career decisions

The nudge, nudge future of CEIAG

One of the most substantial and thought-provoking pieces of work on Careers published in the last year was the Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC) commissioned report “Moments of Choice” which I looked at here.

The report was written by the Behavioural Insights Team and it gave the CEC plenty of conclusions on which to plan their own future work

We will highlight key messages, alerting schools and colleges to the types of conversations that young people should be having and when they should be having them; the types of information they should consider in those conversations; the mistakes that young people typically make and, perhaps most importantly of all, the things that they do not need to worry about.

on how young people wanted to consume Careers IAG

moments of choice1

and how the CEC would go about trying to achieve that

moments of choice2

In the past weeks two projects have come to light which show the way that this future Careers IAG apparatus might work in practice.

First was another Insights Team piece of research which used a three year randomised controlled trial to find that sending letters of encouragement to high achieving young people in Year 12, “penned” by students from similar backgrounds, increased the number of applications and acceptances to Russell Group universities. This kind of cost-effective intervention (printing and posting some mail merge letters are a lot cheaper than Careers Advisers) can be highly targeted using not only GCSE attainment data but also parental income data now available.

This type of intervention is small-scale when compared to Careers choice help for all young people outlined by the CEC above but we can see how such interventions could be scalable yet still retain an element of personalisation to the message so desired by the young people themselves as well as using technology to more be responsive to users needs.

An example of how this type of personalised messaging system could be used to aid Careers decisions can found in another Behaviour Insights Team project called Promptable.

Aimed at FE students, Promptable uses text messages to text students and nominated “Study Supporters” weekly with reminders and prompt discussions about revision and tutor feedback in the build up to exams. The Team found that students who took part in the Promptable trials boosted their College attendance and exam performance.

Imagine a similar system designed for secondary school age young people and nominated “Supporters” discussing Careers choices at appropriate landmarks. Schools or Colleges ask students to sign up to the site, the school has uploaded their own timeline for PHSE or Careers lessons, for Key Stage 4 choices, for specific visits, talks or careers fairs, for Key Stage 5 choices, for Higher Education plans, links to CEIAG online resources etc etc and then the site sends prompting texts to students and “Supporters” to discuss these milestones or enable Supporters to remind students to attend events. As with Promptable, you could even have the student complete a short questionnaire on sign up outlining areas of interest which they can tailor by sending code texts back (“to out of messages about events please text EVENTS STOP back to this number”) which would also notify the Supporter so a discussion could be had (“actually I think it would be good if you did go to that Apprenticeship Information Evening”).

This kind of interaction fulfills all of the requirements of an easily accessible, horizon broadening intervention method that also encourages personalised face to face discussions. CEIAG event notification and student tracking systems are already on the market through products such as Grofar but this system has the added impetus (or nudge) method of the Supporter, known to the student and offering  chance for discussion. Some in the CEIAG community would ask where in this system does the CEIAG professional fit in? As the local architect of the educational establishment’s profile on the main website, the organiser of the provision, the record keeper of attendance and the option of face to face guidance as another method of provision to be offered to the student body but most of all, as the face of encouraging student sign up to the system would be my proposal.

Large scale systems face a balance between creating systems that work for the majority yet be flexible enough to impact the individual. The communication method of results of systems like Promptable and the targeted use of household data to tailor messages to young people such as the “Encouraging people into University” report could show the way on how this is feasible in CEIAG.

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The rise of the career advice vlogger

Getting messages out there in an increasingly crowded and noisey media landscape can’t be easy. Especially when your target audience swings between hyperactivity and utter indifference as often as teenagers tend to do.

I am not a branding or communication specialist but if I were, I would imagine that a key message in Branding 101 is “inhabit the space in which your target audience communicates.” It is perhaps no surprise then that a trend seems to be growing among stakeholders who are keen to promote career ideals to young people in starting to utilise the art of vlogging to spread their message.

Vlogging, in internet terms, isn’t new and has lead to a whole new breed of celebrity whose ability to speak directly and frequently with their loyal audiences has meant that brands have been quick to piggy back their products into the medium. Mostly though, vloggers have regular themes (fashion, gaming, travel, challenges) which they return to through their “daily life” stories. The trick that industry organisations such as Tomorrow’s Engineers or government backed bodies such as YOUR LIFE are now trying to achieve is to make the “career journey” the main theme of the vlogs and each channel.

Tomorrow’s Engineers have taken the route of hiring two young people in the early stages of their own STEM career journey and asking them to document their progress. The newest to the process seems like Nayeeb who is in his 3rd year at UCL (rule 1 of vlogging; look at the lens and stop checking out your hair on the viewfinder) while Lily, seems to have more of a blogging background having been running a lifestyle blog and (relatively) small scale twitter for a few years.

The YOUR LIFE team have taken a different approach. Rather than focus on more unknown internet personalities and attempt to build them up, they have appointed a number of vloggers who already have growing followings. The Mandeville Sisters with a feed of lifestyle, fashion and movie events (Youtube followers: about 51,000, Twitter followers: about 6,400), Victorious Sponge – ‘wacky’ comedy (Youtube followers: about 73,000, Twitter followers: about 3,200) and Ashens – retro games, retro toys and…sweets? (Youtube followers: about 920,000, Twitter followers: about 73,000) have all been enlisted to make videos that spread the STEM message. Hiring slightly more established internet bloggers was perhaps more of an option for YOUR LIFE though as their 2014-15 funding alone was £600,000 but, ultimately, what matters here is the impact these communication channels have.

In the world of vlogging, shares, likes and view counts are king. For both organisations mentioned, getting high numbers of these will be the first challenge (at the time of writing Lily’s intro video has only 250 views in 20 days). Those involved with YOUR LIFE are still tiny compared to the behemoths of the medium, the ubiquitous Zoella is now at over 9 million Youtube subscribers and 3.7 million Twitter followers and there are plenty of others whose follower counts blow the YOUR LIFE teams out of the water. Even then if the views do start stacking up, the actual impact on young people’s (particularly girls) subject and career decisions will be a much tougher consequence to measure. It will be interesting to see the success of this new model in reaching a hard to reach audience with a CEIAG message.

Tedx talk: Debbie Sterling – Inspiring the next generation of female engineers

A brilliant talk from Debbie Sterling founder of Goldie Blox, her company that designs and sells engineering themed toys for girls.

The company is not only a fantastic avenue for her talents and interests in creating solutions and products but it is also consistent in conveying her message of promoting such careers to young girls. Combined with the use of her back story to promote the message and the company; it’s a powerful and consistent message.

A really inspiring video to use with students to reinforce messages of finding a niche and career happiness, hard work and battling stereotypes.