Guest Blog

About Guest Blog

This is one of our Guest blogs - from either a current student or alumni. You can find the author at the bottom of the post.

Staffordshire University graduate’s journey to employment

On Wednesday 1st March I was returning to my office after delivering a Financial Reporting tutorial when I was greeted by Rachel Heath (one of my personal tutees) with a beaming smile on her face.  She had just found out she had been offered a place on the NHS graduate scheme.

Rachel’s achievement is an excellent example of a highly motivated student taking advantage of all the support and guidance offered to her to enable her to achieve her dream job.

Rachel started at Staffordshire University in September 2013 studying a BA(Hons) Accounting and Finance Degree.  She had studied ‘A’ levels at Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College and then taken two years out of education.  However, she realised “how hard it is to progress without the knowledge and experience needed within an industry” so she decided to undertake a degree programme.

On Rachel’s second day I became her Personal Tutor, initially helping her to settle into University life and encouraging her to take advantage of all the opportunities presented to her.  In addition to regular meetings with Rachel she studied 2 modules which focus on the development of the student, Employability and Study Skills in the first year and Professional Development in the second year.  Karl McCormack the Accounting Awards Course Leader leads on both of these modules, the student’s personal tutor delivers the workshop sessions.  In these modules students develop communication and team-working skills, they focus on their career ambitions and produce development plans to ensure they gain the skills they require in order to be able to achieve their goals.  Part of the first year module involves the students getting their CVs checked by the University’s Careers Section.

The Professional Development module in the second year provides the skills and knowledge students need to help them gain a work placement.  Helping students to develop amongst other things CVs, letters of application and interview skills.

During this module Rachel started applying for placement opportunities with the support of her lecturers, Claire Bashford a Placement Consultant, Mark Wordley the Business School’s Placement Co-Ordinator and the Careers Section.  Rachel was successful in gaining a 12 month placement with Stoke-on-Trent City Council as a Business and Enterprise support student.

stoke-on-trent-city-council

During Rachel’s placement she developed her communication, teamwork and leadership skills.  She also gained valuable experience of working under pressure.  She was supported during her placement year by Tony Bickley who was her Visiting Placement Tutor at the Council.

Returning to University in September for her final year Rachel set about applying for her graduate job.  Having really enjoyed working in the public sector she was keen to follow up opportunities in this area.  In February she contacted me let me know she had been selected for a 2 day assessment centre in Bristol for the West Midlands NHS Finance Management Training Scheme.  Rachel had submitted an online application which included answering 6 scenario based questions and explaining why she was applying for the scheme and the qualities she would bring to it.  After passing that stage she had to complete verbal and numerical tests online.  Having passed these tests she was invited to the 2 day assessment centre.

nhs

She told me she had to prepare a 10 minute presentation so we discussed what she could include in this and agreed in preparation of the assessment days I would observe her presentation and give her feedback on it.  By coincidence I had also been in contact with one of my students who had graduated in June 2009 Himesh Patel who is now Divisional Finance Manager at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust.

Himesh had undertaken his placement year with the NHS at the Princess Royal Hospital Telford.  They were so impressed with Himesh that he was offered a permanent full-time role when he graduated.  Within 3 years Himesh had gained his Chartered Institute of Management Accountants’ qualification and he has since also gained his Chartered Institute of Public Finance Accountants’ qualification.  During his time with the NHS he has gained several promotions to his current role as Divisional Finance Manager.

cipfa cima

I contacted Himesh to see if he would be able to give advice and guidance to Rachel and he was very happy to do this.  He gave feedback on Rachel’s presentation and advised her on topical areas she could research.

When Rachel arrived at Bristol for the assessment days she met a mix of candidates going for opportunities with the NHS in the South West and the West Midlands.  There were 3 vacancies available and approximately 12 candidates.  She had to complete a time pressured written task based around a case study, a group activity, a 10 minute presentation and an interview.

Rachel’s success is no more than she deserves she is a motivated hard-working student.  Reflecting on both Rachel’s and Himesh’s success I think the key messages are as follows:-

  • Undertaking a year’s placement is vital to gain the skills employers require.
  • The support available to students from their Personal Tutor, the Placement Consultant, the Business School Placement Co-Ordinator, the Visiting Placement Tutor, Subject Lecturers, the Careers Section and Alumni illustrate how we put the student “at the heart of everything we do”.
  • The structure of the Accounting Awards including the Employability and Study Skills and Professional Development modules very much supports students in developing subject knowledge and the skills they need to gain their placement and then graduate employment opportunities.
  • These Awards receive professional accreditation allowing students to gain exemptions from certain exam papers which enables our graduates to gain their professional accounting qualifications more quickly.

