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August 22, 2011

Career Adaptability

The European project on Changing patterns of learning, working and career development across Europe has now been completed - the linked final report was produced in 2010.

The work was extended with qualitative interviews with participants from England and Norway in a follow-up study for UKCES on career adaptability (the ability to continue to make successful transitions across the lifecourse), which was published in August 2011: details and links given below:

Bimrose, J., Brown, A., Barnes, S-A. and Hughes, D.(2011) The role of career adaptability in skills supply, Evidence report 35. Main Report. Wath-upon-Dearne: UKCES.

Bimrose, J., Barnes, S-A., Brown, A. and Hughes, D.(2011) The role of career adaptability in skills supply, Evidence Report 35. Technical Report. Wath-upon-Dearne: UKCES.

We are, however, continuing to examine how people’s careers are changing and how people develop career adaptability - so we still interested in your experiences, so please contact us for further information.


November 09, 2010

Research on career adaptability

The current focus of UK skills policy is on four policy areas (economic performance; skills demand; skills supply; and jobs and skills mismatch), based around concerns with organisational productivity, sectoral and regional policy, education and training, the labour market, and reducing inequality and promoting social mobility, while addressing three key underlying issues: individual aspiration; employer demand; and responsive provision (UKCES (2010) Ambition 2020: World Class Skills and Jobs for the UK).

What is missing from this set of concerns, however, is any sense of progression of individuals through work across the life-course, particularly insofar as this involves moving between sectors. As a consequence, a dynamic element of how individuals become engaged with learning and development pathways, which involve upskilling, reskilling and sometimes transformational shifts in perspective as their careers develop, is largely absent from current policy analysis.

The GLACIER group at IER believe this gap could be filled with a focus on ‘career adaptability.’ Our current research in this area builds upon a major ten country enquiry into changing patterns of career development across Europe, which highlighted how some people were much more successful than others in negotiating a series of work-related transitions. Additionally, it extends international research from a seventeen country study into the concept of career adaptability, which we believe to be a key element in understanding successful transitions and accumulation of skills at the individual level.

The concept of career adaptability is strategically important because whilst ‘employability’ seeks to ensure that individuals can find a place in the labour market, ‘career adaptability’ is concerned with the development of, and support for, the capability of an individual to make a series of successful transitions where the labour market, organisation of work and underlying occupational and organisational knowledge bases may all be subject to considerable change.

The aim of this study is to assess and develop existing (national and international) knowledge about career adaptability, with particular emphasis on skills accumulation, in order to provide a platform for the development and support of career adaptability in a UK context. The objectives include exploring the potential of the concept of career adaptability to empower individuals to take positive decisions and actions regarding their skills development; and investigating the influence of particular labour market conditions in supporting career adaptability (through an Anglo-Norwegian comparison).

Using career adaptability as an analytical framework, helps address the issue of readiness of young people for different types of employment: ‘adaptability’ provides real purchase on this issue precisely because it can be examined in terms of individual proactivity, relational issues and quality, structure and nature of institutional support (examples from engineering, accountancy and healthcare show how career adaptability can be fostered and developed as a process extending right through to ‘experienced worker’ status and how the lack of challenge and support in work can undermine earlier preparations prior to employment). It can also help highlight the value placed on different types of knowledge, skills, qualifications, experience in their learning and skill development. We will be looking, in particular, to make a qualitative comparison of successful transitions in the UK and Norway. Norway is an interesting comparator because it has a buoyant labour market and low unemployment and would help us answer the question relating to the extent to which career adaptability takes different forms in different structural contexts – career adaptability is likely to be influenced by the dynamic interaction of structural and agentic factors.

Separately, a detailed conceptualization of career adaptability is being be derived from an ongoing seventeen country study in which IER is participating. Whilst career adaptability is derived from a psychological perspective, it is also influenced by psycho-social factors (through the interaction with others) and structural factors (such as the provision of careers guidance and other forms of support in making transitions). The proposed research will therefore enable a deeper understanding of the potential role of career adaptability in employment and skills policies derived from a range of contrasting international contexts.


June 12, 2009

Career adaptability

One of areas of careers that we are currently researching is ‘career adaptability’. Helping people to become more career adaptable could be crucially important for people finding their way through a volatile labour market. Although there is not yet final agreement on the definition of career adaptability, many interested in studying the concept agree that it refers to: … the readiness to cope with the predictable tasks of preparing for and participating in the work role and with the unpredictable adjustments prompted by changes in work and working conditions. (Savickas, 1997, p.254).

To become career adaptable, you would need to ‘look ahead and look around’ (Savickas, 1997, p257). You would also need to engage, proactively, in a process of self-development so that in time, you are able to choose suitable and viable opportunities to become the person you want to be. In summary, to become career adaptable, you would need to: think routinely about your future; be prepared to engage in an ongoing process of self-reflection; develop the skills, knowledge and understanding needed to cope with change; and it will require you to be open-minded about opportunities that come along.

How do you regard ‘career adaptability’? Would you want to change this description of what it means (and how)? Do you see this concept as relevant to your own situation?

Reference: Savickas, M. L. (1997). Career adaptability: An integrative construct for life-span, life-space theory. Career Development Quarterly, 45(3), 247-259.


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