Adult guidance workers help clients clarify options and make informed choices about their future by offering information, advice and guidance (IAG) on education, training and work opportunities.

They often work with people at times of transition brought about by factors such as redundancy, health issues, or a desire or need to change career.

They may work as part of a team in a large organisation or as a sole operator in a voluntary group. Some of the role can also overlap with that of a careers adviser.

Work may focus on hard to reach or marginalised groups including unemployed or disabled people, adults with health and social needs or learning difficulties, and people with few educational qualifications.

This sector is subject to frequent change, sometimes due to cuts in government funding, and is becoming more target driven.

Types of adult guidance worker

Adult guidance workers encompass a number of job roles including:

Responsibilities

Adult guidance workers may work with individuals or groups in a variety of settings.

Tasks generally involve:

  • providing clients with information and advice in person, via email or telephone on the options open to them;
  • managing a caseload, which is often comprised of a particular client group;
  • using short drop-in interviews, an extended interview or a series of face-to-face interviews requiring a high level of counselling skills to help clients interpret information and choose the most appropriate course of action;
  • designing and delivering group sessions aimed at building employability skills;
  • using a variety of assessment tools, such as ability or personality tests, computer-based interest guides or skills inventories and diagnostic tools, to help clients identify, clarify and assess their needs;
  • building up and maintaining knowledge of information resources on education, training and work in order to signpost clients to the information they need;
  • organising local jobs fairs and maintaining job boards;
  • collecting, updating and producing information on local opportunities or in a particular employment sector;
  • offering a range of other support to clients, such as supported use of ICT facilities, to enable them to identify and take up opportunities;
  • referring clients to other agencies, such as government agencies, learning and training providers or specialist organisations, and advocating on their behalf where necessary;
  • liaising closely with welfare, finance and careers services;
  • undertaking outreach work, such as visiting community groups to talk about learning opportunities;
  • planning, coordinating and attending events and fairs to market opportunities to prospective students;
  • securing, carrying out and monitoring contracts, such as the National Careers Service;
  • meeting targets and reporting to funders - some contracts are paid on outcome rather than the activities delivered;
  • bidding for additional funding and projects, followed by writing contracts and reports;
  • developing and maintaining a network of contacts with other providers of IAG, joining relevant professional associations where possible;
  • undertaking administrative tasks, such as setting up and maintaining client records, conducting audits, recording statistical data and producing management reports;
  • working towards and maintaining accreditation with quality frameworks such as the Matrix Standard or Investors in People;
  • working with local further and higher education institutions on initiatives designed to widen participation, such as 'taster' or funded courses.

Salary

  • Starting salaries fall between £18,000 and £23,000, rising to £27,000 after a few years' experience. This varies greatly depending on the location and organisation.
  • Salaries for a team manager or area manager range from £25,000 to £32,000. Senior advisers can earn over £35,000.

Salary levels vary widely. Salaries in the voluntary sector tend to be lower than in large organisations, such as universities.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Working hours are usually 9am to 5pm, although occasional evening or weekend work may be required. There are opportunities for part-time and contract work.

What to expect

  • Temporary and fixed-term posts are common with contracts dependent on renewal of funding.
  • Experienced guidance workers may be able to secure freelance work as writers, researchers or consultants, although this tends to be more prevalent in the higher education (HE) or private sector.
  • Advisers usually have an office base but typically undertake information and guidance work in a range of environments including public libraries, community centres, jobcentres, prisons, hostels and even shopping centres. You may be involved in work with a particular employer or employment sector. An increasing amount of information and guidance activity takes place via email and the internet. However, this does not apply to welfare-to-work organisations as the majority of clients do not possess computer literacy skills.
  • Men are currently under-represented in this profession.
  • Opportunities are available throughout the UK but it is easier to find work in larger towns.
  • The work may be stressful and frustrating. Working with clients who may have low aspirations can demand huge amounts of energy. Ethical dilemmas may arise where there is a conflict between targets such as employment outcomes and the needs of the client.
  • A driving licence may be a prerequisite for the job.
  • Travel between venues and appointments during the working day is common. Overnight absence from home is occasionally required, usually associated with professional training and conferences.

Qualifications

This area of work is open to graduates qualified in all subject areas.

Your subject of study is less important than having the right personal qualities and evidence of real commitment to, and interest in, the fields of education, training and employment and the needs of adult learners.

Entry without a degree or HND is possible for those with relevant experience who are prepared to train on the job.

After gaining some useful experience, many graduate entrants go on to complete a professional qualification, such as the Qualification in Career Guidance (QCG) awarded by the Career Development Institute (CDI).

