Decisions at 18 – The CRAC Conference

On Wednesday, I exhibited for CASCAiD at the annual CRAC conference.  This year’s event was held in Leicester and the theme was ‘Decisions at 18’.  There was a wide range of delegates, including people from Aimhigher, heads of sixth form, heads of careers, and delegates from professional bodies.

 The event took place over the 29th – 30th March. However, I was only there for one day as the exhibition was only on the 30th.  It was excellent to have so many people come over to the stand to find out more about CASCAiD, or to discuss uses for products they had already bought.

 One CASCAiD product feature that interested a lot of delegates is the way that Kudos and Careerscape can be used to allow young people to explore their higher education (HE) options.  A joint Kudos and Careerscape subscriber benefits from video, case studies and live HE information from UCAS being pulled into Kudos. 

 As a result, a young person can use Kudos to gain a matched list of careers and research their careers of interest using video and case studies.  Furthermore, if HE is a viable option into the career, an ‘HE course info’ box will be populated, listing relevant areas of study.

 An example I used was the career ‘Translator’. In Kudos, under the ‘HE course info’ box, it states that degrees in modern languages would be the most relevant, with courses in ‘interpretation’ and ‘modern languages’ listed as examples.  Using the HE course information tool, users can then find all the interpretation or modern languages courses in the UK.  These can then be segmented by geographical area, allowing young people to find out about options locally.

 As well as exhibiting, where time allowed I was able to sit in on a number of the sessions that were running throughout the day.  The first session I sat in on was run by James Catterall from Gapforce.  James discussed whether higher tuition fees would reduce the number of students choosing to take gap years before university. 

 James addressed a significant change in gap year trends. More young people are taking gap ‘years’ for a shorter period of time. For example, some just take the summer months between A levels (or equivalent) and university. 

An interesting fact is that students who’ve taken a gap year and developed skills, for example, through volunteering, earn on average £1,275 more in their first job than other students.

 Other sessions I attended included one by Roger Brown, Professor of Higher Education Policy at Liverpool Hope University.  Roger spoke about the US university model and how the increase in tuition fees is likely to affect delivery of degrees in the UK.  Roger argued that universities charging the full £9,000 for tuition need to demonstrate how the extra fees add value to students’ degrees.

 The final session I attended was a debate lead by Aaron Porter , President of the National Union of Students (NUS).  Supporting Aaron was a panel of young people.  Some were in their final year of sixth form, with offers from universities.  A couple of PhD students also took part.

 Aaron invited questions from the floor.  Some of the topics that were debated included the value of HE, whether prospective students would still be keen to go if they had to pay £9,000 per year for tution, and making universities accountable for the quality of the student’s experience.  Interestingly, when someone asked the panel whether they would have considered studying in Europe, where the tuition fees are cheaper, the whole panel said ‘yes’.

 I am interested to hear your thoughts on decisions at 18. What can be done to ensure that young people make the choices that best suit their career aspirations?

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