Graduating in 2010 – trouble ahead ?

I’ve been involved in giving feedback to the team working on the new information leaflets for the AACS Adult Careers Service,  (the Advancement word often seems to get dropped), recently. The examples I’ve seen do look really good and try to address the difference between LMI (Information) and LMI (Intelligence). As it is for the public all of it will be available free via the web.  Keep watching the space for when this new service goes live in August according to plan.  Personally I am preparing for the new Grads who will be entering a challenging job market in 2010 and might have a surprise when they do look for work.  Although a lot of the mindset is on the traditional “Blue Chip” companies these are only a few, albeit an important few, of the thousands of companies that graduates can go to. Indeed with the recent Graduate Talent Pool and other initiatives coming down the wire it is quite possible a much wider range of employers could enter the consciousness of the average graduate jobhunter. The role of graduates in small and medium enterprises has never been fully explored in this country, however I believe now is a time when such consideration will, and should be, given to such employers.   A recent interesting report http://extra.shu.ac.uk/ppp-online/issue_1_300409/documents/employment_graduates_small_medium_firms_england.pdf  goes into this in much more detail.  Of course the issue of money, or the total lack of it attached to some of these placements, is a whole other issue that the TUC, amongst others, will be looking into as time progresses.  Check out the website specifically created for this by the TUC here http://www.rightsforinterns.org.uk

Gender – still an issue for careers after University ?

One of the issues that have bedevilled careers advice work is the concern over sexist advice.  People assume that we give it, we claim we would never give it, and somewhere between the two we have the confusion of who said what to whom.  Of course this is a key area for people, often politicians to pontificate on.  The previous Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone had his views http://www.independent.co.uk/student/magazines/news-mayor-vs-careers-advisers-398006.html 

Whilst a Downing Street summit on gender and productivity in 2004, hosted by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, centered on tackling job segregation and career sexism and the need to overcome it. In 2008 the Government decided to make it illegal to peddle such dangerous nonsense by outlawing it entirely http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1575416/Schools-ordered-to-ditch-sexist-career-advice.html .  

Meanwhile work such as the GERI initiative, http://www.geriproject.org, and many others such as http://www.works4me.org.uk, continued in educational institutions to work against the ingrained beliefs and expectations that some people may have on this matter of sexist career advice. The Educational Institute of Scotland also has a useful and simple leaflet on how to challenge sexism  http://www.eis.org.uk/images/pdf/challenging%20sexism.pdf  

Impartial and unbiased advice is the way all people working in the Careers Advice field operate. In the workplace many companies have diversity policies and it is clear that all recruitment and promotional activities should be done in a fair and equal way.  So does this mean all the old battles have been fought and won in the modern workplace ?  All the more reason to worry when a new phrase is used in this arena called “Gender Fatigue” which is where people no longer have the energy to fight something they believe has been solved. Indeed in this case it can be more prevalent for young women entering the labour market that their mother’s generation. http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6272NA20100308?loomia_ow=t0:s0:a49:g43:r1:c1.000000:b30370306:z0  I guess one reason I find this such a worry is that it takes a very skilful approach to determine such subtle gender bias and how to monitor, identify and remove it. If you are in your first job after University you are not likely to be challenging such a subtle issue as it might not even be clear to you.   

On a related note, whilst attending the “HE in a Web 2.0 World” report launch in the Barbican last May, running in the same building was the Deutsche Bank, 8th Women in European Business (WEB) London conference http://www.db.com/presse/en/content/press_releases_2009_4497.htm?month=8 I was fortunate to speak to some of the people attending this conference on the situation facing the Gender bias issues in the financial area both in terms of initial recruitment and subsequent career progression.  It is no secret that this occupational area traditionally has had its equality difficulties and, according to a EOC report 6 months ago, is still having them http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/uploaded_files/financial_services_inquiry_report.pdf

However the people at the WEB conference I spoke to were very positive of the work that Deutsche Bank had taken to tackle this problem, and they felt that other finance firms were doing the same. Of course it is easy to take such a anecdotal snapshot too seriously but I feel this wider issue of equality in the workplace, isn’t going to go away anytime soon and could the spectre of a more subtle bias, whether based on gender or other aspects of an individual,  be making headway in our workplaces ?.

