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Monday, 1 December 2014

Learn and earn with a degree apprenticeship

Would-be students aiming to acquire a maths degree may well be tempted to study at a university in the Middle East. Understandable, really, given the crucial role the region played in the development of mathematics, beginning some 8,000 years ago.

Of course, back then, organized agriculture began to dominate and shape society. Thus, for the first time, there was a need to divide up land accurately, work out crop yields, and then at some point collect the appropriate amount of taxes from the farmers of the day. Mathematics made all of that possible.

Golden age

Move forward seven millennia, to the golden age of science and mathematics which flourished under the Islamic Empire. This golden age, which began in the 9th century and then lasted for 600 years, saw high points such as the widespread adoption of the Hindu numerical system (1-9 and 0) and the development of algebra, the abstract mathematical language we all love and still use today.

Indeed, modern-day students embarked on a master of science in mathematics or similar degree programme might do well to spend a minute or two reflecting on the genius of Persian mathematicians Muhammad Al-Khwarizmi and Muhammad Al-Karaji, both giants of the golden age.

Government initiative

However, if homage is out of the question and the Middle East a little too far away for comfort, there's always the UK to fall back on, even although the competition for a university place gets tougher by the year. But now there could be another option open to students, the degree apprenticeship.

This latest UK government initiative, launched this month (November 2014), allows young people to complete a full honours degree alongside their employment while paying no student fees and earning a wage throughout. Sounds like a very promising idea, one which is likely to prove popular, too.

The scheme will start rolling out in September 2015 and is aimed, in the first instance, at the digital sector. It should particularly suit people embarking on careers ranging from business analysis to software development and technology consultancy.

A fully-integrated degree

And according to the government, the new programme includes a fully-integrated degree, testing both academic learning and on-the-job practical training, and has been co-created by leading tech employers and top universities.

A number of employers involved in the Tech Partnership, a group of firms working together to create the skills and jobs the digital industry needs, have already committed to offering degree apprenticeships.

These include Accenture, BT, Capgemini, CGI, Ford, Fujitsu, GlaxoSmithKline, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), Hewlett Packard, IBM, John Lewis, Lloyds Banking Group, Network Rail and Tata Consulting Services.

Universities including Aston, Exeter, Greenwich, Loughborough, Manchester Metropolitan, University College London, University of the West of England and Winchester will be supporting the courses and are working with employers to offer these degrees.

One million vacancies

Tech Partnership board member and Capgemini UK chairman Christine Hodgson, said, “The government's support for this new route into employment will enable young people to build the academic and practical skills needed for success in the tech sector and will help create the talent needed to boost the digital economy.”

It is hoped the initiative will help to fill the one million vacancies expected in the digital sector in the next decade. Prospective apprentices will be able to apply to the companies offering degree apprenticeships once the vacancies are advertised next year. These companies will then work with the relevant universities to select the students most able to be successful in both the degree and their career.

Two-thirds of the costs of the training and course fees will be paid by the government and employers will fund the rest, including the wages of apprentices.

Why Freelancing is Perfect for University Students

We understand that being able to financially survive at university can be a real struggle for you students. Come the end of each term, you’re most likely picking pennies from your wallet after you pretty much drained your student finance on heavy drinking and microwave meals. When it comes to making money as a student, you tend to get yourselves a part time job in a local cafe or bar just to cover over the cracks of your damaged bank balance, but realistically you’re too lazy to get off your backside and go look for one. If this sounds like you then we're going to tell you why going freelance is ideal for you as a student.

First of all, it gets you money, that’s right you get paid, it’s money that you have earned all by yourself and you didn't have to beg mum and dad! Freelancing is a great hobby to have as it expands across many professions, from writing to design. Who wouldn't want to earn money from what you love doing? Just remember that it isn't easy money, freelancing requires a lot of hard work, organisation and determination.

Now, we are aware that you all have a lot of essay writing and revision to be getting on with, but
when you think of it, freelancing is the perfect revision tactic. For all those writers out there, it helps you practice your essay writing techniques and gives you an alternative revision method other than staring at your messy note book day in day out. As for designers, how is it beneficial you guys? Well, a stronger portfolio for starters, and your projects would be a great inclusion for all your coursework, and can put you a few steps ahead of everyone else when it comes to those all important interviews. 