For me it is success stories like Rachel’s and Himesh’s that make the job worthwhile.

Helen Buttery SFHEA CPFA Cert.Ed.

Senior Lecturer

School of Business, Leadership and Economics

@h_buttery   #proudtobestaffs

Top tips for improving your blog writing

I’ve been asked a few times over the past few months about tips for writing a blog so I’ve jotted a few notes from my experience of working with various businesses and marketing professional.

1. Know your audience and your market

Even before writing a blog you need to research what key words potential customers and current customers are using. In addition, research what key words competitors are using that is getting them hits to their website and do a gap analysis with your website.

2. Make it Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) friendly but ensure it’s readable

St.Helens, England - January 15th 2012: iPad2 in females hands displaying google search engine page. Google is one of the biggest search engines in the world. iPad2 was launched in March 2011.

I’ve come across a blog recently where it was obvious that the author must have been trying to include key SEO words in their blog with little useful information or thought to the reader. If people are not linking to it, etc it may not be SEO friendly.

3. Make the title of the blog honest!

One of the easiest ways to lose customers is to fail to deliver on a promise, so ensure that the title is an accurate description of your blog.

4. Prioritise your information

Yellow note paper with exclamation mark

Make the main point of your blog the first paragraph they read or they may not understand what your blog is about and why they are reading it.

5. Use graphics and bullet points

Help make your blog readable by including photos, pictures and some structure via headings, subheadings and bullet points. Use original photos, a lot of organisations buy or use stock photos and it can be a big disappointment to readers to come across photos they have seen several times before. Graphics also have the advantage of looking good when you promote your blog eg: via twitter and Facebook.

6. Leave it a day

After writing your blog you might think of other ideas. Editing and grammar checking might be easier after giving it a rest. You can also check your blog before posting it by using tools such as Grammarly or Hemingway apps.
Re-read it, is your blog…interesting or useful?

7. Make it easy to navigate

If you are creating your own blog and have some control, add a top and side navigation bar. Make it easy for readers to go to your favourite blogs that is relevant for a long time (known as evergreen blogs). If you are using WordPress there are lots of themes available free of charge with easy to setup navigation bars, but choose or buy a decent theme.

8. Use white-space

White-space can make a blog easier to read, eg via increasing the line spacing or padding around images.

9. Use a readable font type and size.

12 point might look good on a A4 sheet of paper but 16 point is far more readable on a screen.

10. Has your blog made an impact?

Assuming you have google analytics or equivalent, has your blog increased hits to your website using the right key words? Has it increased backlinks and had positive read comments? If not, it might need editing and checking to make sure it’s SEO friendly, for example, there is an optimum density for key words, more than this density will make it SEO unfriendly.

Good luck with your blog 🙂

Paul Dobson BSc(Hons), DIT, DMS, MSc, MA, MBA, PGCHPE, FHEA, FCMI, MAM

Simple ideas to change your mindset

Our mindset is made up of our beliefs, ideas and attitudes. Thinking about our mindset can help us adapt and change it.

Every now and again I catch myself being negative. That little inner voice suggesting I can’t do something or that something is too hard. Recently during my personal tutoring sessions, I have seen this in students as well. I decided to explore a change in mindset, to change the way we look at things. With an open mind and a realisation that this may take some time and effort I looked into how to change.

word-brain

 

What can I say to myself?

Instead of…… Try thinking……..
I’m not good at this What is it I am missing
I give up! I’ll use some of the strategies I’ve learned
This is too hard This may take some time and effort
I can’t make this any better I can always improve, I’ll keep trying
I made a mistake Mistakes help me learn and improve
I’ll never be as smart as her I’m going to figure out what she does and try it
It’s good enough Is this really my best work?
I just can’t do this I am going to train my brain
Plan A didn’t work Good thing the alphabet has another 25 letters or There’s always Plan B

 

connections-graphic

 

And the more I explore this in myself the more I see in colleagues either a fixed mindset or growth mindset, the more I became aware of myself, the more I noticed who I wanted to hang out with.