Choose your University and course by its employability and salary ratings…

Mashup ahoy ! Like a premonition one of the first Mashups to hit the main street has arrived. The HE choice website called http://bestcourse4me.com/ was recently launched.  David Willetts, Shadow Innovation, Universities and Skills Secretary, has been promising this type of web resource since January 2009 and it is now here. Comparing the salary and employment status of different courses and universities might be interesting, but will it help young people make positive career choices. As always what is behind the figures ? A useful summary of some of the surprising results are in this blog http://www.statusq.org/archives/2010/02/24/2739/ which is written by a friend of the websites owners.

 Many issues about this website:-

 It was promoted by David Willetts as being worked on in conjunction with Microsoft, but now promoted as being in conjunction with Ros Smith and Steve Edwards computer entrepreneurs  (Although still listed as contributors there is now no mention of Microsoft on any press release)

David Cameron likes it !  http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/2867656/David-Cameron-backs-website-that-aims-to-get-more-teens-into-university.html  and so does the Sun http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/features/2866157/Education-under-Labour-day-2-Trevor-Kavanaghs-blistering-verdict.html  Must be the first time a website on choosing University courses has made such a splash in which is commonly thought to be Britain’s favourite paper (Copyright Sun Newspapers !)

Introductory Video spoken by Andy McNab (SAS Hero) http://greymansland.com/andymcnabnews/andy-mcnab-articles/andy-mcnab-in-the-sun-my-view-about-a-new-campaign-to-help-more-teens-get-to-university/

 In a strange link the other paper which carried some weighty reporting on it was the Financial Times, which also mentioned the related promise to put the careers service “Back on Track” http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/c5b5042a-21ae-11df-acf4-00144feab49a.html  Interesting comments on A level Law being “less than ideal” for top universities…

 With the push this website will get from the press,(or at least certain sections of the media), and its apparent value in working out which course provides the biggest bang for your buck, be aware of this website as you, or your colleagues, will be asked about it before too long !

 Obvious questions to ask include:-

 Will this resource help prospective students make better career choices in HE ? Or add even more to the confusion felt by some students and parents ?

What about the needs of the mature student, do these figures apply to them in equal number ?

Is being able to talk through such results still necessary or can students just use the website to choose their course, as recently suggested by John Morgan, president of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2010/jan/05/higher-education-careers-advice-professional ?  (although to be fair I do understand that the reporting of his comments do not reflect his actual view and might have had some undue emphasis put on them which did not support their use)

One obvious problem is that 6 months a not really a valid time interval to get anything clear and positive about graduate career paths across all professions and areas. In fact according to this resource if you want to be employed after your degree Media Studies is a much better bet that Chemistry… Although obviously as an adviser I would not be letting such a result go by without putting some serious balance on it.

 This is one issue I think we need to be aware of. It is what Angela McFarlane of Bristol Uni has termed ‘techno-romanticism’. Briefly summarised as ‘give the students the tools and they can fly because they are all Digital Natives’. Sometimes the more traditional skills in Careers work are still valuable and can be transferred to the digital area.  Some of the approaches might need to be changed such as networking skills and how they are used comparing the approach of face-to-face to screen-to-screen. (or phone-to-phone !). However we cannot put the genie back in the bottle and Web 2.0 careers advice will be part of the future mix.

Resumes or CVs ? And when you are asked for examples for “inspiration”…?