Once you eventually graduate from university, the next stage is obviously to find yourself a job but, let’s be honest, you aren't going to just walk into one just because you have a degree. Many students walked out of university years ago with their qualification and are still unemployed. Freelancing may be your only option, but with your experience during university you should have no problem getting started. It’s almost like being a student full time. Writing essays, managing your own time and meeting deadlines.The knowledge you learned on your course will play into your favour and will benefit your understanding of the clients’ desires if you wish to use your degree as your specialist topic.

OK, so you’ve made the decision to be a freelancer but you may be worried about the irregularity of money in the industry. Whilst you may wish to move forward and buy that dream house for yourself or your family, the unbalanced income holds you back from gaining a mortgage. However companies such as Contractor Financials who work with contractors and freelancers will be able to financially support you throughout your career.

Freelancing is about building good relationships with your clients. If you can deliver the goods then the client will come back for more, and they may even bring a few friends into the picture. It’s about making a name for yourself, and you want people saying all the right things about you. The more you deliver then the more you’re rewarded with. For more information and tips on becoming a freelancer, check out this article from The Guardian. Oh and don't forget to keep a beady eye on the latest jobs on StudentGems as well!

Thursday, 23 October 2014

The best student jobs that pay more than National Minimum Wage

We say that joy can be found in even the most mundane student jobs. Waitressing for a fiery chef in the town’s most pretentious restaurant? Think of the tips! Slogging away in the student bar at 2am? At least you won’t wake up with a hangover.

But some student jobs are just grim, let’s be honest. And when you’re totalling up whether that 4 hours of your life you’ve just spent answering customer complaints is worth 20-odd-quid, it’s easy to dream of a part time job where you can rock up in your jeans, do something you love, or even just wonder “I can’t believe they’re paying me for this!”.

Our ‘dream student job’ round-up is comprised of real jobs with pay that’ll trump your usual modest rate. Fancy eating for a living or developing skills you can directly use in your future career? Bring on the money!

Food taster

If your university (or a college or university in the same city) offer any sort of food technology or nutrition course then pay attention – this could lead to the best job you’re likely to have. Ever.

Food tasters usually work on behalf of a specific supermarket and the sessions will be coordinated by university staff or students involved with the food and nutrition department. Typically this sort of work is popular with retired people and students who have the odd couple of hours free but can’t commit to regular part time work.

You don’t have to like everything to be a food taster and, if students who have done this type of work are anything to go by, you won’t be tasting any iffy prototypes – you’ll be testing the stuff which usually ends up on the shelves. ‘Employees’ will usually be notified via email when shifts are taking place and what they will be sampling. Tasting sessions will usually be held during the day and will last 1-2 hours.

Typical wage – Between £7/£8.50 per hour + holiday pay.

Find it: This seems to be very much a university/supermarket collaboration, so speak to nutrition departments and ask to be notified if anything comes up. Check university job boards too.

Accounts assistant

A nice office job is ideal when you want your weekends free and if you’re really lucky, a good, flexible boss should be happy to let you work your shifts around those deadlines.

A job in accounts or administration can undoubtedly equip you with more ‘business’ focused tasks. From helping with tax returns to assisting with sales and ‘paperwork’, this style of work can tell graduate employers that you’re organised and comfortable in a professional working environment.
You also have the opportunity to have more of an impact on the company too – why not suggest helping with a small company’s social media? If your boss started work when social media (or even the internet) wasn’t widely used, then simply offering to set up social profiles and monitoring them can help develop your online marketing skills.

Victoria, a recent graduate who worked in both a retail and accounts role simultaneously, believes that working as an assistant for a small landscape company offered far more than a high street retail role:

“I don’t feel that working in retail offered as many transferable skills as working for a small local business. My office job allowed me to have a real impact and the company owner gave me a lot of responsibility. Even basic typing and phone answering allows you to have an impact in managing the day to day operations of the business”.

Typical wage: £6.50 + per hour

Find it: Check your university jobs board for local opportunities or scour job boards and local recruitment agencies.

Post-graduate research participant

This isn’t about taking part in lengthy and potentially invasive trials, it’s about finding those little gems that pay you for simply sampling a new app or keeping a nutritional diary (true story).

