Why connect?

Tomorrow I give my annual talk on the importance of networking and social media for research to our EdD students.

This is what I thought I’d say.

Why connect?


Why I hate school but love education

I saw this mentioned in the paper today and went to check it out on YouTube.

In it Suli Breaks questions the purpose of education, the culture of exams and the promise of career success that is made to recruits to university. I’m with him at least some of the way on this, and disappointed that this is how university is coming to be seen.

Well worth a watch


Unistats evaluation

We published our evaluation of the Unistats website recently.

You can view it on the University of Derby’s research archive

Hopefully it provides some useful information about the Unistats site which will be used to inform its development. I also think that it provides a strong case for the value of a user centred approach to website design.

I’d be interested to hear your views.

We did it!

Just a quick update to say that we achieved the highest number of views on my blog ever yesterday. In total 473 people viewed the site yesterday. They were looking at:

So what did I learn? Mainly that if you can engage people as participants in what you are doing you are more likely to drive traffic to your content. I thought that the UKIP piece might get a lot of attention because it was controversial, but in fact people were more engaged by the idea of maximising the hits to the blog. People seemed to enjoy the idea that there was a challenge going on and felt that it was something that they wanted to support and engage in. Hopefully some of the content was interesting as well, but this doesn’t seem to have been what drove hits up in the main.

This reinforces the idea the social media is about building relationships and having conversations with people rather than about delivering content or service at people. Where you can build this kind of interactive approach it looks like it is possible to drive up hits and engagement.

I may well repeat this experiment in a week or so and see if I can keep building on it.

Thanks to everyone for your help and support yesterday.

5 things that career companies/services should want to do with social media

I’m often asked to advise or train career companies or services around their use of social media. People tend to view social media as a piece of software equivalent to something like Excel or Word. From this point of view the question is just to learn how to use the software and then roll your existing services through it.

What I generally try and explain is that this isn’t really the best way to look at social media. Learning the tools is generally pretty easy, but working out what to do with them is rather more difficult. I also generally try and explain that social media is not necessarily “where the kids are at”. Adopting social media doesn’t give you a quick route to accessing young people. Even if you are on Twitter you’ve still got to persuade them to look at you.

So rather than setting out how career services should use social media I’m going to suggest five things that you should want to do (which social media might be helpful with.

  1. Run a campaign encouraging people to care about their career and convincing them that they should be actively developing their career. This is not about providing support or giving advice but rather helping people to understand that their career will really matter and they have the potential to exert influence on how it turns out.
  2. Help people to identify and expand their networks. We know that social capital correlates with career success and that networking is an effective career development strategy and yet these things rarely have much prominence in the career support that is offered. Try turning things on their head and ask clients who they know and who they would like to know as a basis for a career conversation instead of asking what they are good at and what they want to do.
  3. Actively skill up your clients as career researchers. Show them how they can  find out what they need to know about their careers and develop their ability to reflect and draw in support.
  4. Make the most of your success stories by feeding those clients who have benefitted from your services back into current service users. Build up case studies, placement opportunities, a network of mentors and exemplars to inspire and inform.
  5. Make sure your staff are exemplary careerists. Who wants to take advice from gloomy people who hate their lives and feel trapped? Career professionals should be able to evidence high level career management skills in the way that they live their own lives and use these as a basis to talk to clients.

So there are five ideas which I think that career services should be excited by. I feel that the world of Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, blogging, social booking and so on should provide services with huge opportunities to actualise these kinds of ideas. So if any of these things inspire you then I’m happy to talk to you about how social media might help.

What the UK Independence Party has to say about education, employment and careers

The media are currently making considerable hay with the idea that UK politics as we know it has broken down for ever. On the back of some local elections and a couple of polls we are told that UKIP are the new boys in town and that within a matter of months baguettes and paella will be all but outlawed in mainland Britain.

Whether these dystopian extrapolations of polling data come to pass or not only time will tell. My guess is that it is a bit of a blip and that Farage and co have probably already peaked and that increased scrutiny and the grasshopper of media attention will eventually do for them. However, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth checking them out and seeing what they might offer if they ever get near to the levers of power.

The party has really stood on two main policy platforms so far. (1) get out of Europe and (2) reduce immigration. Both of these policies have considerable implications for careers, the first because it has the potentially to dramatically change the political economy of the country and the second because UK plc has relied on immigration to compensate for poorly managed skills policies for a long time. I heard Mike Campbell talking to the Spectator conference that I attended a couple of weeks ago. He said that while he was on the Home Office’s advisory committee on skilled immigration he had seen a list of skills regularly produced to aid decision making about what immigrants to let in. What he had been unable to do was to get BIS to engage with this list of national skills needs and use it to drive education and training policy. Clearly this kind of disconnect needs to be addressed, but unless it is addressed, simply cutting off skilled immigration is likely to leave some big gaps in the economy.

However, once we move beyond UKIPs headline issues what else is there. The UKIP website has a section called What we stand for this covers self-government (AKA get out of Europe), the economy (AKA get out of Europe and cut public services), protect our borders (AKA cut immigration), crime (AKA tough on crime, nothing about the causes of crime), care and support for all (a rag bag of ideas on the public sector) and our way of life (AKA no to multi-culturalism, yes to smoking in doors, yes to hunting). All in all a slightly weird set of platforms with nothing very substantial to say about education or employment.

There are a few promises that do relate to education and employment policy. These are:

  • Give parents school vouchers to allow them to choose their children’s schools.
  • Support grammar schools and vocational education.
  • End the 50% university target for school leavers , scrap tuition fees and reintroduce student grants.

Which are interesting. The first one is presumably a way to direct state subsidy to private schools. The second is familiar Tory ground, but the third one seems to head off in a different direction, perhaps suggesting the need for a more elite but smaller university system.

The recent local election manifesto throws a little more light on some of this with the education policy set out as follows

Build more grammar schools, reinstate the student grant and educational maintenance allowance, encourage vocational apprenticeships, give parents the right to choose where their children go to school, protect rural schools, more support for home schooling and introduce elected county education boards.

Some of which I can agree with, whilst other bits look set to increase the divisive culture of selection that the last couple of governments have presided over. More interestingly the party also promises to devolve budgets to communities and support the development of greater amounts of youth services. However, the cuts to Connexions are not acknowledged.

If you go back to the 2010 election manifesto you can get some more detail still, although as the site points out, this is not necessarily current policy. This platform makes the parties position much clearer. It is about cutting public spending (although not in the areas of defence or nuclear power), reducing employment protection, developing some big public investment programmes to stimulate job creation, privatising education through a voucher scheme, focusing education on the “three Rs”, educational selection, an ominous commitment to “proper discipline” in schools,  moving kids with disabilities out of the mainstream school system, and strengthening entry to employment programmes whilst increasing benefit conditionality.

There is a lot more that you could say, but you probably get the flavour of it from this. In essence UKIP is a standard right wing party with a few oddball populist policies that give it its own unique brand. Because of its newness there are some serious inconsistencies that would need to be worked through if it were ever to operationalise its policy platform. However, this kind of policy inconsistency is not uncommon (even for parties in government).

UKIP are rather a long way from getting my vote. However, I can see that they might be able to appeal to a particular constituency. If they manage to do this I would have thought that it leaves the Tories high and dry. My guess is that they will fail in this, but my worry is that they will drag the centre of gravity of British politics further to the right as they thrash around on the edges.

I’m off to stock up on Merlot and sauerkraut.

You have been warned.