Once it was clear which side of the Atlantic you were on when you heard some words which came from an American background, such as Trash, or British, such as Lift. Now it is not so clear and I have noticed that it can be common to use the two very separate words of CV or Resume interchangeably.  However rather than dwelling on the changes one item brought to my attention was a copy of the Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Perfect Resume  by Susan Ireland.  Rather than the book, which was well written and thought provoking,  interesting me, it was the blurb promoting the linked website that went with it at  http://susanireland.com  I found curious.  Thinking it would probably just be a advertising site promoting the book it does actually have a lot of info about how to do your Resume, (or CV if you prefer as we are in the UK) and also guidance on the sort of questions you may be asked in job interviews. Probably not that unusual to similar sites in the UK so far, however one interesting section is “Career Options” which has some useful Labour Market Information (LMI) on a range of jobs in the states. Again this info can be found in the UK but often it is spread around various other websites.  There is a lot happening in the UK currently about merging such data and I do feel we are coming to a time when having a range of data in one place but gathered from a range of sources will be the norm.  I believe the term is Mashups but currently these are only of interest to a few dedicated people in research areas, or the most enthusiastic New Social Media types. However this can change quickly when things get a critical mass and erupt into view of everyone. Here’s looking to the near future !  (and if you do want to know the difference between a CV and Resume a useful summary can be found here http://www.greatcvs.co.uk/ResumeVersusCurriculumVitae.html although you should not put either word on your actual CV according to these people ! http://blog.workthing.com/2010/04/twenty-things-to-leave-off-your-cv.html )

Erasmus – one way to meet your life partner ?

If you haven’t already heard about the Erasmus project, (which for lovers of acronyms stands for  European Region Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students, although one suspects the name came first, followed by the rational. ), or have tried to promote its rational to students to seek out new lands and meet other people while studying at University the following website might be useful. Although one of Erasmus’s  aims was to promote closer working between universities across Europe and build on links leading to enterprise,  it is normally the student exchange which is the main reason people have heard of this project.  Although the main facts about what Erasmus is are clear and simple sometimes you need a story, or personal testimony, to enhance this approach to people. The power of Narrative can be key in this area.  One site that gathers personal testimony of students experiences of Erasmus can be found at http://mobi-blog.eu  which allows students to share their Erasmus stories.  Although some of the posts are in the original language of the individual student many are in English and if not, Google will kindly offer to translate the page.  Although one Erasmus presentation I attended at a recent HELOA meeting said that 1 in 10 of the students taking part had found their life partner through taking part in such an exchange, I’m not sure how scientific that result actually was !

Career education, information, advice and guidance in Higher Education

A new report from the  QAA,  A “code of practice for the assurance of academic quality and standards in higher education.  Section 8: Career education, information, advice and guidance” – has been released this month. Designed to update previous practice from 9 years ago it does cover some interesting areas and emphasises the key aspects of good CEIAG to students in Higher Education. Increasingly the issue of unemployed, and underemployered graduates, is going to gather more momentum, especially after this years crop of graduates comes out of the university sector seeking fulfilling careers whilst news of cost reductions in all sorts of areas, echo around them. The main area bearing the costs now will be the public sector, which is facing large and ongoing reductions in funding. Some companies have cancelled or reduced their graduate intake and this is unlikely to get any better for the next year of so at least. The reports dual role of ensuring that students beginning courses obtain the CEIAG they were expecting is combined with a secondary target, to ensure that the HEI can produce graduates to meet the labour market both for today and tomorrow. It does mentioned fluctuations in this labour market and it will be interesting to see what this document causes to be added to the work HEIs are already doing in this field. such projects as Birmingham University’s Future Proof Graduate program http://www2.bcu.ac.uk/futureproof is food for thought. Can we rely on all universities being able to offer similar work, indeed how far should they go along an employability route, does the type of university matter in this respect ? Russell Group or Million+ , Oxford University or Oxford Brookes ?  Of course those students studying HE courses at the local college are another factor again, what support is given in terms of IAG to this increasing number of students ? As is often the case, more questions that answers currently. If you want to read the report you can find it at this link  http://www.qaa.ac.uk/academicinfrastructure/codeOfPractice/section8/Section8careereducation2010.pdf

UCAS Service Advisory Group and Adviser Track Forum – by Helen Kempster

As the ICG representative on the UCAS Service Advisory Group for maintained schools/colleges I attended a very interesting meeting at UCAS in Cheltenham in November.  It was a pleasure to see that many of the ideas that the group had discussed had actually been taken forward by UCAS and become reality.  One thing that came to light was how little the Forum was being used with Adviser Track.  I’d just like to promote this forum to all those in the HE Advisers’ Community as a way to get your thoughts and ideas heard by UCAS.  Minutes of the Service Advisory Group meetings are also posted on there.  The next meeting is in March so if you have any issues/ideas you would like me to take there please let me know by contacting me (Helen Kempster) on hke@ctksfc.ac.uk