Why matching paradigms fail

Published on 22 May, 2015

Since the birth of careers work matching paradigms and psychometrics have been mainstays of the field. These tools are two dimensional identifying attributes or matching individuals to roles at a point in time. They are not designed to explore any bias operating on people’s selections. As such matching tools do not help young people overcome possibly false assumptions they may have about how they see themselves. In careers education terms this means they don’t broaden horizons, despite being sold into schools to do exactly this. The shame of this is the lost opportunity to more valuable work in groups and one to one that could trigger an interest in acquiring skills they don’t associate with people from their own backgrounds. As such, careers education has yet to become an engine of social mobility, as the tools focus on narrowing options rather than widening young people out.

The current national focus on skills is an important part of this debate, as skills shortages are central to both personal and national prosperity. However, encouraging young people to think more broadly about skills is about exploring value systems rather than matching skills and interests to roles. The skills we express an interest in are profoundly influenced by how we see ourselves relative to our families and peers. Our identities are socially constructed. Most significantly our identities are influenced through omission, by those we are not part of and lack social contact with. These are the quiet levers we need to act on in careers education, rather than matching young people to skills they may yet have to develop.