Postgraduate training in counselling, teaching or social work is also helpful.

Other graduates start by working in a related field, such as information management or community work, and often gain additional experience in a voluntary capacity while undertaking NVQ qualifications in information, advice and guidance (IAG).

This is often a feasible route for graduates who are unable to undertake the QCG. A level 4 NVQ has become a common baseline qualification for posts in the field. Recruiters may expect candidates to possess a level 4 NVQ or at least a willingness to undertake the course.

Competition for jobs may be stiff. Keep up to date with current issues and read relevant publications and websites to help improve your chances. Consider joining a professional association, such as the CDI, as a student member and, if you know which area of the UK you wish to work in, start networking by attending events and meetings.

Skills

You will need to show:

  • communication and interpersonal skills;
  • the ability to establish a rapport and work with clients from a range of backgrounds;
  • assertiveness and the ability to remain calm under pressure;
  • presentation and facilitation skills;
  • listening and questioning skills;
  • the ability to work well as part of a team, but also to work independently, using your initiative;
  • organisational skills with the ability to prioritise tasks and manage time effectively;
  • ability to meet targets and deadlines;
  • administrative skills including writing reports, maintaining accurate records and using IT;
  • the capacity to research and manage large amounts of information;
  • commitment to the principles and practice of equality and diversity.

This is an area where work and life experience are valued. The role is often a second or even third career for many people.

Many organisations conduct outreach work and therefore a driving licence is often a requirement.

Work experience

Guidance companies sometimes offer trainee posts to people with relevant experience and suitable personal skills and qualities. Training in careers guidance, plus some initial experience, may lead to opportunities in adult guidance.

Pre-entry experience is essential and work in any of the following areas would be useful:

  • community work;
  • counselling;
  • education;
  • human resources;
  • mainstream careers work;
  • social work;
  • welfare advice.

Voluntary experience is just as valuable as paid experience and will provide clear evidence of commitment. A good place to search for volunteering opportunities is your local branch of the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action (NAVCA).

Employers

The number and type of organisations that employ staff in information, advice and guidance (IAG) functions have expanded over recent years. You may need to look beyond the job title to identify possible opportunities, as only a few go under the heading of adult guidance worker.

Organisation and funding structures vary across the UK and this in turn affects the types of employment available.

Adult guidance in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is mainly delivered respectively by:

In England, a careers advice service is offered by the National Careers Service and private careers companies.

Opportunities for employment may also arise in:

  • colleges;
  • community, voluntary and charity organisations;
  • private careers consultancies;
  • private industry.

Look for job vacancies at:

Most relevant employers advertise vacancies rather than recruit from speculative applications, but it is still worth actively networking to find out who is delivering services in any particular area.

Get more tips on how to find a job, create a successful CV and cover letter, and prepare for interviews.

Professional development

There are opportunities for practice-based training and academic study leading to a higher degree. If you are already working in a guidance capacity, either paid or voluntary, you can study for NVQs in Advice and Guidance at levels 3 and 4. These are competency-based qualifications, linked to your ability to perform a range of tasks connected with your work.

Some organisations will consider candidates without a guidance qualification and enable them to take up study while working.

It can be helpful to have a background in interviewing, human resources or customer service.

The Qualification in Career Guidance (QCG), awarded by the CDI, is a university-based course, which can be studied either full time for one year or on a part-time/distance-learning basis for two years.

Students who successfully complete the QCG may then be required to undertake the NVQ 4 in Advice and Guidance while working. Academic and practical experience gained during the QCG course counts towards the required NVQ evidence.

Continuing professional development (CPD) takes many forms including short courses, conferences, visits and work shadowing. It is an important aspect of guidance work, and practitioners are expected to be reflective, constantly evaluating and developing their work. Systems of supervision and peer review are becoming more structured.

It is expected that guidance workers keep up to date with government policy and labour market trends through their own research.

Career prospects

Adult guidance workers often progress from other roles, such as careers adviser, personal adviser, or adult or community education worker, into a specialist adult guidance role.

Career development may be horizontal, for example providing the opportunity to develop research skills by undertaking a project on the needs of a particular group.

Sometimes career moves are forced by changes in funding and contract requirements.

There is some scope for promotion to team-leader roles. Team leaders support their colleagues with their training and development and in some cases undertake formal supervision.

Various management roles exist, although these may offer less opportunity for client contact.

Responsibilities may include:

  • managing a team;
  • managing specific projects;
  • bid writing;
  • staff training and development;
  • overseeing contract delivery and quality;
  • budget responsibility.

Opportunities are available in related areas, such as careers consultancy within private firms and higher education careers advice or training.