Someone somewhere was trying to say something last Thursday. I tend to wake up in the week days to the wonderfully illuminating BBC Radio 4 Today programme at 6am* (the first 30 minutes gives you your daily dose of everything you need to know about current affairs, business and sport – in that order with some weather and a newspaper review thrown in for good measure). I miss Ed Stourton but I feel at ease with Evan Davis (Dragon’s Den), there’s something quite matronly about Sarah Montague and Garry Richardson (Sports) might be no Christian O’Connell but especially given the hours he works (and the fact that he’s been doing it since 1981) he can crack impromptu gags with the best of them.
Sandwiched between details of David Cameron’s David Letterman interview (I would never send my son to Eton and there’s no way he sounds like James Bond) and news that the FTSE closed lower on Spanish economic woes (really?!) was the announcement of a new website, Unistats, that seems to help young people (including my cousin, Charles, 18 and currently working down the local boozer) work out how much they can earn from different courses at different universities (interesting for sure but taking this as gospel might be like believing that Nick Clegg wasn’t going to raise tuition fees). Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to search for the course most likely to introduce me to a life of bling and Bollinger but here are the outcomes for 3 options:
- 1) Politics (MA Hons) at Edinburgh University (my degree): 71% Satisfaction, Average Salary 6 months after graduation: £18,000 (though last weekend’s Sunday Times 2012 University Guide dropped it from 27th to 39th on poor teaching!)
- 2) PPE at Oxford (David Cameron’s degree): 93% Satisfaction, Average Salary 6 months after graduation: £25,000 (same as Computer Sciences at Bristol University which our developer studied but apparently he is 3% more satisfied)
- 3) BA in Global Cinema at Sterling University: 81% Satisfaction, Average Salary 6 months after graduation: £15,000
As I overtook yet another bus on my way to work (how is it that since the Olympics, the traffic lights seem to have gone on strike – someone privatise them – and even if i do end up furiously mopping my brow on arrival, it still seems to be possible to get to work on a bike twice as quick as on a double decker), I then passed a new army recruitment advert with an array of different soldiers on it looking like they were pursuing an array of unsoldierly careers. The advert said: “What do you want to be?”. Anything but a soldier these days I thought, given that reports indicate that 8,000 (including many serving in Afghanistan) are to lose their jobs in January with the army shrinking by about 20% come 2020.
I discussed this further this morning with Tray and Bella, 2 of WEXO’s directors who also run Careers Mentoring company, Tinker Tailor. Bella’s father was a General in the Marines and as a child I always wanted to be a soldier. Having spent a bit of time watching reruns of Spooks recently, and in the hope that I might get an invite to the new Bond premiere this month, I think in my next job I might become a Spy. In my experience, ruthless research, undercover networking and the occasional one liner often get you all sorts of offers. And I reckon I can do a pretty good Sean Connery impression too.
Robin Kennedy, WEXO Co-founder & CEO
* NB – if you’ve had a big night you can catch it later on BBC iPlayer or even better download the TuneIn Radio Pro app on your IPhone and record it (please don’t tell me you’ve still got a Blackberry, they’re for riots and the company that makes then is slowly following Nokia to the dogs.)
Last week I was invited to attend a breakfast and ‘opinion-former panel event’ at the BIS Conference Centre. It was titled as above – apparently a coincidental duplication of the book of the same name (which I’m now struggling to ‘get in to’) by Ross Perlin – who sadly wasn’t able to attend.
If you’re interested, you can hear the whole event podcast here or read Psychology Magazine’s well written summary of what was discussed here
It was brilliant that Editorial Intelligence brought together many other parties with an interest in answering the question of how we should skill up young people to get jobs.
But I came away feeling disheartened. The panel were certainly accomplished and the talk was well attended but any opportunity to unite opinion and take real action was missed. When given the opportunity, skilling up young people to get jobs will best be achieved by Education and Inspiration on 3 levels. Sadly, the weaknesses of this event lay partly in the title and partly in the make-up of the panel.
- EDUCATING YOUNG PEOPLE:. Simon Waugh, Executive Chairman of the National Apprenticeship Service is clearly a successful, hard working kind of guy who has probably sacrificed the pecuniary gains of executive level roles in the private sector to try and make a difference and help others in public. So no disrespect to him, but calling an event ‘Intern Nation’ and then including someone on the panel who runs an apprenticeship service only perpetuates the semantic confusion as to what an internship is – and more importantly isn’t. In case you haven’t read my rants before, here is my take on the distinction between work experience, internships and apprenticeships. Without clarification (and education), interns, ‘workies’ and apprentices will never really understand their rights and government will continue to fuel the fire with inconsistent policies:
* Work experience: Short placements (generally 1-2 weeks) which are usually for younger people (16-18) to get a ‘taste’ of the working world and typically unpaid though we encourage companies to pay expenses.
* Internships: 1-3 month placements, largely for undergraduates and increasingly graduates, which should be paid for legal AND moral reasons given that the company derives financial value which should be shared.
* Apprenticeships: Apprenticeships as we see them are long term (1-2 year) paid training programmes which leave you with a vocational qualification usually in a craft or a skill. We believe they should be seen as an equal alternative to higher education. We do not believe that ‘The Apprentice’ on BBC 1 helps the classification quandry. Realistically, we would have called it ‘The Accomplice’ or more appropriately, the ‘The Attention Seeker’.
* Jobs: What all the above should eventually result in.
- COMPANIES NEED TO BE EDUCATED AND INCENTIVISE:. It’s a shame that someone as influential and expressive as Laurie Penny (Journalist, author and activist )seems to see the stick as the only solution to the ill justice of unpaid internships. “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you?” Along with many others, she is overtly focused on naming and shaming companies that might not know any better. It would be a real shame if such companies close their doors to young people all together for fear of falling foul of bureaucracy. As I explained to ‘Jilted Generation’ author, Shiv Malik, afterwards, WEXO would far rather we all focus on the carrot of incentivising companies to offer paid internships (via the STEP schemes, proposals for recouping costs of internships from VAT etc) rather than antagonise companies with the stick and choke the supply pipeline? We might also want to remind them that the average Return on Investment of a Graduate is 500% over 3 years.
- IMPROVING EDUCATION PER SE:. It’s The education system is this country IS partly to blame for not skilling people up to get jobs. This is as much the case as it was for the chair of the event, Brian Groom of the FT, failing to break up the childish confrontation between Citibank Head of Graduate Recruitment, Gemma Lines (I hope she concedes that the City owes the country a debt of gratitude and should sponsor other internships as well as inflating their own remuneration even at this level) and Laurie Penney (in fairness it was driven by the latter). The UK’s education system has got worse and this is successively shown to be the case by numeracy and literacy statistics. Moreover, higher education (especially now that it’s paid for) should give its pupils far better careers education and include vocational experience as part of some degrees.
Strangely, the 2 panel members who were least controversial, focused least on the question in hand. This said, Martin Bright , former journalist and founder of New Deal of the Mind (who we work with on BITC’s Work Inspiration campaign) and Faye Wenman, from theTaylor Bennett Foundation, were both entertaining and informative about the good work that they do in trying to create a more meritocratic and productive society. We applaud their work (and the social enterprise, Talent to Work, that this event was ultimately launching) but look to companies and organisations with the reach and resources that we do not currently have to unite the rest of us in effecting real change.