Making manufacturing purr… October 22, 2012Posted by Andrew Falconer in : Industry Focus, Science & Engineering, civil service , add a comment
A few years ago I finally decided that I was a little bit more materialistic than I had wanted to admit. I recognised that I quite like “nice” things even if I can’t afford them. But I am also a thoughtful shopper. I like to know where products are made, their quality and the ethics behind them. And my pride and joy is my Jaguar X-type. Yes, it’s a Ford Mondeo dressed as a cat, but hey, what a cat….
I am a huge fan of Jaguar Landrover. Always have been. JLR has been through some pretty tough times and it has taken Indian businessman Ratan Tata and the Tata Group to turn it around. The image of the British motor industry has been compromised over the last few decades and is now becoming a strong international brand. Whilst there are only four UK owned car manufacturers, there are many car plants in the UK owned by overseas companies.
It is easy to think of Britain as a manufacturing has-been. We flourished in the industrial period, led the world, and are now in a state of rapid decline and the growing economies of India and China pick up. Indeed it wasn’t until I heard Nigel Whitehead from BAE Systems talk about the importance of British manufacturing that my view was challenged. You can watch this on the BBC’s My Bottom Line website.
In short, Britain is the 9th largest manufacturer in the world. Manufacturing employs 2.5m people and is half of the UK’s emports. It is also 72% of the UK’s R&D, generating 10% GVA. You can find a break down by region, useful graphs about the exports and comparisons with other countries on this flyer from the EEF, “the manufacturers’ organisation”. The large manufacturing sectors in the UK are food and drink, chemicals, metals, transport and machinery.
It is of course a complex picture. The rise in demand for Jaguar Landrover vehicles has seen its Halewood plant move to 24 hour shifts, there are also reports of companies moving manufacturing back to the UK for fear of natural disasters or political instability overseas. Indeed a recent BBC documentary looked at how a northern businessman was re-evaluating his manufacturing in China and opening a factory in the UK. The rising costs of production in China and India have made what was an unthinkable move a little bit more realistic.
“There is something about made in England, it’s not just Chinese visitors (who love British-made products), it’s throughout continental Europe, America. It’s just something we’re gifted by, having Made in England,”
Harold Tillman, British Fashion Council
With London Fashion Week a highlight for global fashion businesses, the UK still seems to have an image for quality. According to Reuters, Britain’s fashion manufacturing is experiencing a revival as “luxury brands clamour to have their products made in a country known for its quality craftsmanship, heritage and history.”
Of course there can be a sense of patriotism which may or may not help the cause of British manufacturing. Some groups may try to use it as a political tool lamenting the loss of mass large scale manufacturing. Others may see it as being important to promote and sustain local jobs over such nationalism.
When I went to school in the Republic of Ireland, the Government there was promoting “Guaranteed Irish” to encourage people to buy Irish produce. Because this is such a big issue over there, many international retailers, such as Tesco and Lidl, may stock more Irish sourced products than they would UK sourced over here. But the UK situation is more complex than Ireland. The UK’s manufacturing industry has long had an international dimension. Would British manufacturing be better off if consumers were encouraged only to buy British-owned brands? The MINI workers in Cowley would probably say no, as would the Aston Martin employees in Warwickshire. If you wanted to work in policy, then such discussions and the impact on the economy vs national identify may be of interest!
From a career perspective, the importance of UK manufacturing is unquestionable. Large scale manufacturers such as BAE systems and Rolls Royce can provide very attractive careers. But manufacturing also relies on an efficient supply chain, the right Government policy and sophisticated marketing. And there are even those who make money through promoting the home comfort of UK goods.
For more information about British manufacturing, the House of Commons produces regular updates. We also have a lot of specially selected resources on Careers Tagged. Now to buy a (British made, of course) piggy bank to save up for my new F-Type…..
