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 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 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 !  and so does the Sun  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)

 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”  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) ?  (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.

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 !

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:

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

The European Classification of Higher Education Institutions

Interesting project to classify HEIs into a European Classification. Obviously we have the league tables already, which I have already commented on but this is different as it focused on institutional diversity. Worth looking to see the dimensions that they are using and even those this is a work in progress, (no actual universities are named just yet), it is perhaps signs of things to come when you can compare universities as you compare cars or contents of food. (I do realise that this is contentious and a simplistic view, but this seems to be the way that we are heading so it is well to be aware of such ideas). Keep an eye on for the future.

What to expect from a careers interview – guidelines…

Following on from the previous post, one thing that is clear is how the generic “careers adviser” who gives “careers advice” in a “careers interview” often isn’t anything of the sort.  This can be due to the various people who play the role of advisers from parents, family, teachers and other adults, allied to what actually happened in the session. The summary which goes along the lines of  “I had a computer test when I ticked a few boxes and it told me what to be” does come around time after time.  All of the careers education and guidance work is often not mentioned, or perhaps recognized as such, nor is the fact that no test will tell you want to do. Indeed often these comments seem to refer to the original Jiig-CAL questionnaire which 21 years ago was the bright young thing on the guidance world. An interesting flashback on it from the BBC is here for those too young to remember it J !

Of course the fact that Jiig-CAL should have been part of a Careers Education and Guidance (CEG) programme of 8 weeks or so duration is often missed out, indeed it seems that the quick fix of a sheet that would tell you what to do has an enduring power in our society. Perhaps this is where the career of Leela from Futurama as a “career placement officer“would develop from.

Returning to the present is there a need to be explicit on the role of the careers interview and what to expect from it ?  Some universities already do this, Bath has a nice example, as does UWE to name just two examples. Is the old common understanding of the careers adviser telling people what career to do, (or more often remembered as telling them what they cannot do), still current in our work ?

What to expect from a Careers Interview…

One thing that seems to be endemic in most of the discussion about careers advice is, often without too much qualification, how rubbish it was. Indeed  this can be reported by everyone from cabinet ministers downwards without much argument or moderation. One interesting report on this area of careers was carried out by Edge Hill University in a project funded by HEFCE on how working class undergraduates made their decision. One of the fascinating aspects I found was the session on “Reversing previous experience of Careers”,  as they said in their report “It emerged that contact at school or college had been patchy, and was not always with qualified careers advisers. The workshops enabled staff to de-bunk misconceptions, and explain the differences between university and school careers provision. To enhance students’ perception of a quality service, staff placed greater emphasis on publicising the regional and national awards gained by the Careers Centre.”

The whole report is worth reading!ebXXXdd and perhaps will be reflected on when the discussion of careers advice again is raised on the political agenda.


e-Guidance & Virtual career development – interesting paper from IAEVG

With the continuing rise in the use of the internet, and everything now being prefaced with either ‘e’ or ‘i’ in the brave new world, the aspect of ‘e-guidance’ is coming to the fore with increasing rapidity. An interesting paper from the IAEVG website gives an interesting insight into where things are moving.  Unfortunately the actual definition of e-guidance various with everyone you speak to. For some the fact that you can email careers questions is e-guidance, whilst for others this barely qualifies as such a thing. Although the government has already got some work going in the area with and they divorce the service they provide from actually seeing people face-to-face. In my experience this is still desired by a propostion of the clients we see and should only be seen as part of the mix rather than all careers guidance being delivered via e-guidance.  With increasing pressure of careers services both at Uni and outside the HE sector this is an area we will be returning to again before to long.