‘Until I had an insight into the project I was one of those disapproving people': Interview with Claire Nix

Written by Akile Ahmet. Posted in News

As part of our Knowledge Transfer work, Akile Ahmet is speaking to people who work with young people to see how they react to our findings. This post describes what Claire Nix an independent Careers Education Consultant  had to say. Claire works primarily in careers and employability, does training for careers advisors and is a member of Career England and a fellow of National Institute for Careers Education and Counselling. Claire initially found out about the project from a steering group member and attended our End of Award Event last July.

I asked Claire what her views on youth and celebrity culture are:

It is really difficult because until I had an insight into the project I guess I would have been one of those disapproving tutting people who would say young people want to be celebrities. I hadn’t seen a positive about it. And I’ve got a 17 year old son and he watches loads of You Tube videos, often about gaming and and I really don’t care about these group of YouTubers who are living in this house together and what they get up to. So now I’m ambivalent about it because you’ve got to work with young people and try to turn it into a positive. So I’m enthusiastic when celebrities do things that make you think afresh rather than the same old same old. For example, there’s a comedian in Edinburgh who’s just set up a restaurant and every customer has to make a contribution to the Edinburgh food bank. I think that when celebrities use their influence beyond what you expect them to do it’s immensely powerful. Charlotte Church, was on the anti-austerity marches and came up against a huge amount of criticism and accusations of being a champagne socialist and she said I’m more of a Prosecco girl! The CelebYouth research talks about philanthropy and that to me is a powerful and underutilised aspect of celebrity that young people picked up. So I suppose my views are now that celebrity’s got a potential for good. But that as a parent, as an adult, as an educator, I’ve also got some worries.

I mean celebrity is positive in some ways as these YouTubers are entrepreneurial. You find a gap in the market and you utilise your skills in communication and technology to actually get your ideas and things out there. And then the corporates get on board and they make money via advertising and promotio. So they are creating and forging a career for themselves and understanding how to communicate and how to find marketing deals with big organisations. I think this is where the careers sector doesn’t move quickly enough. So formal careers literature won’t have much about being a YouTuber and by the time the likes of us find out about it the bubble’s burst. So it is important that we understand what young people’s interests are and to get at that the root of that and how you make that work for you.

Claire, like our previous informants, spoke of the huge barriers faced by young people and the issue of inequality:

Young people face huge barriers in terms of entrenched inequalities. So some sectors of society have far less access to information, experience and opportunity than others and it feels likes it’s becoming harder to escape that. I don’t know if that’s accurate but it feels like it’s harder. I’ve heard that work experience has gone for the vast majority of young people under 16, but then I’ve also heard that some parents can arrange for their son or daughter to get experience in the City. And you just think there might loads of young people that want to do that but don’t have somebody who can open the door for them. It’s social class and gender that will compound to make things more problematic.

I asked Claire if any of the CelebYouth findings link into the work that she does:

Young people’s focus on hard work and determination is interesting but you know sometimes that it’s just not going to happen. Career Happens Theory says you have to be really positive about the opportunities and seize them because you happen to be there – to have a stance that makes you ready for things to happen. That to me is probably one of the most influential careers theories. Young people need to see it like that, get the work experience if you can, talk to people, make anything happen around you, create opportunities for you and test out your ideas.

So what sort of resources would you like to see emerge from the project?

I’d like more stuff that you could use directly with young people or film clips that you could use in assemblies that would get young people to engage and fast track their thinking a bit. It would be great to research the impact of these activities because career explorations are about self awareness and finding out about others so not just utilising those resources, but asking if young people have found them helpful in moving on. And maybe some action research in schools with a small group of teachers who want to focus on careers.


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