Monthly Archives: October 2011

Careers news: uni figures, temp conditions, rating degrees and careers advice

Here’s a quick gathering of recent news in the Careers field.

Firstly (unsurprisingly, in the year fees have rocketed up) the number of applicants to UCAS has fallen noticeably. Don’t get too excited – it’s not fallen by the amount youth unemployment has risen, and a degree’s not a meal ticket any more. Unsurprisingly, given that getting a degree will now cost you a quarter of the value of a house in some parts of the UK, students will increasingly see themselves as customers – which explains why Which has decided to starting rating and ranking uni courses in the UK.

However, note the rise of temporary / agency work. More and more jobs and companies are taking workers on only through agencies. This rather nasty trick is to ensure they don’t need to give them normal employment rights. Even when the EU has passed a law to give most normal employment rights to temporary workers, it turns out big companies like Tesco are asking their staff to waive their new rights – the implicit threat being no waive = no job. Don’t end up in agency work if you can avoid it. It’s slavery by another name.

At the other end of the scale, you might like to look at the Telegraph’s top ten best-paid jobs in the UK. It’s a bit of a nonsense because (a) it massively underestimates some at the top of the list, (b) it ignores self-employed in some of these fields, who tend to earn more, (c) it’s all about being “top” of the organisations they name which, whilst nice, is not a realistic aim generally – you should expect more to be a successful middle-ranker and check those typical salaries.

Lastly and definitely not leastly, it turns out that people like me are not totally useless after all – while there is an ongoing rise in online or telephone careers advice, it seems some people are missing the personal touch of a Careers advisor in their own school. Don’t forget to book a meeting to come and talk to me about your future if you like. You might like to tell the Guardian about what you think of careers advice.

Subject blogs

DBS subject teachers increasingly use subject-specific blogs to provide information to students (and parents who wish to see it.)

Scroll down the right-hand side to find links to a number of these.

ISCO / Futurewise evening

Thanks to all those who came to the ISCO / Futurewise evening the other night with Martin Minshall. (That link will take you to the website.)

To find out about signing up and payment arrangements, please see Miss Pennock.

If you weren’t able to attend but are interested – ISCO is a careers advice website with very, very in-depth resources and we recommend it to all KS4 students and up: click the link above to have a look around. A one-off fee is applicable but the support includes online and telephone support and advice right up to age 23. See Miss Pennock to sign up.

BBC3 “Up for hire”

The savvy may have noticed that BBC3 (with BBC Radio 1) are running something called “Up For Hire“, asking whether business takes young people seriously and gives them the chance they deserve.

Worth having a glance through if you’re interested in young people’s careers.

Confidence in your qualifications and the UK education system and economy

While we’re on the topic of positive thinking, you should avoid getting too down because this blog links you to a load of depressing articles about the future being bleak. If you’re well-qualified, you’ll find a way to do well. Try reading this TES article about a government review which found A-levels are as tough as any equivalent qualification worldwide.

By the same token, you might be interested in the New York Times’ rejection of the UK government’s insistence that everything is disaster in the real economy: they call it “self-inflicted misery”.

Whilst we need to be aware that the world economy is an increasingly difficult place – for both jobs / careers and also for business – don’t forget the international value of a British-style education. A-level is still, in many senses, the “gold standard” internationally.

An amazing future

Amidst all the current gloom, it’s eminently possible for us to forget the excitement inherent in the kind of amazing work done at universities. If you’re feeling like you’re wondering why bother, take a look at this list of major scientific projects being worked on in British universities right now.

Most of this work is graduate level and beyond, of course – but the point is: only by doing well, going on to university and getting involved with the brilliant people who work there will you have a chance to work in these rewarding (and well-paid?) fields.

International league tables for quality of schooling

Further to the 2 Million Minutes post, which I strongly encourage you to watch the video links from –

Thanks to Zara in year 13 who spotted this week’s BBC article about the rise of Shanghai to the top of the international league table in the global PISA rankings for quality of education. Well worth a read.

University of the Arts, London

A guest speaker from the University of the Arts, London, is coming to DBS to give a talk about their post-18 courses (art, design, fashion, communication / media), and take any questions you might have.

Even if you don’t have exactly that university in mind, anyone with an interest in an Arts course should attend if they can.

The meeting will be in Miss Kelly’s room on Thursday 20th October at 1pm. Please let Miss Kelly know if you’d like to attend.

2 Million Minutes

2 Million Minutes, that I told you about in KS4/5 assembly, is a programme about the amount of time in total that American Seniors have in High School – basically, year 9 upwards. It compares two able children in each of the US, India and China and what they’re doing to make sure the have the best qualifications and break into the career they want.

You can watch the much-reduced summary videos on YouTube: part 1 and part 2, totalling about 15 minutes.

