Monday, 30 January 2017

Is work experience important?

A recent survey showed two thirds of employers look for graduates with relevant work experience because it helps them prepare for work and develop general business awareness. Importantly, one third of employers felt that applicants did not have a satisfactory level of knowledge about their chosen career or job.

To gain a better understanding of a career, organise some work experience or a few days’ work shadowing with an employer. It may not give you time to develop job-specific skills, but it can give you insight into the work involved. It also shows you have motivation and commitment. Some schools, colleges, and universities may be able to organise this for you but if not, research and contact companies yourself.

Alternatively, you could gain relevant work experience as part of a vocational programme, such as a BTEC diploma or apprenticeship. You could also consider an internship, a higher education course which offers a work placement (a sandwich course), or a foundation degree.

Internships can last from a few weeks to up to a year, and could be something you organise for a summer holiday or a gap year. Depending on the type of contract, you may or may not receive a wage. Internships are available in many sectors and industries such as business, law, marketing, engineering, and hospitality, and can give you the opportunity to gain more career-specific skills and knowledge. They are very popular and competition for places is high, so you’ll need to apply as early as possible.

Sandwich degrees normally last four years and include a year working in industry with an employer. Most placements offer a salary and they are a great opportunity to gain in-depth experience of work in your chosen field.

Foundation degrees are vocational/work-related degrees. They combine academic skills and knowledge with workplace performance and productivity. They focus on a particular job role or profession and are designed in conjunction with employers.

“The first thing to look for when searching for a great employee is somebody with a personality that fits with your company culture. Most skills can be learned, but it is difficult to train people on their personality. If you can find people who are fun, friendly, caring, and love helping others, you are on to a winner. Personality is the key.” 

"One area that many young people underestimate is their inherent digital expertise. Having grown up in the digital world, many tools and technologies are second nature to them. Now is the time to capitalise on these skills and show potential employers exactly how valuable they can be."

Want to find out more?  Here are some reports and surveys which give detailed insight into the careers of the future:

Top tips and guidance from people who recruit – a great guide produced by CIPD. It’s packed full of advice directly based on what recruiters say – what they look for when they pick out the best job applications, the kinds of questions they ask at interview, and how they choose who to give the job, apprenticeship, or work experience opportunity to. You’ll also find a section on what to do if you haven’t got any work experience, including information on volunteering and how it can boost your chances of finding a job.

What are the 21st century skills every student needs? An insightful article from the World Economic Forum about the skills needs of the future, with references to key research and reports.

Working Futures (UKCES) – based on detailed labour market information, this report offers a forecast for job opportunities in the UK up to the year 2024, based on past behaviour and performance. The report isn’t intended to offer precise predictions, but an indication of which industries might expand, which might contract, and on what scale.

Careers of the Future and the Future of Work: jobs and skills in 2030 (UKCES) – a piece of research exploring the future of work, and how jobs and the skills needed in the workplace will change by 2030.

Sector Insights (UKCES) – a collection of reports that look at particular sectors in the UK to identify the outlook for jobs and skills, identify major trends affecting each sector, and how the mix of skills needs is likely to change over the next decade. These reports also investigate employers’ perceptions of the skills needs of specific occupations, and the challenges employers have in meeting those needs.

Education and skills survey 2016 – the Right Combination (CBI/Pearson) – this report provides useful insight into the skills employers are looking for, based on the results of a survey of nearly 500 organisations in the UK.

Skills Matter (OECD report): – a survey of adult skills in 28 OECD countries. It was developed to provide a picture of the match between the supply and demand for skills, how labour markets are changing, and how well equipped their citizens are to participate in and benefit from increasingly knowledge-based economies.

Social enterprise – the stuff dreams are made of

If you’re motivated by your values, have an idea, and want to make the world a better place, social enterprise could be for you.

VIDEO BOX:  to include variety of case study vids – here’s an example.