Getting started in Policy and Politics September 6, 2012Posted by Jeff Riley in : Politics and Policy, The Careers Group Blogs, career profiles, civil service , add a comment
Originally posted at Getting into International Development
I recently visited Aaron D’Souza, a History and Politics student who had just graduated with a 2.1 politics degree from Queen Mary, University of London. I was especially interested in meeting Aaron because for someone who has just done a first degree he had scored quite a few internships along the way. Leadership programmes at The Young Foundation, Three Faiths Forum, a parliamentary internship and, most recently, a policy and public affairs internship with Cancer Research UK.
Aaron, you were pretty busy for an undergraduate student?
By the time I entered my third year, I think that would be true; I took my first year very easy – perhaps too easy looking back. It was only until I started a part-time internship in my second year working in the office of the Rt. Hon Keith Vaz MP, Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee that I really became busy juggling university work and other ‘career-related’ work. So by the middle of second year I definitely think I was busy compared to many people in my year, but I don’t regret it at all. I remember I was studying the British Politics module at the time, and for me my internship became such a bonus: at university I was learning about the way the House of Commons operates and influences, and here I was working and at the same time actually doing the things I was learning about; writing EDMs, written questions and other documents for Mr Vaz. And most importantly I realised, by being in an office that was constantly on its toes every day, what standards I would need to reach to work in such an environment and compete with others who wanted positions like this.
Do you think most undergraduates don’t realise this?
I think all undergraduates know that they will need experience to help find their desired job. The real problem is the lack of drive and determination to keep plugging away at finding the experience because at another level it is too easy if you get a knockback – like a rejection letter or no response – to not keep rolling the dice and see what might happen. Here, I think most give up and leave getting any work experience until after studies are over by which time you really want to be looking for a full-time paid employment and not your first work experience.
I remember quite a few of my colleagues at Queen Mary (I think most were international students) had done some really cool stuff: some had worked in European Parliament and others for big international corporations. For many this can be intimidating and a tad overwhelming; it certainly was for me at first. But I think the difference between me and some of my other colleagues was approaching and getting up to that benchmark. I started doing gap analyses, trying to find what I could do, be it training or attending talks, so I could also be qualified enough to do the same experience that they’ve done. It was difficult at first, sometimes I felt I just wasn’t good enough, but then I realised that outside the Queen Mary bubble there are lots of organisations offering experience – and there are lots of students getting out there to get them as well. It was perhaps only when I was working for Mr Vaz, having conversations with people who had graduated 3 or 4 years ago and understood what they had done that I realised how much was possible and how many people out there want to help people like us.
So what did you come across that inspired you?
The first thing that inspired me was my parliamentary internship. It’s not difficult to try and get experience with your local MP. I was lucky that I approached Mr Vaz just after the 2010 General Election because he needed someone to help with the backload of work in his office and help begin the next parliamentary term. But I remember telling my friend to email her local MP and ask for a week of experience in the Westminster Office. She did and after a bit of negotiating got a week; when she went, the MP was impressed and offered her a longer stint. So definitely try and talk to your local MP.
My internship led me to take on two additional leadership programmes in my final year.
* The Three Faiths Forum offer a year year-long programme – Undergraduate Parliamentors – for undergraduates of different faiths and beliefs (including non-believers) to be mentored by parliamentarians and create social action and community empowerment projects with support from leading NGOs
* The UpRising programme by The Young Foundation provides great training to help young people transform their communities with support from leading journalists, politicians and activists.
Both are fantastic experiences and probably the best decision I made was doing UpRising; this programme, working from the offices of Bethnal Green is going national and soon global. They are recruiting now so get applying!
I do think the best thing I got from all the programmes, but especially my internship with Mr Vaz, was being plugged into how business leaders and politicians operate. I don’t think you appreciate how busy an MP is until you work for one; I saw how Mr Vaz networked with constituents and business leaders; how he communicated with CEO’s; how he maintained relationships with journalists – I could go on. This sort of thing even affected how I dressed at work. I initially started working in Parliament wearing the suits to I’d worn at school. But having attended three events at which millionaires were present and other leading politicians and public figures, I quickly bought some fitted shirts and new suits. Looking back I do laugh at myself, but it made me feel I belonged in that environment and I am sure these people began to take me more seriously also. I was around people who were making things happen and it was really exciting.
