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 ?.

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

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

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

Brief summary and links to Higher Ambitions – Future HE plan for UK

HIGHER AMBITIONS – The future of universities in a knowledge economy

A Brief Summary

Britain still has too few people who have the ability actually going to University. More able but educationally disadvantaged pupils should have recognized fair access routes into University

UK participation rate in HE has gone from 7th in the OECD to 15th since 1998. 75% of UK 2020 workforce have already left school. A percentage of the 6 million UK workers who have Level 3 qualifications but no HE experience should be engaged in Higher Education to raise skill levels.

Increase diversity of HE students through range of access methods to study. More part-time study; vocationally-based foundation degrees; work-based study and more study whilst living at home must be made available.

Clearer routes from apprenticeships to advanced apprenticeships and new technician qualifications into foundation degrees and other vocational higher education programmes should be made.

Growth in HE cannot be met by more 3 year full-time courses and we cannot continue growth of public funding of Universities as we have done

To ensure that all those who have the ability to benefit can get access to higher education there are 4 Key Changes to achieve this:-

1)    We will improve the advice and encouragement that students receive earlier in their education with respect to setting their sights on university.

2)    New university admissions procedures to assess the aptitude and potential to succeed of those from poor backgrounds.

3)    Consider action that could be taken to widen access to highly selective universities for those from under privileged backgrounds.

4)    expand new types of higher education programmes that widen opportunities for flexible study for young people and adults and reflect the reality of the modern working lives.

The Government is committed to the enhancement of locally accessible higher education, through innovative partnerships between universities and further education colleges, and by support for new local higher education centres under the New University Challenge initiative. This could be good news for the Somerset University partnership !

To support universities in making an even bigger contribution to economic recovery and future growth there are 4 Key Changes to achieve this:-

 

5)    Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) to devise new funding incentives to develop HE programmes that deliver the higher level skills needed’

6)    Universities, employers, HEFCE and the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) to join and identify and tackle specific areas where university supply is not meeting demand for key skills. All universities expected to describe how they enhance students’ employability (This information should help students choose courses that offer the greatest returns in terms of graduate opportunity.)

7)    Business expected to be engaged, active partners with universities, not passive customers.

8)    A review into the future of postgraduate provision to be concluded

Need to strengthen the research capacity of our universities, and its translation into economic impact via 3 Key Proposals:

9)    Tighter fiscal constraints and increased competition from other countries will require a greater focus on world-class research and greater recognition of the potential benefits of research concentration in key areas.

10) Establishing strong new incentives to increase the economic and social impact of research.

11) Support stronger long term relationships between business and universities.

 

To promote excellent teaching for all students in HE, with universities competing to attract students on the basis of the excellent service they provide via 2 Key Changes in this area:

 

12) All universities should publish a standard set of information setting out what students can expect in terms of the nature and quality of their programme. (Via unistats as mentioned here: https://headviser.wordpress.com/2009/07/27/which-is-the-best-university-to-study-history-in/)

13) support universities’ work to strengthen the role of the external examiner

To further strengthen the role of universities at the heart of our communities and shared intellectual life, and as one of the key ways in which we engage with the wider world via 3 Proposals

14) Build on the contribution that universities have made, in partnership with Regional Development Agencies and local business, to regional economic development

15) Champion the international standing of our universities (Currently there are 340,000 foreign students in the UK from 239 different countries; the UK is second only to the USA as a destination for such students.)

16) our universities to be world leaders in the growing market in transnational education based on e-learning. (UK higher education to remain a world leader in online learning, and grow its market share by 2015 via university-private sector partnerships)

 

To ensure that our universities continue to maintain excellence, even under tighter public financial constraints

We need to nurture an HE system, responsive to the demands of both undergraduate and postgraduate training, embedded and integrated in a wider education and skills framework and capable of equipping all students with the capabilities and confidence to prosper.

Growth based so heavily on state funding cannot continue, that is why the development of a diverse set of funding streams is important if the quality of higher education is to be maintained and improved. Universities will need to seek out other sources of funding, from overseas sources as well as domestic ones.

Our world class universities are unique national assets, and must be recognised as such. Along with this recognition come reciprocal responsibilities. We need to treat these world class institutions for what they are, and the institutions themselves need to recognise their own obligations to UK undergraduates, in terms of excellent teaching and fair access on merit and potential, regardless of family background.

In future the burden of financing higher education’s diversity of excellence will need to be more equitably shared between employers, the taxpayer, and individuals.

17) A review of the fees structure in English universities will be launched, as promised at the time of the establishment of variable fees for full time undergraduate students in 2004.  The focus of the review will be the objectives of sustaining genuinely world-class institutions and fair access to universities, while ensuring value for money for the taxpayer.

A strong university system is essential to a country’s economic success and the vibrancy and depth of its intellectual and cultural life. Universities embody both our values and our aspirations. They play a huge role in our communities through the provision of cultural and sporting amenities and in passing on and preserving a set of

shared societal values, including tolerance, freedom of expression and civic engagement. They shape how we engage with the rest of Europe and the wider world.

Link to Full report below:

http://www.bis.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/publications/Higher-Ambitions.pdf

 

Link to Summary report below:

http://www.bis.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/publications/Higher-Ambitions-Summary.pdf

HE opportunities after access courses for Adults

I attended the recent higher education opportunities day for adults who had completed their access courses in Somerset this week. Excellent day with 10 providers of HE attending, Universities such as Bath, Bristol and Plymouth etc plus those FE colleges offering HE, such as Trowbridge College which offers a BSc in Social Work. A good buzz about the day and it was interesting to hear people’s journeys which had taken them to this place. Spoke with prospective HE students from 18 years of age to… well a bit older (!) and it did remind me of the true value of the work we all do.  Got a nice writeup in the local paper which might encourage more adults to explore this as an option. http://www.chardandilminsternews.co.uk/news/4709099.Student_boost_from_university_open_day/

Perhaps this type of event could be make into more of an awareness raising event for local communities wherever it takes place. Good to see so many HEIs coming into the community. I do realise many do this but unless you see it yourself it is easy to forget what happens. After the exciting side of choosing possible careers that some HE options might lead to, the big issue was funding and how it might be managed alongside the other circumstances of the students. Hopefully the advice they received from the various attendees  would have helped them to answer these questions.