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Karen Beamish

Making the grade

28 August 2020 | by Karen Beamish

I started writing this blog a couple of months ago to keep our members up-to-date with all of the changes that we’re making to improve your experience of the BPS, and particularly the member journey project that we’ve put at the heart of this work.

Along with our partners The Social Kinetic, we travelled up and down the country (before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, of course!) to meet members and prospective members to find out what we can change to make the BPS a more attractive organisation for all psychologists to be a part of.

We learned a huge amount from these conversations and are now setting up numerous workstreams to take your suggestions forward, and each month I’ll be looking at a new area of the project and what it will mean for our members.

I want to start, though, with something fundamental. Something that members have told us repeatedly is an issue that needs to be addressed – our membership grades aren’t properly reflecting your careers as psychologists in 2020.

We heard myths about chartership – how people believe that you need a PhD for it, or that it’s only available to a minority – that we need to get much better at busting.

We also need to nail down exactly what being a chartered member of the BPS means, and why it should be a central career goal for many more of the thousands of psychology students in the UK.

Our current chartered members told us that they highly value this status, but many on the outside view it as inaccessible and unobtainable - a perception that we need to change.

Graduate membership, meanwhile, doesn’t accurately reflect the careers of many of our more experienced members who may have graduated decades ago.

When many more people took a linear progression through to chartership, it may well have made sense, but it’s clear to us that the benefits we offer to graduate members do not cover the vast range of experiences and career paths of the members within it.

While our third grade, student member, perhaps does what it advertises, many of our student members feel disillusioned by the lack of community and a lack of support in tackling the financial and informational challenges that they face.

Psychology is one of the most popular subjects for young people to study, but not enough of them become BPS members, something that we want to change and already have some exciting ideas for.

The purpose of the member journey project is for us to identify problems like this and then co-create solutions, and that is the next step for us as we review the grades.

It’s already clear that we need to better define the grades that we have, but we also want to develop new ones and to invite more people into our society as new roles emerge in mental health.

Anyone studying psychology or working in one of the psychological professions needs to be able to see where they fit into the BPS as an organisation, and the value that they can get out of membership.

Another important initiative for us is developing a strategy for promoting psychology in schools - for both young people and their teachers.  As part of the work of the Education and Training Board, we are working closely with the Association for Teachers in Psychology. 

We have just completed our first set of teacher resources, and will be working more widely to prepare and provide careers resources to support GCSE students in making the decision to take an A-Level in psychology and then a psychology degree or related option, such as an apprenticeship. 

As part of this, we are seeking to broaden our relationship with our accredited education and training partners, providing support and resource for them around student membership, careers development, employability and developing key skills to support preparation for applying for jobs. 

We’re excited about the introduction of student ambassadors, who will work with us and with schools, bridging the link from school into higher education programmes. Hearing about studying psychology from a student’s perspective is going to be very important for young people considering their next steps.

All of is centred around our careers work. As part of the member journey project, a primary ask was for a more structured and beneficial way of engaging in careers discussion. I am pleased to say that one of our first actions on this will be to hold a virtual careers week later in the autumn. More information on this will follow.

These steps are vital to build a stronger and more sustainable future, and to engage and retain students while guiding them through their careers. Our member journey work, including the understanding of the different experiences members have in qualifying as a psychologist and becoming chartered have given huge insight into how we can provide better and more targeted support. 

There is lots of work ahead and many opportunities to capitalise on, but hopefully we can continue to engage and work together to deliver on a new and bright future for those considering a career in psychology.

We’ll be continuing the conversations with members through digital summits and online focus groups over the coming weeks and months, but we’re always keen to hear new ideas and suggestions that we can incorporate into the project.

If you’ve got something to contribute or a question to ask, please join the Member Connect online community for BPS members where you can have your say throughout this journey.

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