It was a similar experience on the Undergraduate Parliamentors programme having been mentored by Lord Boateng.. Another example came from a conversation with my business mentor, Prem Goyal OBE from the UpRising programme about the option of continuing my studies with a Masters. He suggested Harvard; I laughed at him then, but now I’m thinking about it – even trying to find CVs of students who’ve been there to see if I could match them. These kind of things are audacious but it is so valuable: it makes you think global rather than local and changes your mindset making you think if he can make it, I can do it also.
What was the parliamentary work like compared to college?
Well one of the main differences is that my work had a direct connection and an impact to the real world in a way that undergraduate study in the university just can’t have. As I mentioned before, I was studying British Politics and learning about the role of the Commons, Lords, Committees etc. and by working for Mr Vaz, Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, I was experiencing all of this first-hand. I remember at the time Raul Moat had gone on a rampage in Cumbria and our office was inundated with requests for interviews from media including the BBC, CNN, ITV and Sky. I had only been there a short while, and I was helping write briefs for Mr Vaz and accompanying him to the studios at Millbank. Another time, Mr Vaz was interviewing Andy Coulson on phone hacking at a Committee hearing and I had 15 minutes to find information that was disputing the evidence Mr Coulson was giving so Mr Vaz could quiz him, You learn a lot about prioritising work, and meeting deadlines under that kind of pressure. Additionally, you learn the difference between academic writing and the kind of writing you need for politics environment. At first I was submitting material in the academic style that suits university, very wordy briefs or draft speeches, most times saying the same thing in three different ways. Mr Vaz’s feedback was that it was ‘too wordy’ and that he didn’t have time to read that much background; in this role you won’t get anywhere with waffle. I gained so many and such diverse arrays of skills that I can always talk about in interviews or use in cover letters; the job is not everyone’s cup of tea, but it really is beneficial and a great insight into how Parliament works and MPs operate.
So what’s next?
I couldn’t decide which masters course I wanted to do when I graduated, so I’ve decided to take a year out to consolidate what I’ve done and get some more experience. I finish this public affairs and policy internship with Cancer Research UK in September. I am then planning to go to the Florida, USA for about 5 weeks from October 2012-November 2012 to work on a Congresswomen’s campaign there and hopefully Obama’s presidential campaign.. I had found this opportunity through UpRising and by browsing the internet; initially the opportunity was to be a campaign intern and mentor sixth form students who will be going out for the last two weeks of the US elections but will now over the course of the 5 weeks get experience on a senate campaign, a governor’s campaign and the presidential campaign. We will then finish in Washington for a few days visiting the White House and Capitol Hill. It’ll be really exciting. After that I’ll be coming back to the UK and looking for more work experience through internships (hopefully paid) and consider where to go for my Masters course in September 2013, in England or abroad. I plan to be flexible; if a great opportunity or a job comes up then I will take it and perhaps do a masters in 2014. In the long term I think I would like a career in national politics or be promoting British interests abroad in a diplomatic/foreign relations role.
Insiders Guide to the Civil Service Fast Stream assessment day. January 14, 2012Posted by UCL Careers Service in : The Careers Group Blogs, civil service , add a comment
Originally posted at UCL international students blog
The Civil Service currently has a recruitment freeze on, however not so for the Fast Stream. This highly converted entry into the civil service is still recruiting at pace, looking to secure top graduate talent. The scheme is open to UK nationals, EU nationals and EEA or common wealth nationals.
It’s worth knowing before you apply that the Civil service that it’s a fairly involved process and is extremely thorough. The level of testing, assessment and interviews, sets the profession standard for the recruitment industry.
At the moment the assessment days are held in a purpose built centre in Westminster, although this is soon to change. Facilities are extensive, with even a lounge and kitchen area for candidates.
When I visited the assessment centre earlier this year I was amazed at the work put into securing the right candidates. Just lifting the assessor’s manual could give you a work out, being over 4 inches thick.
In terms for tips for someone applying I would suggest that the number one thing you do is to read and read again everything on the Fast Stream web site. The process is described in such detail that to look anywhere else would be a mistake. Talking with the assessors they were keen to point out that the process is designed to be as transparent as possible so each candidate is on a level playing field in terms of information. I realise that’s not much of a secret insiders tips, but it’s the best advice if you want to be successful.