It’s worth bearing in mind not just the moral point (how lucky you are to be born where you were, to parents with a decent income, and attending a well-resourced school with excellent standards, highly qualified staff and small classes – most of the world does not have this) but also the sense that

  • if you’re not careful you’ll waste these natural advantages of incredibly supportive teachers – do you really think any employer is going to give you second chances at homework, 6 weeks’ close support to do a personal statement or tolerate poor work? bosses won’t be as forgiving or supportive as teachers
  • whilst young people in those other countries don’t have anything like the advantages you do, many of them – many millions of them! – realise that education could be their only route out of poverty, and work incredibly hard for it… are you sure you’re working as hard as them?

We don’t want you to be terrified of the career market, or think you have no future. You’re bright, engaged young people with great prospects. But don’t sleepwalk. Step it up.

Lessons from the DIAC trip

Firstly, for those who didn’t get to go on the DIAC trip – there was a mad rush of late interest so the good news is it was sufficient that we may be able to organise another trip. The Week of Welcome at DIAC will no longer be on, but seeing real life on the campus might be more interesting and realistic anyway. We may go back to DIAC itself, or to the partner campus at Knowledge Village. Any likely trip will not be until late November now, but watch this space – I will post details in good time. The separate universities also have open days of their own so search their sites.

For those who went, I’d like to offer a few things to reflect on:


Murdoch showed us Media and IT course facilities, along with the small and focused library, but with a laid-back approach; Esmod was a very practical, hands-on fashion and design workshop – you got a real sense of professional industry training and incredibly high standards; at Heriot-Watt we got a no-nonsense sense of the way university life works and what it aims to provide you with.

From all of them, and indeed from the range of difference itself, you should see that the leap from school is vast: these places provide incredible facilities schools can’t, narrowly focused on the professional area of study. The moral of the story: choose carefully the course of interest to you, to take best advantage of these amazing facilities.

PROFESSIONALISM – the onus is on YOU

Allied to this sense of incredible resources was a sense (particularly at the latter two, where real members of faculty were talking to you) that you will have the privilege at university to study under people who really know their stuff – real experts. Uni lecturers are not teachers – they are experts focused on a professional level. Where school teachers come down to work at your level of ability to help you improve, uni is about you rising to the level of the professionals you learn from. The moral of the story: what’s the point in a uni course if you don’t reach professional standards by the end of year 2 of 3? Why will you have spent all that money and wasted all that time otherwise?


I particularly liked the sense at Esmod (although the others referred to it too) that real and leading industry companies – Christian Dior, Estee Lauder etc – will come and stage fashion shows etc in Dubai, and will use Esmod students (and often only Esmod students) as their backstage help. This kind of work experience is unbelievably critical in any vocational industry (and many non-vocational ones too), as is the chance to secure placements. Don’t gripe about long hours. Don’t gripe about being unpaid. This is the make-or-break stuff getting into an industry – any industry. The moral of the story: don’t go into a field you’re not prepared to work damned hard in.

And while you’re at it – if you don’t do half a dozen different “contribution” or “participation” things at school (prefectship, house vice captaincy, D of E, more ECAs than the minimum, sports, etc etc etc) you will note that – not only will this have to change at university (you’ll need to be heavily involved in as many things as you can to have a chance of breaking into the industry of your choice), but – without those “breadth” things on your CV – you may not get to the institution you want to get to in the first place. You need to excel at school to get to the best places at the next stage. The moral of the story: do more, do better, and do it now.


It follows from the above that if you’re going to stake your future on this, and spend possibly hundreds of thousands of dirhams on a given university and course for three years, it had better be good, and had better get you into the industry you want to be in. Look carefully at websites and prospectuses. Don’t just settle for the one you like first – actively research the competitors. Compare the evidence of real industry links for each. Fun, informative, engaging and well-taught are nice criteria for a uni course, but it better give you the BREAKTHROUGH you need as well. Write a list of tough questions and ask them at each place you visit. The moral of the story: you’re the customer.


I know plenty of the year 11s who came are now considering going straight onto a university foundation course after GCSE, rather than A-level. I’m pleased you’re considering all your options and for some of you it will be just the right thing – for many others it will not, and A-levels will be a more suitable choice. More about this in forthcoming weeks in PSHE / assemblies. Remember that even for a foundation course you need good GCSEs, and especially good English and Maths – when we walked through the lecture theatre at Murdoch, it was foundation English that was being taught and the lecturer stopped me on the way through – actually grabbed me as I passed! – and said “Make sure you teach them to write good basic academic reports! Make sure they realise how important the basic English and Maths is, even for foundation courses.” You heard it here first.


Have a good think back about everything you saw. Go to more open days yourself, and sieze any chances we offer as soon as we can. Start your research for your next stage as soon as possible.