Social enterprises are businesses or projects people set up to focus on tackling social problems, improve communities, or create opportunities to improve people’s lives. There are various definitions of social enterprise, but a key feature is that they have a social or environmental objective – they’re driven by values.

You may recognise these examples of social enterprises – The Big Issue, One Water, the Eden Project, Divine Chocolate, and Jamie Oliver’s ‘Fifteen’ restaurant.

They make a profit and make a difference. Yes, they need to succeed and make money, but a key feature of many social enterprises is that half or more of the profit they make is reinvested into sustaining or growing the business. They often receive income from grants and donations, but also generate income from trading or delivering their service.

Social enterprise is growing in the UK – according to government statistics, in 2014:

  • there were an estimated 741,000 UK social enterprises – an increase of around 58,000 since 2012. The majority were small or micro businesses, employing 2.27 million people (an estimated 300,000 increase since 2012)
  • women and those from minority ethnic groups are more likely to lead social enterprises
  • higher education is actively involved – as well as offering courses to develop the knowledge and skills to become a ‘social entrepreneur’, hundreds of universities and colleges support social entrepreneurs. These social enterprise case studies give you a taste of how some of the UK’s universities and colleges are supporting students and staff in an inspiring range of social ventures. Find entrepreneurship courses on UCAS’ search tool.

Where to find out more
Social Enterprise UK – a national membership body for social enterprise, with lots of useful information and FAQs on its website.

UnLtd is the Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs and a leading provider of support and access to funding social entrepreneurs in the UK. It also works with universities and offers a range of resources where you can find out more.

Year Here offers a course for graduates in social innovation. There’s lots of information on their website and in their 2017 prospectus.

Social Enterprise Market Trends 2015 – you can find more of the most recent government statistics in this Cabinet Office report.

Association of College and University Entrepreneurs – find out how university and college students are setting up and growing their own social enterprises.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Five money tips every international student should know

Studying for a qualification in the UK could be the start of a fantastic adventure, but there are a few things you need to sort out first. Here are five financial tips to help you make the most of your studies.

1. Set up a bank account
Setting up a UK bank account gives you more security and control over your money. You can still spend it when you like, and
it’s much safer than keeping it in your pocket or hidden under your mattress.

When you open a bank account, you’ll need to show the bank or building society two types of identification:

your passport
proof of your address in the UK

Depending on the bank or building society you choose, the proof of address you need could differ – so ask before you apply.

2. Make a budget
Don’t spend all your money in one go; plan how much you can afford to spend each month and stick to it.

Your rent and bills should be your top priority, so always have the money in your account to cover these each month before you pay your other bills. Here is a checklist of the expenses you might face as a student.

If you create a budget, you know how much to set aside each month to cover your essential outgoings, and you’ll know how much you can spend on everything else.

If you have applied for student finance support, then work your budget around that. You can learn more about the types of student finance available to international students.

3. Look out for deals and bargains
Try to avoid buying your weekly shopping from small independent shops, as they often charge more for day-to-day items like milk, bread and toiletries.

Supermarkets often advertise deals throughout the year, like half-price washing powder, or buy one get one free on a pack of toilet roll.

If you know you’ll need these things throughout the month or year, you could save money by buying them when they’re on offer.

Most supermarkets also reduce some food at the end of each day. This could include meats, cheese, or any food that is due to go out of date on that day.

This happens because supermarkets need to get rid of the stock before the day ends for food regulation reasons, although the food is still safe to be eaten the same day.

4. Shop online to save money
Even if you don’t have the internet set up at your address, you can use the university internet to grab yourself a bargain on most household items.

You could save money by buying things like toiletries and cleaning supplies online, just watch out for any delivery charges.

5. Shop around for books
You will be asked by your university to buy books from a reading list to help support your studies.

These books can be expensive, especially when you have to buy several of them at once.

Most universities re-use their reading lists, which means that previous students might be selling the books you need.

To help you find a reduced copy of the books you need, try looking in second hand shops, or online at retailers like Amazon or eBay.