a troop of Morris dancers arrived to ‘fuel up’ before their performance. The group were easily distinguishable – a mixed group of middle-aged (generous) men and women dressed in multi-coloured attire, straw hats decorated in flowers, and ribbons and streamers attached to a variety of carried objects. They were from Kent. An area, they told me which is overly endowed with Morris teams – more than 25 in the county. What I learners through my conversation with them was interesting.

I hadn’t appreciated that there was a ‘market’ in Morris dancers. Teams are sought after for fetes, fairs and festivals where they provide a back drop of colour and sound. Free beer and a chance to show off their skills, the reward. I was told the supply of Morris teams outstrips demand and the teams travel far and wide.

I also learned that Morris teams are experiencing difficulty in recruiting younger members. I was told that this was down to a number of societal pressures:

  • For the media, the Morris teams are a focus of ridicule;
  • Young people are only interested in ‘things from America’; and
  • Parents and children no longer share interests and therefore mums and dads don’t bring their children to learn old traditions and skills

As I reflected on this problem I did wonder how easy the young people that I know would find it to integrate into such an eccentric looking group. I also thought of the fantastic commaraderie, team work and joy the group shared and I recognised that these are the very attributes which employers and society as a whole cry out for.

Talking to the group revealed a wider support team who were involved in organising, sewing, choreography, music, logistics, website design, social media use and administration.

I thought very wistfully about the opportunity that traditional cultural activities offer to young people; for gaining new skills for education and the workplace and for making new inter-generational friends. We spend a fortune developing mentoring programmes to help young people to re-engage in education, employment and personal development. It struck me that if Morris teams were welcomed in to schools and colleges to strut their stuff and enthuse our youth to join in we would be a better society. It also struck me that those that fund the arts should recognise the wins on all sides by investing in our traditional cultural heritage. 

There may be some debate about whether to not Morris dancing embraces what most people mean by ‘British values’ but Whitby and the Morris teams and their glorious eccentricity seems to me to be a good place to start!


The International Centre for Guidance Studies is recruiting a new researcher

The International Centre for Guidance Studies (iCeGS) is an applied research centre at the University of Derby. iCeGS is looking to recruit a researcher to support the growth and development of research and consultancy in the area of careers, employability and the relationship between education and work. Having gained proven experience in social research with a relevant doctoral qualification (PhD or equivalent) in the field of social or educational research, you will contribute to a range of research and consultancy projects, leading appropriate initiatives, contributing ideas and developing and applying research methodologies and techniques. You will publish research outputs in reputable outlets, such as peer-reviewed journals, and present research findings at conferences and through other public engagement strategies. You will also contribute to learning and teaching as necessary through the supervision of undergraduate or postgraduate students and / or supervision of projects.


For more information about this post go to


The International Centre for Guidance Studies (iCeGS) is seeking a new Lecturer in Career Development

iCeGS at the University of Derby is looking to appoint a new Lecturer in Career Development to work across a range of level 6 and level 7 programmes in career development. This represents an exciting opportunity to join one of the leading academic centres in the field. The post-holder will be working on our new innovative MA in Careers Education and Coaching along with other programmes and will also be involved in some research.  Here is a link to find out more information:


The International Centre for Guidance Studies is recruiting a new Associate Professor

The International Centre for Guidance Studies (iCeGS) is looking to recruit an Associate Professor to lead the development of research and consultancy work relating to career and/or the relationship between education and work. The post holder will work closely with other staff in the Centre and will be encouraged to develop innovative new areas of research and consultancy. Applicants should have a national or international reputation in a relevant field, a strong track record of attracting funding, be able to contribute to the University REF submission and doctoral supervisions.

For more information about the post please follow this link:


Autumn events at the International Centre for Guidance Studies (iCeGS)

Nicki and Siobhan at the seminar event 13012016

This year’s iCeGS annual lecture ‘Career guidance in communities – The collective turn’ will take place on Weds October 26 at 2.00 – 4.30 and will be delivered by Rie Thomsen.

The lecture is called Career guidance in communities – The collective turn

In this year’s annual lecture Rie Thomsen, Associate Professor at the University of Southern Denmark (COMAC) Career Research Cluster, will ask how career guidance interacts with the everyday lives of people and their communities. As resources for guidance in many countries are suffering from cut backs, discussions on how to invest resources become increasingly important. Engaging in existing communities and creating flexible forms of career guidance activities that allow for adaptation to meet the diverse needs of different communities might be a way forward.

This event will also include the launch of the book ‘CPD for the Career Development Professional’ by Dr. Siobhan Neary, Head of iCeGS and Claire Johnson, Professional Development Manager at the Career Development Institute.

To book a free place to attend this year’s iCeGS annual lecture please click here

iCeGS workshop: How to develop career guidance in communities?

Tuesday October 25th from 10.30 – 3.30

Lives are lived in communities, small or large, supportive or hindering, practical, personal and professional. It’s a fact! Communities are there and decisions regarding our lives are entangled in many communities for each and every one of us. In this workshop practitioners, professionals, researchers and policy developers of career guidance and counselling will set out to explore the reasons for leaving offices to go out to do career guidance in communities so extending modes of delivery of career services. Rie Thomsen will share insights from her practice based research on Career Guidance in communities with adults and young people. You will leave this workshop with your own ideas for career guidance in communities and insight into the ideas of the other participants.

There will be a small cost of £70 for this event which will include lunch and refreshments throughout the day.

