Egg shaped thinking

Egg shaped thinking

CIAG and the recession. Cracked it!!


‘So many eggs, so little time.’ – Cadbury’s Creme Egg (Spring 2014)

Pressure for change in education and improvements to Careers Information and Guidance (CIAG) for young people are gaining momentum across the region. Business entrepreneurs, despite many of them struggling to survive and grow in this recession, are helping out and stepping up to the challenge. There is now additional pressure and expectations on schools to deliver effective careers ‘guidance’ which is very much back on the radar. To have a real impact on the long-term recovery of the UK economy, and ensure we compete globally, it’s crucial that schools and businesses pick up the baton. Now is the time to take responsibility, collaborate on CIAG, enable joined-up thinking and help change the shape of education and employability in the future.

Evolution or revolution?
I’ve been a graphic designer and creative director at Bulletpoint Design for 25 years now – we began trading in 1989 – and have gone through massive change and transformation (2008-13) – as well as surviving our THIRD recession. Part of the plan was to focus on becoming a specialist in key areas we were passionate about such as engineering and manufacturing as well as in education.

“To survive a recession you need to have the versatility of an egg.” – John Wilshire

Egg shaped thinking
In any recession every business can be as versatile and resourceful as a perfectly designed egg. Of course any business, and the people within it can be delicate, so be careful with what you do with your egg…

• Raw • Beaten • Whipped • Cracked • Fried • Poached • Boiled • Baked • Scrambled • Scotch • Meringue • Omelette • Sunny-side up!

Bulletpoint – designers, bright sparks and branding eggs-perts
Bulletpoint Design was severely affected by public sector cutbacks (2008-11) and staff levels are not what they were from the ‘boom times’ of years gone by. We’ve certainly been ‘scrambled’, ‘raw’ and ‘beaten’ at times during this recession, yet just like a hard-boiled egg we were resilient, both strong and delicate at the same time. I even looked at the possibility of forming a partnership, a strategic alliance – the ‘omelette’ approach to business – yet could not quite find the right ingredients to make this happen. We’ve also experienced a few ‘whippings’ – some horrible clients (sorry) and the dreaded ‘free’ pitch. I have been frustrated, tired and exhausted, I was ‘boiled’, my brain cells were ‘fried’ and we needed to change – out of the frying pan and into the fire!

The Bulletman – Motivational Speaker, Branding Eggs-pert and Enterprise Champion
As part of a careers switch in 2008 I moved away from being a traditional graphic designer with Bulletpoint. I am still very passionate about design and branding and we continue to work in an industry in transformation. Yet we have also ‘moulded’ our cross-transferable skills using creativity in a different capacity, (and applied some egg shaped thinking,) to help create new sources of income streams.

Also shrinking the business, by not replacing people as they left throughout the recession, allowed us space and time to experiment, diversify and take up professional speaking (2008-13). Meanwhile Bulletpoint also spent some time re-branding (2012/13) and looking at the education market, how to ‘crack’ enterprise and next on the radar was CIAG.

The downside of the recession was less work, less staff and stopping things we had done for years: school events, careers fairs, award winning work experience programmes (like DYO), mentoring and voluntary work going back to 1997 all had to sadly stop around 2008/9. Yes, you could say things had gone a little ‘pear shaped’ (2008-12), more egg shaped actually, yet with a positive ‘sunny-side up’ attitude, and some persistence, all this experience was surely bound to come in handy…

Keep Calm and Carry On

In 2012 I was offered a lifeline, a challenging and ‘egg-citing’ new (part-time) role as an Enterprise Facilitator with E3 Bradford (2012-13)…

On the logical side, the role involved some groundbreaking work in education, we developed an enterprise framework, a branding and communication package, as well as a series of new enterprise pilots for secondary schools. These ’embryo’ ideas were designed to help change and influence the curriculum to be more business driven…

On reflection and on the creative side, we ‘hatched’ some cracking ideas, created several eggs-iting/eggs-perimental concepts, whilst others barely made it past the fertilisation stage! I also saw a few ‘cracked eggs’ along a difficult but rewarding journey.

So what’s been happening in education?

