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

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.

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

Be an Entrepreneur at University – run your own business before you graduate (or just after !)

Although a lot of the talk around education and qualifications is focused on them leading to a specific job or career area, there is one career that doesn’t require anyone to say they will take the graduate on.  This is the position of being Self Employed or working for yourself.  This is a huge area and covers many occupations from Hairdressing to Building to Barrister and Medical Consultant, not to mention being a careers adviser in private practise !  Increasingly many universities are recognising this fact and encouraging students to develop business ideas and companies whilst at University. In the south west Plymouth brands itself as the ‘enterprise’ university  http://www.plymouth.ac.uk/enterprise whilst other institutions such as Bristol Uni offer a range of support for students to pursue business ideas http://www.bristol.ac.uk/red/students/ , or Oxford  Uni  has their own area http://www.oxfordentrepreneurs.co.uk   I realise that this is quite a buzz word at the moment, but if you want something a bit unusual then a report on the way that dance provision in the HE sector develops employability and entrepreneurial skills in the student dancer does make fascinating reading !  http://www.palatine.ac.uk/files/723.pdf

Whichever university students are considering it may well have something similar available and is well worth checking out.  Business success isn’t limited to a particular degree, university or grade, but a good idea well executed.  It is interesting how engrained the idea of working for other people is for some students, even if their career area has a large amount of freelance work or the expectation of developing portfolio careers. Although such programmes as Young Enterprise have been going for a long time, it can still be a jolt for students to see themselves as entrepreneurs.  Talking to colleagues outside of work  I’ve also found that parents/carers of students are surprised that H.E. might have anything to teach or do with working for yourself.  Another case where what you presume everybody knows is not always matched by the reality.  Find out more at http://www.ncge.com/home.php

Speak to someone about Higher Education – or just look at a website ?

Getting advice about Higher Education is an important thing, but who makes sure the advice students get is impartial and independent?  Lots of people have opinions and thoughts about HE, but how helpful is it with the people giving the advice being trained?  Some people do relevant training via their professional organisation, or by attending university events.  However in Somerset we are putting 10 of our advisers through the new Higher Education Advisers Certificate run and validated by London South Bank University. This is a Masters level programme and builds on the skills and experience of our staff that between them have many years of working at this level.  Indeed we do have staff who already give HE advice to undergraduates and graduates, (via other contracts), but have never been able to have this aptitude certified.  Such an award will be in addition to the specific careers advisory qualifications they already need to be a Careers and Skills Adviser.  At Connexions Somerset we feel it is important to build on the skills of our staff and develop our ability to help people make positive HE choices. As we know Higher Education can be expensive, involve commitment of time, and also applied academic effort, which means that good advice on this option is important to ensure that students can benefit from the opportunity. There was an interesting related article in the Guardian about this whole issue of speaking to someone who is able to offer professional advice and guidance on this area, compared to just looking at some websites and deciding in isolation.  I’m sure all tutors and staff in tertiary institutions would recognise the work entailed in this area.  On a personal level for prospective students I am quite happy for them to look at various web resources, log-on to assorted social networking sites and explore the various message boards that they might find useful, but would always encourage them to speak to someone who can give impartial and unbiased advice as well. In full disclosure Andy Gardner (pictured in this report), Heads up the ICG HE Adviser Community…not that I’m biased of course !  http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2010/jan/05/higher-education-careers-advice-professional

Parent Motivators – A Parents Guide for your Graduate living at home

This Guide was launched in the other silly season when Parliament is closed and not much news is going on.  Just after Christmas and before the New Year is when it made the new. We all know of examples where students who do successfully complete their studies at University and gain a degree might well return home sometime in their career. This can be immediately after completion of the degree, or in case of being between jobs or any work placements they might be after.  As always this has now got a term and such grads are called “Boomerang Kids”.  Check out Page 27 of this report for more info: http://www.statistics.gov.uk/downloads/theme_population/Pop-trends-winter09.pdf

Possibly linked to this report, The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (DBIS) has joined forces with Denise Taylor, author of the popular book  “How to Get a Job in a Recession”, to produce a guide for parents and family who want to know how to help support the graduate in their home. Some of its suggestions could be used for anyone who finds themselves at home, with a good listing of useful websites at the back of the document.  Interesting to read the press coverage, which seems to believe that this guide is really an instruction manual from the Nanny State and has been personally written by Lord Mandelson rather than a careers adviser !.  It was also refreshing to hear someone talking and writing on this subject who described herself as a Careers Adviser. Perhaps this could be a sign of things to come and a greater recognition of the need to have people with specific careers advice skills involved in these documents. Now if only they could bottle and sell the magic elixir of motivation we would all have some, as dealing with graduates after they have left Uni can be demanding as it can hit anyone hard when an individual graduate is still seeking that elusive first ‘proper job’ whilst their colleagues from Uni are off on more perceived exciting, glittering careers.  In full disclosure I should also state that Denise heads up the ICG Private Practitioners Community

http://www.bis.gov.uk/new-year-new-opportunities-for-graduates

http://www.direct.gov.uk/graduates

8 sources of finance for University study

As an adviser I’m often asked about what financial help is available for students wishing to study at University. Although the main resource is Student Finance England there are other sources which are often missed. So in the best tradition of top ten lists, (even though there are only 8 in this case), here are the top 8 sources of finance we need to ensure is considered and explored.