Characteristics related to a growth mindset and a fixed mindset

Fixed Mindset Growth Mindset
Resist learning new technologies, oppose change almost instinctively Excited to learn new technologies, embrace change
View setbacks as a reason to give up View setbacks as a challenge to overcome
Simply don’t do things that they determine are too hard Ask for help when they need it
Feel threatened when others succeed, resent having to work with others Collaborate with colleagues, look for ways to ensure everyone’s success and learn from other’s successes
Resent being asked to do anything they view as extra Willing to put in time and effort to succeed
Ignore any negative feedback or criticism Use negative feedback as a way to improve performance
Actively resist any new challenge Constantly seek to improve performance
I feel like feedback is personal I feel like feedback is constructive
My abilities determine everything My effort and attitude determine everything

Imagine being able to create a mindset in students and colleagues that allows growth. People who are not afraid of change, open to new ideas. People who are excited by the possibilities of new tools and technology. People who share a growth mindset.

Oh if only it was that easy. Read a few charts, change the way you think and (if you have an Uncle Bob) Bob’s your uncle! But it’s not easy, change is hard, this is who I am…

Wait…… yes it will take time and effort, I may need some help. But it’s who I want to be, it’s who I want my students to be!

 

Karl McCormack  BA (Hons), PgCHPE, FHEA

Accounting Awards Course Leader.

Visit our website to find out about Accounting and Finance Courses.

The UK Gender Pay Gap – an end in sight?

As we enter 2017 the old chestnut of the gender pay gap has become a hot topic for discussion as the promotion of equal pay has become not just a matter of social and moral justice but one of economic necessity as women have become integral to the UK’s economic performance. However, despite the Equal Pay Act 47 years ago, women still earn less than men in Britain today. The difference in pay between men and women remains the clearest and most dramatic example of inequality for women.

What is the gender pay gap?

Overall, women can expect to earn significantly less than men over their entire careers as  a result of differences in caring responsibilities, clustering in low skilled and low paid work, the qualifications and skills women acquire, and outright discrimination (Fawcett Society, 2015).

 

shaking-hands

 

Gender pay gap down to 5% among UK workers in their 20s, study finds

The Resolution Foundation says women will still earn significantly less during their careers as the gap widens after age 30. Women in their 20s have seen the pay gap halve to 5%, but just as in previous generations the discrepancy compared with men’s earnings widens when they hit 30 and start a family.

In a report highlighting the challenge facing Theresa May in closing the pay gap, the Resolution Foundation said women entering work now would still earn significantly less than their male counterparts over their careers, despite an improvement in pay differentials during the first decade of employment. The Resolution Foundation compared the typical hourly pay of different generations of men and women over the course of their careers.

Women in their 20s earn more than men of same age, study finds

It found that, for workers in their 20s, the pay gap was 16% among baby boomers – born between 1946 and 1965 – 9% among people born between 1966 and 1980, and 5% among those born between 1981 and 2000, referred to as millennials.

“It shows that the gender pay gap has closed for every subsequent generation of women,” the think-tank said. “This reflects positive trends, including rising higher educational participation which women in particular have benefited from, and more women breaking into high-paying industries and occupations.”

However, a sharp rise in the pay gap after the age of 30, seen in previous generations, puts millennial women on course to face a deficit of almost 30% by the time they are in their mid-40s unless there is further government intervention.

 

gender

 

Laura Gardiner, author of the Resolution report, said: “It’s important to not overlook the positives. The rate of progress between generations is really welcome, particularly with Generation X. Even in the child-rearing years there’s still really big gains.” But she said there were many issues related to working part-time, such as missing out on informal chats in the pub, that needed to be tackled. “I wouldn’t want to play down the policy success we’ve had, but the area where there’s probably the most we could do is around the part-time penalties, and the opportunities for promotion and progression, the cultural stuff,” Gardiner said.

The question is will it take until 2069 to bridge the UK gender pay as suggested in a report by Deloitte’s last year? Time will tell and no doubt in 2018 we will be pondering the question again. In the meantime, wishing you a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous (in equal pay terms) 2017.

If you are interested in this topic please feel free to contact me – Peter.Beszter@Staffs.ac.uk

This semester I will be teaching the Managing People through Performance and Reward module which will be examining the UK gender pay gap.

 

Dr Peter F. Beszter