To book a place on this workshop please click here

More about Rie Thomsen can be found here

iCeGS is developing a new qualification for career development practitioners and we need your help

The International Centre for Guidance Studies has decided to develop a new post-graduate study programme leading to the MA in Careers Education and Coaching. The programme will also incorporate the Qualification in Career Development (QCD). The QCD is the new terminology used by the Career Development Institute to describe post-graduate professional qualifications at level 7  in England from 2017.

This programme will be exciting, innovative and provide students with a marvellous opportunity to work alongside staff and associates at the Centre to develop their knowledge and understanding of our sector and to hone their research skills. We hope to have the first group of students start the programme in January 2017.

However for this to happen, we need your help to shape the programme. We would like you to participate in a short survey. The results of this will feed into the programme design.  Here is a link to the survey:

Thanks for your help

Kind regards



The EU referendum: This is no time to cry over spilt milk!

It is the day after the result of the EU referendum and I am sitting here in Kosovo reflecting on the outcome. I have an interesting perspective on this having spent a lot of time over the last few years working on a variety of projects in a number of EU countries. When I started this blog at the start of the year I had been determined that the content should focus on issues of career development. I am trying very hard today to write about the impacts of the decision our country has taken on a variety of career related matters. I am struggling a great deal with this I have to say. I have read the posts which colleagues have left on Facebook and on their blogs and I share their overwhelming sense of anger and sadness. This decision does not reflect my views at all. I too have posted some angst ridden comments which reflect this sense of frustration and grief. But I am going to set this aside and try and focus on something objective instead of my emotions.

Working on EU projects has taught me a lot about being European. I have learned that as an English woman I didn’t actually feel very European at the start of the journey. This was largely a problem of my own perspective. Sitting on a little island floating off the side of Europe had given me an islander’s mentality. It was no one’s fault. It was a cultural thing. Working in multi-national teams I have come to recognise that these are smaller versions of the EU and mirror being European. I have learned that my views have often been very blinkered and small as an English woman isolated by geography. As a European woman I am now more open, interested and humbled by the tremendous power of communication and negotiation which are the lubricants of common understanding and purpose and help ‘get the job done’. I have come to understand that my knowledge, skills and perspectives are valued not because people want or need to be ‘told how things should be done’ but as a valued resource to be shared and contextualised. Everyone in Europe faces the common problems of economic development, youth unemployment and the need to develop the skills of young people through inspirational educational programmes. On a personal level I have felt honoured to make a small contribution to this agenda.

2016-06-24 20.01.13

During the referendum debates I have been astonished at the arrogance of those putting forward their arguments on both sides. Too many facts and figures. Very little humanity. I travelled to Kosovo, leaving early on the morning of the result. I felt terribly sad and at times, tearful. When I arrived in Pristina I was greeted by a poster appealing to visitors that it was time to end Kosovo’s isolation. The irony was not lost on me. The debate in the UK has often been about stopping the free movement of people. The citizens of Kosovo yearn for this. Not because they all want to move to the UK. The Kosovan diaspora is actually larger than the population of the country already. It is because they want to come and share and learn and help their own country to develop and thrive. It seems logical to me that investing time and energy and resources in supporting this ambition can only be a good thing. I regularly ask myself why anyone would want to leave their own country if it was a good place to be? Surely it is the responsibility of those that have a lot (knowledge, skills and resources) to share those in a way which helps others to grow and thrive. Ultimately this reduces the desire for people to move ‘en masse’. I keep reminding myself that the UK became a great nation not by sitting on an island and never moving. We became a great nation because we explored the world and brought back innovation through our exploration of the planet. Why do we think we have the right to deny others this? These points lead me to re-inforce the notion that the EU is not just a market for goods but it also exists as a market for ideas. Our decision has probably taken ourselves out of this market. We will be the poorer for this as will our EU colleagues.

I think that we have shown through our decision to leave the EU that we are an arrogant uncaring nation who is abandoning a vision of equality and prosperity for all people for one of grabbing and greed. This is an issue for career development because this work contributes to social mobility and social justice. This is why it matters to me. As a European I want social justice for all of the people of this continent and not just those on my island because social justice leads to stability and peace. This is the world that I want my kids and grandkids to grow up in.

I could write here about the lost opportunities for the young people of the UK who are now going to have their aspirations for travel and to be educated alongside their European peers crushed. I could write about the impact of the loss of the funding which comes from the EU and which benefits all of the young people here through research, Erasmus visits, or cultural exchange. I could write here about the impact on my own world of teaching and research. I don’t want to go on at length about all of these tragedies. We are where we are. This is democracy in action. What I need now are answers to some fundamental questions.

 How can the career development sector understand and respond to the issues raised through the obvious difference in the views expressed by the younger electorate in the referendum?

The vote results of the younger electorate  tells us something about their aspirations. We need to understand this and help young people to develop their aspirations within the new world in which we are all going to live. Youth dissatisfaction is a dangerous issue. A disengaged, dissatisfied youth population leads to other social problems related to health, crime and welfare. We need to shape our profession in a way which can respond to this.

How can we continue to work with colleagues in Europe on knowledge development and exchange in a way which contributes to the wider objectives of social justice and peace?

The members of the career development sector need to have their voice heard during the forthcoming negotiations. We need to have access not only to a ‘market of goods’ but also a ‘market of ideas’. Those that negotiate should not lose sight of this if forthcoming discussions.

This is no time to cry over spilt milk. We need to dust ourselves down and get on with the seriously difficult task ahead. We need research to really understand the problems which this referendum has exposed. We need action to remedy these. We need to  develop our voice as a sector so that the messages of social equity and social justice are expressed and heard not just for UK citizens but for the wider world.

Enough said. I am now off for the type of macchiato coffee that only Kosovans can make. Absolutely delicious!