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 ?.

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 !

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 does a Graduate earn ?

A common question asked by anyone embarking on a period of study is how much a graduate can expect to earn. Although this is a very complex question, as a lot does depend on the individual in some careers, you can get rough summaries from website such as prospects.ac.uk and hotcourses.  One quick summary is available by clicking on  http://www.scholarship-search.org.uk/pls/mon/hc_edufin.page_pls_user_wage_predict?x=16180339&y=&a=220707 and selecting the area that interests a student.  These range from Arts. Designs & Crafts to Scientific Services and are summarised in terms of salary.  As they say in all the best adverts about Financial Advice these are examples only and not a guarantee any particular student could earn this much.  In some cases the amount of money it is possible to earn as a graduate may not seem a lot more than if they did not have a degree, but I always emphasise that some careers are graduate entry only, such as teaching, or overwhelmingly recruit graduates despite it not being a stated job requirement, such as media and publishing. This sort of Labour Market Intelligence is important and another factor in success for some graduates rather than others.  That is before we start mentioning what class of degree has been obtained and the 1st, 2ii and 3rd class implications!  The financial benefit of being a graduate will become an increasingly important area as we head into the future with the actual cost benefit analysis of Higher Education for the individual student coming into sharp focus.

‘Mickey Mouse’ degrees? – Perhaps Mr Disney will be happier now

One of the enduring quips that we experience in our guidance work is the duel pressure of widening and broadening students knowledge and understanding of the HE options, against the more traditional approach of doing a ‘traditional’ degree and a ‘respected’ university.  Any attempts to show the range of HE courses can be met with the “Mickey Mouse” degree refrain quite easily in my experience. Apart from the fact that Mr Disney had build a considerable business empire and thus seems a unusual candidate for such negative pressure, recently I have noticed a change within this area as some people recognise that the vocationally focused degrees might, just might, have some relevance.  I’m not sure if this is down to the recession and the decrease in more traditional ‘blue chip’ employers offering vacancies as mentioned by the AGR, or if the finance and banking implosion has caused some to revaluate their world views. I guess this became fact for me after a recent edition of the Sunday Times which carried a positive article on them stating that “Far from being worthless, the more unusual degrees are proving a hit with employers”.  http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/education/article6829650.ece

Although there have been other articles in a similar vein on other papers I believe the Times one stood out for me at I can still remember the “Scandal of the Mickey Mouse degree rip-off” headline from 2003 referencing it to the comments of Margaret Hodge, higher-education minister at the time http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/career_and_jobs/senior_executive/article1099107.ece and the concern this caused students, and their parents,  who were looking at vocationally focused degrees. Interestingly the reason that the Universities mentioned by Ms Hodge felt that students were not completing their Uni courses was down to funding, and issue which will only gain greater prominence as we move into the bright new future of raising more money from student fees and the implications of that activity.

A website to help research your study subject

This is the first in an occasional series of websites which I’ve found useful (but are not always well known about). I’ve found this website a useful resource. It can be used with students  who might just have got their GCSE results and are now looking to go onto 6th form study, possibly considering which subjects they might finally take. Or you could use it with students looking at a Diploma or another vocational or occupational course that would still allow them to go onto a degree should they choose. Alternatively a student might be halfway through their studies and now faces completing the UCAS form to apply to University. What help is available for them ?
If you have every wanted to find out about a subject in more depth you probably use the internet, but it can be difficult to find useful, reliable info about a chosen career area even if you use Google. Well now there is a website which has gathered the best of the web for you, and arranged this over the main subject fields covering degree areas from Aeronautical Engineering to Womens Studies. Have a look at this and see if it helps progression with  career choices http://www.vts.intute.ac.uk/
There is even an Internet Detective course available to help you sort out the gold from the dross http://www.vts.intute.ac.uk/detective/ Everything is free and quality controlled by a national team of lecturers and librarians from UK universities. An excellent resource I think

Students face a “perilous way of life”…

Just when your thoughts were on getting the exam results and moving students into the next stage of their studies, a warning about making sure they can manage student debt comes from Nigel Boobier, an insolvency practitioner with Osborne Clarke in Bristol. He does mention the fact that many students do not have the skills necessary to manage their finances when they go onto study and can get into financial difficulties. Read more on what he says here http://www.yeovilexpress.co.uk/search/4545424.Students_face_a__perilous_way_of_life_/
In fairness there is help available to guide students in this area, both beforehand in various publications and information but also during the induction week and at the freshers fair support for managing finances is offered. It might sound boring to any young person, but it is worth checking on the basics and make sure  budgeting skills and financial ability is equal to the task.