1. Loan for Maintenance

2. Maintenance Grant

3. Bursary

4. Scholarship

5. Job (both before the student begins study and also issues re: part-time whilst studying)

6. Family (often known as the Bank of Mum and Dad but can include other people)

7. Savings/Borrowings

8. Sponsorship

Even if students are aware of some of these resources it is always work checking how much they can get and the costs of paying any loan back. In recent research people commonly underestimate the maximum value of loan and overestimate future repayments. Bursaries and Scholarships are another area where many people are unaware of what is available. To find out what students could get go to http://www.direct.gov.uk/studentfinancecalculator where it is possible to can find out what each University could offer.  The issue with Sponsorships are that they can be difficult to obtain and some companies now prefer to offer them to students after their first year of Uni study.  They also tend to be in certain areas, such as the Military, which can be an ethical issue for some students or in specific occupation fields such as Engineering. Packages on offer can be excellent and not just focused on money, (management training and career exploration can also be part of the package), but I do encourage students to check out the commitment involved and ensure they realise and are happy with what will be required as their side of the deal.  If you want to read more about this whole issue of finance and HE an interesting recent report is “The Role of Finance in the Decision-making of Higher Education Applicants and Students” – you can download a copy from the link below http://www.dius.gov.uk/~/media/publications/B/BIS-RP-009

What makes a “Good Job” ?

Most of us need to work, if only to obtain money to enable us to live the life we desire. However money is not the only factor in what makes a good job. Indeed many people will talk about the jobs they have enjoyed, or careers they have experienced, without mentioning the money obtained. I though it would be worth balancing out the money focus by looking at the other factors which make up a “good job”, at least according to other people anyway.  One report by the Work Foundation http://www.workfoundation.co.uk/assets/docs/publications/197_good_work_final2.pdf shows the following factors as valued :-

Characteristic of a Good Job  (% as indicated)

Being valued/appreciated (getting credit for the work you do) 16%

Interesting/Fulfilling role/personally rewarding/Job satisfaction 16%

Autonomy/decision making/responsibility/Working conditions/environment (including location) 14%

Team working/staff morale 13%

Good management/management support/Training/staff development 11%

Enjoyable work 11%

Challenging/Variety 9%

Success/doing a good job/ achievement 8%

Meeting the needs of the customer/client 7%

Flexible (inc. working hours) 6%

Promotion prospects/advancement/Participate/contribution to decision making 5%

Skills/ability/equipment/tools to do the job/Other fringe benefits (eg healthcare) 3%

Clear objectives/goals/expectations/Good communication 2%

Another section lists 7 Key things that need to be in place to make up a “good job”

• Employment security;

• Work that is not characterised by monotony and repetition;

• Autonomy and control and task discretion;

• A balance between the efforts workers make and the rewards that they receive;

• Whether the workers have the skills they need to cope with periods of intense pressure;

• Workplace fairness;

• Strong workplace relationships (social capital).

Apart from the employment security aspect, (which is difficult to evaluate in many areas), how many of us consider the other aspects when looking at possible careers ? Something for students to ask when they are talking to anyone about their career and reflecting on whether it would be the right one for them. Of course in terms of job security the best investment is gaining skills, qualifications and knowledge which are in demand.  This can involve lifelong learning and should enable anyone to change careers and explore new areas as they go though life. Adult & Graduate Guidance is key to this success and lifelong learning is already a part of many career areas though continuous professional development (CPD), which can surprise some students !  Indeed some careers demand CPD as proof you can continue to do your job of for continuing professional certification in areas such as Accountancy and Medicine, plus other careers areas which you might not expect, such as local Fire and Rescue Services for example.

Some of these factors may change based on a students age and interests, although getting and keeping a good job is always a challenge, it can be immensely rewarding. Of course it is not always possible to get exactly the job or career any of us want straight away, but as the saying goes “Until you find the work you enjoy, enjoy the work you find”.  As I always say it will help anyone to learn more about what they do want to do and can also help to pay the bills whilst they are searching