Monday, 29 June 2009

What Do Researchers Do?

We have been pretty quiet so far this year, and the reason is: we've been working. Often when we're working on new projects, we can tell people, but this time we've had to keep things under wraps

Fortunately, we do eventually get to tell people what we've been working on.

So here's something that kept me busy during the first part of 2009, the next in the ongoing series of analyses of PhD destinations from Vitae (formerly UK Grad), "What Do Researchers Do?".

As usual, I just did the data and methodology, the folks at Vitae, especially Karen Haynes and Tennie Videler (not forgetting Janet Metcalfe), did all the real work to turn it into a great(and great looking) publication which looks at the outcomes for doctoral graduates from a range of key doctoral subjects. We aggregated data from 2003 to 2007 to produce the stats, and because the subjects are chosen by number of graduates, there are some that are comparatively more important at PhD level than at undergraduate level that are represented; like theology, microbiology and agriculture.

It's a good and hopefully helpful book, and is a natural progression from Vitae's previous PhD destination publications.

It also partners with Vitae's new publication on doctoral profiles, a fascinating piece of work drawing together a series of career stories from PhD graduates about their experiences and the way that their studies have been valuable to them.

This is really well worth reading and we want to spread the word about it as widely as possible. Read these stories!

Thursday, 18 June 2009

State of the labour market

The most recent labour market stats, going up to May, came out yesterday.

The news is not good, but not unexpected. 73.3 per cent of the working age population is currently employed, down 0.8 per cent from Q4/08 and down 1.5 per cent from this time last year. 29.11 million people are in work, down 271,000 from Q4/08.

The unemployment rate for 18-24 year olds stands at 16.6 per cent.

Some comments:

Nigel Meager, Director of the Institute for Employment Studies

‘Unemployment is rising and is set to keep on rising. And experience of past recessions tells us that we may need to wait for up to two years after the economic recovery is under way before unemployment starts to fall again. Young people are experiencing particular difficulties, which will intensify over the summer as this year’s school and college leavers enter the labour market. Recent proposals for a “jobs guarantee” for this group, to prevent them drifting into long-term unemployment are, therefore, particularly welcome. However, against this ominous backdrop, it is worth noting that unemployment continues to rise at a slower rate than many had predicted. May’s claimant count increase of 39,300 is smaller than has been seen in recent months.

‘This recession is hitting some sectors more than others. Today’s figures show another 78,000 jobs lost in manufacturing and another 37,000 jobs lost in construction in the first quarter of 2009. This contrasts with education, health and public administration, where there are now 79,000 more jobs.’
John Philpott of the CIPD said:

“The burden of net job loss has fallen entirely on full-time employees. The total level of self-employment and part-time employment is broadly unchanged from a year ago....

“The manufacturing sector has shed 0.2 million jobs – a 6.7% decrease. The other big job shedding sectors are distribution, hotels and restaurants and finance and business services. These sectors each shed 2.8% of their workers....The amount of job losses in manufacturing is also noteworthy because this is the sector which has shown the greatest effort on the part of employers and workers to seek alternatives to redundancy, such as pay freezes, pay cuts and short-time working. Without such welcome action the impact of the recession on UK manufacturing employment might have been far greater still."

There isn't anything in there about the graduate economy, but there will very likely have been job losses for graduates and fewer opportunities available. It looks like we have some way to go before pain in the labour market is over and it looks unlikely to pick up this year.

If you want some clever tools to examine the impact of the recession on the labour market, then the ONS has some here:
They outline the way employment has deteriorated over the last 12 months and give an illustration of the effects the recession has had. There's also a report looking at how business and the country has reacted in labour market terms, that is quite enlightening.

Of particular interest is the following passage:

In the first three calendar quarters of this recession the change in
unemployment rate has been similar to the first three calendar
quarters in the 1980s recession....After the 1980s recession, unemployment levels and rates did not
return to their pre-recession position at any point before the
beginning of the next recession in the early 1990s. Following the
1990s recession, the economy recorded positive economic growth
in quarter 4 1991, but it took until 1997 for unemployment levels
and rates to return to their pre-recession positions.