Often word can get around from friends of friends looking for help with their postgraduate research, but look out for emails too. Departments will often send out information on behalf of their students and, in most cases, the students looking for participants will work around you. Suddenly that study session in the library has merged into a 20 minute interview and a £10 Amazon voucher in your back pocket.

Typical wage: Anything from vouchers to cash (£10-£50 is typical)

Find it: Be diligent with emails and department notice boards and keep your ears open.

‘Digital Guru’- Freelance work

Student Gems are awash with small business owners looking for CMS help, copyediting or part time web development. While you may sometimes be working with a small business owner or self-employed individual (so a graduate role might not always be possible), the benefit of this ‘semi-freelance’ work is that you can work from home when it suits you.

The great thing about this sort of work is that you can really develop career-related skills. From dress making work to photography, many students have found themselves well on the way to self-employment by harnessing their existing skills. It goes without saying, never give personal information out online and aim to meet a potential employer in a busy public place. Ideally arrange for a friend to drop you off and pick you up too.

Both students and employers can leave feedback on Student Gems, so check any potential employers before starting work.

Typical wage – Varies considerably from one off fees to hourly rates. We’d recommend knowing your worth where this is concerned – freelance web developers can charge a hefty hourly fee, so make sure your professional services are being valued.

Find it: – sign up for the newsletters to get regular notifications.

Work directly for your university

University jobs are often competitive as everyone wants to work on campus. 10 minutes from home and 5 minutes to lectures? What’s not to like?!

Applying during the summer before you’re due to start is a good way to get around this competitive element when university bars, cafes and shops are usually looking to replace students who have just graduated.

The great thing about working for your university is that it’s a little like working for your uncle Bill. You’re expected to pull your weight, but your employer has a vested interest in you. This means that those awkward “I can’t really work 35 hours a week around my MA in Civil Engineering degree” conversations are unlikely to come up. Most universities don’t like their students to work anymore than 16 hours a week and any university employers (or franchises) will be well aware of this.

There can also be surprising managerial rewards for students willing to stick it out. Often, student nights are staffed entirely by students with one or two shift managers. After 2-3 years of work students staying on for their MA often get a higher wage in-keeping with extra duties (for example training new members of staff or holding keys to store rooms etc.)

Claire, who recently graduated from the University of Manchester, was employed by the university in her final year and found it easier than she'd thought to juggle the job with her increasing workload, thanks to the supportive university staff:

"In the first semester of my final year I found myself with a lot of free periods in my timetable, so I applied for a university ambassador job. Being an ambassador involved manning the reception desk in the main university building, answering queries and giving advice to students. This could range from where certain lectures were being held to what they should do if they weren’t settling into uni life.

As I was in my final year I knew the campus well, so was always able to help people or point them in the direction of someone who could. When the desk wasn’t busy I was able to get on with my work on the computers provided. This was a plus because I knew I’d have real trouble finding a free computer anywhere else in the busy university!

Eventually, when my workload became too much and I had to cut down my shifts, the uni staff were really understanding and supportive. Overall it was a really valuable part-time job. I learnt more about the university, met some lovely people and developed skills to add to my CV.”

Typical wage: usually slightly more than National Minimum Wage

Find it: Your university job shop or careers portal

Have a similar student job which you want to shout from the rooftops? Let us know what you do and where you found it.

Victoria is a recent graduate and blogger for IEC Abroad, an international education consultancy which specialises in helping international students apply to universities around the world.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

5 ingredients on running a new start-up

The recent economic downturn has left many people out of a job and looking for work. Although, this is not all bad as many people have now turned to starting their own business as a way to make money. Many students and graduates have used StudentGems as a stepping stone to test the self employment market. Running your own business can be difficult but there are five steps, which if followed, can help you to start your own company with a bit more ease.

The idea
The idea is important as it is the initial basis for your business, but it isn’t necessarily the only thing that is important. The idea is only the beginning of a company and it often is something that changes halfway through the process; be sure to be open to new ideas and changing your original thoughts if you have to.

