Peter Daws, aged 87, Emeritus Professor at the University of Ulster, died on Monday 7th April. Bill Law pays tribute to a 'giant' of the careers world.
"It is a great loss. Moving from what was pretty-well a standing start, Peter Daws established the UK field in which Cegnet people and their predecessors have been working ever since.
From 1960 Peter was the trailblazer. There was no shortage of American careers literature; and Donald Super and Peter Daws were close allies. But his distinctive voice gave brit careers work its special place in what was becoming a global movement. Peter’s thinking reaches from how a career gets started in a social community, to how government is helped to understand the need for policy support. That breadth of mind is more important to careers work than is commonly realised.
For most of the 60s I was a careers teacher where careers work usually ranked as an ancillary service - alongside lost-property and fire extinguishers. We did out best, in my case with my cupboard, and its cardboard boxes filled with dog-eared leaflets. But, then, I came across Peter’s 1968 book A Good Start in Life. It is the case for professional careers workers helping students and clients to understand what they can do about career in a fast-changing economy. This was the prototype for what was to become a dominant analysis of careers-work provision. I’m still hoping that the world will catch up with Peter’s version of that analysis.
The publisher was CRAC - the Careers Research and Advisory Centre. And Peter gave strong support to CRAC’s Tony Watts. Tony was setting up NICEC - the National Institute for Careers Education and Counselling. Peter was by then a founding editor of CRAC’s British Journal of Guidance and Counselling. One of the journal’s special features was an on-going debate between Peter Daws and Ken Roberts. It was on what most influenced people’s chances in life, human motivation or economic structures. Peter never gave up on human motivation.
During the earliest days Peter Daws was the first director of the Vocational Guidance Unit in Leeds University. It was renamed the Counselling and Career Development Unit, and then formed Barrie Hopson’s Life-skills Associates. Peter’s authority in the field meant that he was later able to set up, at Keele University, the first full-time year-long careers-work training courses for teachers. That’s where I first met him, and those meetings changed everything for me.
His presence in any room – whether in a conference, a consultation or a bar – spoke of a no-nonsense steadiness, good humour, often funny, but with a deeply-committed authenticity. No careers-work issue was too great or too small to attract his interested attention. After all the years I still sense reverberations of his influence on my own struggle to do something worthwhile. In my early years he noticed that, and never hesitated to warn me about myself. But he was always generous in his support. Tony and Barrie say the same. None of us would be who we are without him.
He died peacefully, with his beloved Annemarie, in Coleraine. For many fruitful years he generously worked with Northern Ireland’s careers-work policy and practice. But he never lost the yen for his working-class roots in Nottingham.
He is my giant, and from those shoulders we might all see further.