Now, we've seen what happened to graduate unemployment in the 90s recession, and I think we'll follow the same pattern, but it looks very much as if graduate employment will not recover to the level it was at around 2005-6 for several years.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Top ten researcher development blogs

A nice piece from Tristram Hooley at Vitae about blogs for researcher development.

Some very interesting blogs, some we've mentioned already, some we haven't, and, er, ourselves.

("While it is not updated as regularly as we might like"....point taken).

Friday, 12 June 2009

Blogging NACE: Finale

This is the last of my posts on NACE - hope they've been useful. Just been in a session from Graham Donald of Canadian recruitment consultancy Brainstorm about why it's not a bad time to increase recruitment.

Some of the points he made were very good - not just in terms of talent pipelines, but also looking at issues of age gaps within organisations (it gets hard to get 21 year olds involved in organisations where there's a three year age gap to the next youngest people). He also cited issues from the dotcom crash (more serious in the US than in the UK - they had a recession, we didn't) - after it ended, companies started looking for new IT people with 2-3 years experience, but because nobody had hired, there wasn't anyone with 2-3 years experience. That caused a few problems.

The session was quite heartening because there were quite a few recruiters there who were largely keen to keep recruiting through the recession to steal a march on more timid competitors; because they had good relationships with institutions that they didn't want to lose; because they were actually not doing too badly. So there is some light in these gloomy times.

So, what have we got from the conference?

- The recession is deep, it is still ongoing and although there is optimism that it will end next year (maybe), nobody's too sure when
- Many people are, however, still hiring
- US students, at least, still seem to be pretty selective about jobs
- Social media are still considered to be very important and continue to transform relationships between students, services and employers. They aren't going away and they are going to be big talking points. We need to be clever about using them
- Helicopter parents excite a certain amount of passion amongst those who deal with them.

That's all from me from NACE - back in the UK next week. Let me know if this was useful as I'm thinking of doing the same for AGCAS Biennial in September

Blogging NACE: Thursday Part 2

Getting towards the end of the conference now, so here goes the next session, from Roger Moncarz of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This was pretty much the hottest ticket in town - the place was rammed - as Roger went through job projections for the US to 2016. A thought-provoking session, but Roger was working from projections done in 2007, before the US economy went as wrong as it is now, and he did stress than in December 2009, there'll be new ones taking into account the impact of the recession.

The main story is the growth in degree level jobs is set to continue (recession or no recession), and IT roles and those in healthcare are also set to expand quite a bit. The US is short of nurses, and expects to get shorter of them - so if anyone has any nursing students who fancy a change of scene, then I think they might find a good reception here. The top graduate jobs set to expand in the US are: nurses; teachers; accountants; software engineers; network systems engineers and lawyers. And in 2008, the US earnings premium for a degree was 65%.

Also went to a session from the University of Iowa looking at their careers facility for doctoral graduates. (I wonder if any readers might be interested in such things?)
We're very lucky in many ways in the UK to have Roberts money for PhD student support; others don't have that and there are a lot of institutions worldwide who are having to come up with their own (inexpensive) solutions. US doctoral graduates are more likely to go onto academia than UK ones, so a lot of the Iowa facilities are designed towards that end, but they had some good ideas - I like the Etiquette Dinner, where everyone gets dressed up and then gets served with food that is difficult to eat, whilst an etiquette expert shows them which fork to use and so on.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Blogging NACE: Thursday

Remember me?

Anyway, onto today, which for those of you outside the US is still Thursday here.

We've just had an excellent and interesting session from the redoubtable Ed Koc, gentleman, and Director of Strategic and Foundation Research at NACE on his research into student attitudes to employment, the NACE 2009 Student Experience survey. I'll give highlights, as my notes stretch to 2 A4 sheets of closely written notes, and apparently blogs are best done briefly.