The people
People are the main profit creators of any company and they help to create the culture and heart of a business. This is why it is so important to hire the right people. People provide information, knowledge, techniques, contacts and skills when they join a company, so make sure to hire those that will be able to benefit your business and work as efficiently as they possibly can.

Market Research
Make sure to gather the correct information that you need with regard to the right market, and niche that you require. This is important as there would be no point trying to sell your idea to those that have no interest in buying it.

Getting the message out there
There are many ways to spread your message, and advertising yourself through print as well as online is a good option to choose. You can do this through business cards, posters and flyers. Creative business cards can be extremely important to the growth of your business. The online print company Instant Print say: “Prospective clients will hold on to colour business cards 10x longer than a standard one!

Generating Revenue
Cash flow needs to be managed effectively as most start-ups fail due to a lack of cash flow. There should however, be a minimum amount of time spent planning and more time spend doing. Whilst revenue is very important, coming up with plans, ideas and administration should be something that doesn’t take up too much time.

Start-ups are tricky and need to be managed effectively. As the company grows and changes, different approaches will be also need to be altered in order to work effectively.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Three Tools to Help You Organize your Classroom

Keeping organized is one of the biggest challenges for any teacher – especially as classroom sizes are growing.

The numbers that were released last summer were astounding. A report released by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said, essentially, that the UK was doing things backwards—that our large class size early in life and smaller class size later is doing a disservice to our students; that smaller classes are more beneficial to younger students and that increasing class size in the teen years probably won’t have much of an impact.

The report also released class size numbers for all of the other nations that are members of the Organisation. We in the UK have the third largest class sizes. The only two countries with more students per class are Chile, with an average of 30.4 students per class and China, with a whopping 38 students per class. No wonder our teachers are having a hard time staying organized!

If you were teaching only one class a day, 25 students (our actual number is 24.8) might not seem like a lot. Unfortunately many teachers, especially those in the higher grades, could easily teach upwards of four classes a day; that’s a minimum of 100 students to keep track of.

Luckily, there are several tools to help you keep track of the administrative end of things – class schedules, attendance, assignments, grades, and so on – so you can focus more on your students.

School-Sponsored Electronic Planners

Some schools are helping teachers and students get and stay organized by introducing 1:1 organizational devices. The schools can then install online student planner apps, like the ones made by Meridian Planners, on the devices to allow students and teachers access to a central organizational database. Students and staff can also use their own devices, or BYOD, instead of having one issued by the school.

The advantage to the centralized electronic planner is that when you update assignments or schedule tests, the information is disseminated to all of your students at once, even if they missed class that day. It also allows parents to use their smart phones, and similar web-enabled devices, to keep track of their children’s schedules and assignments, as well as school events like parent-teacher conferences.

If your school does not have an electronic planner system in place, you could suggest the Meridian Planner system, or something similar, to the administration. In the interim, here are a few other tools to help you keep your classes and students organized.


Edmodo is considered the “Facebook for schools.” It’s a website where students, parents, and teachers can all share information including assignments, quizzes, and events. You can post messages to students and parents, and vice versa. You can also use it to collaborate with your peers, and leave information for substitute teachers. Like Facebook, Edmodo also has an app that you can load onto your tablet, smart phone, or iPhone.

Like the Meridian Planner, Edmodo allows you to do all of your organization and reach all of your students through one simple tool. Unlike the Meridian Planner, it does not automatically load or update your student’s schedules, or school events -- that all has to be entered manually. Also, you have to rely on your students to sign up for Edmodo versus the Meridian system with is issued to the student through the school. However, for schools that don’t have the Meridian system set up, Edmodo is a decent alternative.

Remind 101

Remind 101 is a text messaging service that allows you to communicate with parents and students without using private contact information. All you need to do is open an account at the Remind 101 site, and then have your students and their parents subscribe to your texts. Then you can send out group text messages regarding assignments and other class information, and all your subscribers will receive it.

This is especially useful because you don’t have to keep track of individual numbers. Also, if someone’s contact information changes, they can still get texts as long as they update their number.

Although this service is limited to messaging only, it is a great way to ensure that all of your students have the most up-to-date information, even if they weren’t in class. You may need to check with your district to make sure they approve the use of Remind 101, and you will need to ensure that all of your students and their parents subscribe to your texts.