In terms of stream selection it’s no surprise to learn that the Parliamentary and Diplomatic streams are heavily over subscribed. The HR stream on the other hand has fewer applications. Civil service recruiters stressed that if you were made an offer to be as flexible as possible, as if you reject a choice given to you, you go to the bottom of the pile.
How you will be assessed
You will be marked for each competency using a four point rating scale. 1 = lowest and 4 = highest score. Half marks are awarded.
If you score less than 2 overall in any competency then you will not be successful so it is important to think about the competencies being tested and be able to demonstrate these.
You are not in competition with the other candidates in your group or on the day. Your scores are based on your actions, your ability to perform well and demonstrate that you have the competencies that they are looking for.
The Group Exercise
- As only 1-2 projects will be agreed on, you may need to eventually give up on the project you are supporting. This is fine and expected. The key is to show the assessors that you are able to build alliances and co-operate in order to get a project decided upon by the end of the exercise.
- If your project is not put through then suggest sensible agendas/checks that you would like to see put on the successful project that may make it more appealing to the division that you are representing. Consensus is an important outcome of this exercise.
- If your project is the one successfully put through then don’t sit back and feel like it is ‘mission accomplished’. You will be marked down. Continue to be involved in the discussion.
- Think about the competencies that they are testing and aim to show that you can do that e.g. if the competency is ‘building successful relationships’ then ensure that you are building successful relationships!
- Use other candidate’s names and include them in discussions. Bring candidates in to discussion who may not have been talking very much.
- Don’t dominate the group and don’t be too quiet. It is about timing, impact and content rather than the amount that you speak.
- Ensure that in the group you are managing the time. Outline at the beginning how long you will spend discussing each project and time allowed for summing up and decision making at the end. Keep an eye on the time – someone should be giving time checks to avoid running over.
- You are not allowed to vote about which project should go through, this has to be decided through discussion so don’t ask other members to vote.
- You should contribute your ideas about all of the projects, not just the four that you are for/against.
- Use the data you are given in the briefing document – figures and numerical data especially – as this impresses the assessors.
- Try to think of new points to raise rather than re-iterating what others have said. There will different reasons why your division would be for/against a particular project so take the time to think about these during your prep time.
Your self assessments will count towards your overall scores. However, it is not the scores you give yourself that will be counted, rather the assessor will be assessing you on your ability to:-
- Identify positive and negative examples during the exercise
- Identify development needs – identify one key area to improve and give a sensible approach to how you could do this.
- Identify areas that you did well in and give examples
- Show a good degree of insight and reasoning
The Briefing Exercise
- Pick a topic that you are interested in. This is key as you need to be convincing in your argument and able to engage in conversation about the topic you pick.
- Be imaginative
- Be open to ideas and suggestions from the assessor
- Assessors will not grill you on information or areas that you don’t know a lot about – their aim is to stretch you not dispirit you!
- When writing your brief, think also about measuring success, target groups, costs/resources, pilot schemes, stakeholder interest
The areas they are likely to what to see are:
- Ideas and further development plans; a mix of basic plan ideas and radical/original ideas
- Identifying the interested parties; think about who will support the project and who you might need to win over.
- Project scope, aims and objectives; think about criteria for success, the benefits of the project and the implications
- Putting project into action; how are you going to roll it out, measure it, what are the risks and how will the project be monitored and assessed
Assessors don’t see candidates CVs or personal details so know nothing about you when you go in. The interview is competency based and the assessor will outline these at the start of the interview. The interview feels quite laid back and chatty but you are still being assessed and this is a good opportunity to shine.