Ed's a bit sceptical about whether 'Millenials' or 'Generation Y' are really a profoundly different population to previous generations (and I share his scepticism), and some of the research seems to bear him out.

He surveyed around 35,000 students for this research and found that
- about 70% intend to enter the workforce this summer - same as previous years
- more students want to work in non-profit or government organisations than previously
- intention to go on to further study are up

So far, so unsurprising. Here's where it gets a bit more unexpected.
The US Class of '09 seem no more active in job-seeking than previous populations, and they're still just as selective about their jobs.
At this stage in 2007, 64% had started looking for work - in 2009, it's 59%.
41% had received at least one job offer, but of that 41% only 45% had accepted it. That is in a climate where the most students haven't had job offers, and GDP just fell by over 6% for two consecutive quarters.

Some of the student concerns are not those of UK students; health insurance is a massive issue over here, and is the biggest factor in acceptances. 66% are worried about getting a job; 59% think they'll be employed three months after graduating.

Ed also found that careers services work. Yes, they really do. If a student made heavy use of their careers facility - using multiple services offered, like job searching, help with CV, advice and so on - it had a significant effect on the likelihood of being offered a job BUT casual use - just using one aspect of the service, like just browsing job ads - was no more effective for this sample as not engaging with careers services at all.

There's a whole host of interesting findings from the research; students are less willing to work long hours even though the job market is tighter; over 40% expect financial help from their parents even after they graduate and all sorts of great stuff, so if I can get a link to the survey, I'll update the post to put it in.

More soon!

Blogging NACE: Wednesday The Rest

Long days here.

Went also to a presentation on the NACE Futuretrends research.

This was a survey of US employers and careers services to find out what they felt would be the key issues facing them over the next few years.

Not surprisingly, the economy, and resulting budget cuts were on people's minds, but changes in technology were cited as crucial by more than half of employers and careers services. Least important for careers centres was globalisation; for business it was recruitment of non-traditional students.

Interestingly, there also seemed to be a feeling that the number of international students entering the US may have started to level off, and 64% of US businesses had not increased hiring of international students in the last 5 years.

There also seems to be some tension about social networks, with careers services concerned that employers might be bypassing them and engaging with students directly.

Also attended - a workshop on STEM, which was very interesting, but rather US specific. Although the US has similar STEM concerns in some ways to the UK - particularly in terms of a shortfall in teachers and in maths skills, some of the issues are not directly relevant to the UK. But it was interesting to hear that they have chemical engineers looking for jobs. We have them in the UK, so if anyone's interested in talking to US universities (some big names amongst them), then there might be opportunities to help employers with their recruitment and to make some friends in the US.

And that's Wednesday done - back up to date now.

Blogging NACE: Wednesday Some More

On to a really fun session - Abby Ludens and Amanda Williams of US - well, I think you'll be able to guess what their company does from the name: MattressFirm.

MattressFirm had a problem. Graduates didn't want to sell mattresses. So Abby and Amanda showed (in a very funny presentation), how an unglamorous business like MattressFirm managed to attract graduates to their company, and managed to grow their business from 250 store in the US to 530 in 4 years - and it's still growing.

It was a very useful insight into how an ostensibly unexciting organisation challenged their own stereotypes in recruitment. They stopped focussing on the fact that they sold mattresses and started to emphasise that it was a business where you could work, have fun and be well trained. You just happened to sell mattresses while this was going on. They had special events at the firm where potential recruits could meet people. They have a kind of internal YouTube site where employees could make short videos (no longer than 180 seconds) to explain what was going on.

They clearly enjoyed what they did, and really succeeded in making a firm that sells mattresses look like a good career. There are a few UK recruiters who could learn from it (and there are some great employee engagement ideas there as well)

Blogging NACE: Wednesday One

More on what is rapidly becoming an exercise in trying to cover a conference using only public access Internet terminals (hint: like queueing).

