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Thursday, 28 May 2009

'Sorry, there were more experienced candidates'

It is the ultimate catch 22, you haven't got enough experience for the job but you can't get experience if someone doesn't give you a break and employ you! Its something a multitude of soon-to-be graduates are going through at the moment.

Universities and businesses developed an ingenious process to help tackle this, the year in industry. Students on certain courses take a year out from their studies, usually their third year, to work in a business where they can apply what they have studied. These sandwich degrees have been very popular at some Universities and are, in my opinion, brilliant. Students can 'test-out' if the job they were interested in is right for them, knowing that it is only for a fixed term. Businesses can assess how appropriate the candidate is for a permanent position, usually on a lower salary and decide whether or not to offer them a job when they graduate.

However, a
BBC Article has discovered that in this economic climate fewer businesses are willing to take on placement students and Universities are having to adapt degree courses accordingly. It seems that students studying in the construction sector have been worst hit and yet they benefit a great deal from the experience.

To make things worse, the Careers Development Officer advises looking further a field possibly nationally or internationally. I doubt that he has had to support himself for a year on the sort of salary that placement students are offered. If it was as easy as going anywhere and not having to pay rent, bills etc then there wouldn't be a problem. It infuriates me that this is the best advice the University can offer and it is not at all practical!

With opportunities becoming less available and employers less willing to take chances on inexperienced people how do you beat the catch 22? Students can increase their breadth of experience and employability by finding part-time, freelance, ad-hoc and temporary work through This will help them earn money now and improve their prospects later. Volunteering for registered charities is also an excellent way to get experience which many HR personnel recognise.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Students Understand and Utilise

... the complaints procedures. According to a new BBC story student complaints to the University Ombudsman increased by 23% in 2008 following a 25% increase the previous year. Whilst it seems that only a small proportion of these were appropriate for the Ombudsman's attention it nevertheless indicates what the BBC has described as, 'a "cultural change" with fee-paying students wanting more value for money.'. Quite right too, I say.

A majority of complaints have been in relation to plagiarism issues and postgraduate degrees. Foreign students, who pay even higher fees than the rest of us, have complained about differences in plagiarism here and abroad, which have presumably resulted in them being penalised. Some postgraduates have complained after not receiving sufficient timely feedback as to their progress which has resulted in their major thesis not achieving the standard that they believed they were at.

I do not think it is unreasonable that as people are expected to pay more for their education they should receive a better service. The problem is that all Universities charge the same fees, Universities do not need to prove what they are investing the money in, in order to justify the fees. A majority of Universities seem to invest in fancy new buildings, to awe young people. Yet I have a personal issue with the fact that recommended texts for some of my courses are not available in the University library! Surely a much more important issue which would cost considerably less to rectify!

If I ever complain to my Mum about something breaking she always says "you get what you pay for" and that is obviously right, when it comes to market economics. So why doesn't this apply to University education? Fees should not be uncapped, but the Civil Service should assess Universities and their plans for investment and then specify how much they can charge. This would enable students to differentiate between institutions and know that the debt they will graduate with was worth while. It will also ensure that Universities have structured, sensible investment plans which students should be able to view when considering their University choices. The options are endless but something undoubtedly needs to be done.

In the mean time consumers of University education aka students will continue to demand more for their money and will increasingly complain when they are dissatisfied.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

A Dragon not hoarding the Gold?!!

Bannatyne Fitness recorded an £8.2 million pre-tax profit earlier this month, a £5.5 million increase on 2007, according to the Telegraph.

100% Owner and Director of the company Duncan Bannatyne did not take dividends from the company, choosing to re-invest the money in order to weather this storm saying that "I just don't need the money". Lucky for some, eh!

Bannatyne chose to reinvest the money in improving customer service and maximising profits, as opposed to expanding and over-stretching themselves. Bannatyne said, "in 2008 what we decided to do because of the banking crisis we decided to stop expanding and focus the group on maximising profits. Our turnover is up 2pc on 2008, so we are trading well."

Furthermore, Bannatyne Fitness's highest paid director received a £30,000 pay increase in 2008 despite economic conditions. Considering the success the business has had in the same period it would seem that investing in valued staff is well worth it.

So how can we follow Bannatyne's example?
  • Try not to over-stretch your business. If you do not have the means to support a sudden influx of customers then they will not last long. Instead try to maintain existing customer relationships and expand carefully, ensuring that new customers will value your business and maintain loyalty.
  • Don't take more than is necessary. Consider taking a salary cut in order to keep as much in the business as possible for long term development and profits.
  • Value your staff. You may not be able to give them a pay rise, but be open with them. Tell them you are taking a pay cut (if you are!). Maybe suggest they work from home every now and then, so they can have a lie in. Happy employees are far more productive.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Will Sugar Sweeten the Dragon's Endorsement?

Last week Theo Paphitis endorsed the new National Skills Academy for Retail saying that being a Shopkeeper taught him everything he needed to know about business. Retailers and the Government agree that now is the time to be investing in skills and ensuring that staff achieve their potential.

The National Skills Academy for Retail provides top quality training for everyone in the industry, whether you are looking to enter Retail, progress your career in Retail or want to train your staff in Retail. The main interface of the National Skills Academy for Retail is their retail skills shops located in shopping centres across the UK. For a list of the locations click
here. A Retail Ambassador Programme has also been created where people go to educational institutions and encourage students to consider a career in retail. For more information on this scheme click here.

The Academy has been created with significant input from stores such as Boots, House of Fraser and John Lewis. Therefore, you are sure to be learning skills employers’ value that will help increase productivity and undoubtedly sales.

‘Just Browsing’ section of the website is clear, concise and certainly answers all your immediate questions about the scheme and what you can gain from it, either as an employee or an employer. I definitely recommend taking a look, it will not take up much of your time and if you think you could benefit from the scheme, which most people can, then it will be 100% worth it.