In the interview:
- Focus on your actions
- Proactively identify learning opportunities and commitment to self development in your examples
- Demonstrate an understanding of relationships and situations
- Demonstrate a positive approach e.g. a desire to learn and develop rather than ‘I had to do X’ or ‘it was really hard and difficult to change’
- If you are using the same example too much, the assessor will ask you to use a different one
- The assessor will probe for your actions if you aren’t demonstrating the actions you took in that example or showing an understanding of what you learnt/how you developed in that situation
The Policy Recommendation Exercise
- identify key issues
- give a range of relevant ideas
- the policy should appeal to range of audiences
- policies should be original
- be clear and succinct
- ensure that you link all your reasoning to the objective
- run out of time
- forget to use the numerical data you are given
- use numerical data ineffectively
- forget to give a balanced argument
Our Top 10 Top Posts December 30, 2011Posted by Andrew Falconer in : Languages, Law, Marketing, Marketing, Advertising & PR, Media, advertising and PR, arts administration, career profiles, city jobs, civil service, diversity, employability and skills, entrepreneurship , add a comment
From creative CVs to interviewers wearing pjyamas, this blog has covered them all this year. When we write these posts we think about our target audience of University of London students, but are mindful that people all over the world access these pages and may need different things.
Many of the ideas for posts come from conversations with students. Issues such as being put off during a Skype interview because the interviewer was sitting on a bed in a hotel room wearing boxer shorts. Or navigating the graduate job market with a lower degree result than you were hoping for. Other posts come from campus workshops we facilitate, including my interest in LinkedIn and social media as a career development tool.
Whilst most of the (unpublished) comments are offering cheap viagra, instant Facebook fans or very personal cosmetic surgery, others have provided genuine debate on the issues. It’s nice to get comments and to be able to respond to such queries.
So here is our Top Ten Top Posts of 2011 based on readership, with a bonus 11 and 12 thrown in as a holiday special. Have a great New Year!
Our Careers: Parliament November 14, 2011Posted by Andrew Falconer in : Our Careers, Politics and Policy, civil service , add a comment
This is part of the Our Careers posts detailing the experiences of The Careers Group, University of London staff.
On my last day in Parliament I sat outside on the roof with my friends, the great clock tower and Big Ben casting enough shadow to protect us from the sun, and I thought: It’s been great, now its time to move on. I have been back to parliament a couple of times since I left. I always feel back at home there and get pleasure in knowing that I once worked in that historic institution. You can listen to my podcast about working in parliament.
With over 600 MPs and similar numbers of Peers, the political support staff working in Parliament at any one time is considerable. Therefore many others would be able to share their experience of working in Parliament but all these experiences would be different. It had been my ambition for several years to work there and it was a great experience. Having studied Politics with Law at Aberystwyth I worked in a campaigns role to build up my political experience before applying for a Westminster vacancy. This was useful for networking. Networking is often broken down into five stages and my situation fitted well into that:
Answers My first visits to regional and national party conferences gave me the opportunity to ask questions to build my knowledge.
Advice With this knowledge I was able to think about the specific advice I needed to get into a political research role. The knowledge also gave me ideas about who to approach.
Assistance I was able to gain a few weeks work experience through a contact I had made at regional conference.
Advocacy This contact later recommended me for a role that I had applied to.
Alliance The contact has remained a mentor since.
For my job application I had to write a couple of pages about the MP’s constituency and the issues arising from it. The House of Commons library produces excellent briefing notes and constituency profiles that can help.
Parliament is unique. I cannot think of any other institution that balances a working environment, historical processes and traditions, high volume public access, tight security and tourist attraction in the same way. The level of security with CO19 officers patrolling the corridors, security service vetting and monitors with regular updates on the terrorist threat levels were intimidating at first but gradually became part of the wallpaper. Indeed when there was terrorist activity in London those of us in the Palace got more information from BBC News 24 than we got from the authorities. (more…)
EU Careers February 10, 2011Posted by Kirsti Burton in : Languages, civil service , 1 comment so far
Originally posted at QM Jobs Blog
****Be aware this content is over two years old****
Thinking about using your langauge skills in your work?
Have you wondered what an EU career would involve and how to apply?
On Monday, the Foreign Office launched “EU Careers Month” to raise awareness of career opportunities in the EU Civil Service. The campaign’s website contains answers to the questions above, along with “day in the life” films, case studies, top tips, competitions and more.
Find out more from their pop up website (live for 6 weeks).