Wednesday, did a number of sessions.

First up: a session from Jennifer Kushell of, on 'What students don't understand about your company and your opportunities, and what you can do about it' - or, in other words, the communication gap between young people and business. It's quite big.

Jen covered a lot of ground in a short time - pointing out that there are approximately 1 billion young people due to enter the global workforce in the next 1 years. The UK is actually bucking a global trend as we're going to see a reduction over the next few years in the number of young people entering the workforce; worldwide, including the US, things are different. Next year, the Millenials will make up the largest group of US workers.
YSN have been doing research into the attitudes of young people worldwide to business.

Some highlights:

- a increased time to transition to 'adulthood'
- they're averaging 7-10 jobs between 18 and 30. 25% have more than 10 jobs in that time
- 63% leave home after graduation, BUT more than half will move back for at least some time afterwards
- 61% feel a 'personal responsibility to make a difference in the world'
- 74% are more likely to pay attention to a brand if they feel committed to the cause they feel it represents
- 83% trust a company more if it is socially or environmentally responsible.

Their findings are not dissimilar to the findings we've been getting from the research we've been doing this year - very interesting. Oh, and Jen's on Twitter (she's quite an advocate) at #ysnjen

HECSU in the Guardian

The Guardian is making use of the speculation about the recession based on HESA data from the last recession that Charlie posted on here a number of weeks ago.

Charlie Ball, deputy director of research at Hecsu, said: "If this follows the last recession we could see up to four years of depressed jobs for graduates. We think it's going to be at least as bad next year."

See the full story Class of 2009: up to 40,000 graduates will join jobless roll at the Guardian

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

The Medici Effect

First keynote was from Frans Johansson talking about innovation.

Frans gave a passionate, and, at times, very funny talk about how innovation comes from the intersections between different ideas and disciplines, and showed how diversity helps to create an environment in which innovative ideas can grow and be developed.

Diversity drives innovation

That's his key message and linked to that came other ideas.

All new ideas come from combining old ones

It may seem obvious, but there are very new completely new ideas - most new ideas are combinations or revisitations of old ones.

Innovative teams generate and execute more new ideas

This might seem like a restatement of the phrase "Innovative teams are innovative", and in a way it is. But it's worth thinking about how innovation can thrive in our working environments.

Use your existing diversity to produce innovative ideas

I liked this one - it made me think about how I could use my own background in science, and my own interests to perhaps produce something interesting in LMI. I have some ideas - they may work. (They might not, but I ought to try them.)

Other points he made were:
- we aren't very good at predicting what new ideas are going to work and what are going to fail, so try as many ideas as you can (definitely taking that on)
- in particular, we have little idea what Web 2.0 technology will actually last. This resonated particularly with me; I've been online for a very long time, being an early adopter when I was young, and I have seen some empires rise and fall in that time. I remember when Geocities was a really big thing. It finally closed last month.
- Plan to make mistakes. Your first new ideas probably won't work
- Risk is doing the same thing over and over again. Just ask General Motors

Try this exercise, for synthesising ideas. Look at how you or a company might improve their recruitment - but only using ideas from the fashion industry. It worked pretty well, and might get you to think about things differently.

Yesterday's sessions coming up!

Charlie Blogs NACE

Hello everyone, back from a bit of a work-related hiatus to do something a bit different. I'm actually at the NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers) annual conference in, er, Las Vegas (well, it's an American organisation, so naturally I'm in the US), so for those of you who can't be here, I thought I'd blog the sessions to help get some of the useful messages across to people in the UK.

There are about 1,400 delegates here, so this is a serious conference with a lot of serious things to discuss about students and graduates, and a lot of what goes on here will not stay in Vegas, but will go out across the world and influence people in the next 12 months.

So here goes - as long I as can get enough terminal access!