• In many schools ‘enterprise’ is often NOT seen as an essential activity
• Work experience for students is in decline and youth unemployment is rising rapidly in the UK and across Europe
• Employers are asking for and demanding more ‘work-ready’ students
• Schools are now being more open minded – less pressure on A levels – more focus on CIAG and alternative pathways (Inc. Apprenticeships)
• OFSTED have changed track and seem to have done a U-turn with CIAG

‘A culture change is needed in careers provision for young people and adults in order to address the mismatch of skills shortages and high unemployment.’
Careers Guidance Action Plan, Ofsted (National Careers Service) – Sept 2013

My own response to this? A pilot project called FUTURE, originally designed as ‘Jobs of the Future’ (March 2013), and now successfully through stage 2 (March 2014).

Designers of the Future (2)
As bit of a creative maverick, I also especially like the ‘warts and all’ approach – students DO need to hear and know THE TRUTH – and (in time) they will. After all, our generation has caused much of the mess the country is in, and it is now our right to explain and unravel this as best we can. And as a great believer in purposeful disruption and ‘creative chaos’ I also thought it was about time to share a little more here than I previously would dare to mention…

Did you know? 12% media students v 3% job market!

Now how does the Maths work on that one then? And who or what is the cause of this?

Is it just me, or are we all in a massive state of denial here? The current system just does not work and this ‘creative sausage machine’ needs fixing!

What on earth is going on to help STOP this crazy scenario pouring more students into more expensive, ‘creative’ college facilities, pushing more people into debt (the price of a student loan) and into a false state of reality. We are preparing more young people for jobs that just don’t exist. Unless you are brilliant, ‘eggs-ellent’ and the best at what you do of course, a creative genius perhaps? But ‘real jobs’ are only for the limited and gifted few!

Note: At best 1 in 4 students may get a job in media. But this statistic above does not take this other factor into account. How many of the 3% are actually advertising for job vacancies here? So these numbers could in fact be 1 in 20 or worse?

The same is true of other areas of specialism such as Sports Science. Two of my relatives qualified with very good degrees, struggled to find work for a couple of years, bar work and supermarket part-time jobs included, and are now working full-time as an estate agent and a pub manager. Both very talented students, they are both doing really well, yet it saddens me to see such wasted time and talent here. Again things seem to have become a little egg-shaped?

We are hiding behind the real truth

FACT: A local, trusted LMI (Labour Market Intelligence) source produced some resource materials for young people linked to creative industries. In the original draft it stated the warnings, stats and limited potential of jobs in this field, only to then soften and re-mould the words in a more positive light, re-painting a ‘pretty picture’ on the final (amended) draft. I was very disappointed about this ‘back-pedaling’, especially after giving the thumbs up (approval) on the early draft.

So why do we do this? Because the public sector is bound to always do ‘the right thing’ and is scared of real change and the consequences of taking risks, even calculated ones. It does not embrace failure, avoids any negative feedback, and therefore never makes real progress nor creates the huge impact it strives for. I understand why this happens yet this situation MUST change if we are to minimise waste and re-shape the future of education and employment in the UK.

Work the world
The truth behind the world of work? In the pilot project ‘FUTURE’ I reveal many secrets and startling statistics to students from the world of business, including an explanation of the jobs market, past, present and future jobs, plus what exactly is a recession and how does it affect young people across the globe not just in the UK. This is ‘alternative’ careers advice and is designed to support and enhance all current school activities.

BTW: I don’t go into massive detail or depth on the struggles of a graphic designer here for instance, as we have 104 jobs to cover, 52 present jobs and the 52 top jobs of the future. The activity is fun and engaging and covers the world or work in two short 1 hour lessons.

In addition, ‘The Bulletman’s toolkit of creative activities for schools includes a brutally honest session; ‘Designers of the Future (2)’ – so give me a call or drop me an email if you’d like further details on any of these activities.

‘Young people will be your hardest audience, but are also the most rewarding.’ – Unknown

Creative pathways
To encourage new, local role models from the world of business to speak in schools, I know from experience that ‘career spotlight sessions’ are challenging, do work and are enjoyable to deliver. The promise and guarantee of an element of FUN, with every talk or workshop, will help engage a captive and willing audience eager to learn and hear your story, your pathway, your journey…

Think yocal, act global
The job of a (traditional) ‘graphic designer’ has also changed – in a ‘dying’ industry affected by global change, falling prices, the Internet – and largely due to the massive over supply and under demand highlighted within this post.

Also to note is the increasing number of students coming out of college, or redundant design agency bods, all setting up small business (often from home) which has become very noticeable in the last 2 years. Many are charging half the normal rate of agencies (or less), and have sent the industry into ‘free-fall’ following on from the decline of the print industry a few years ago. Combine this with the many logo auction sites, e-lancers and overseas competitors (working for peanuts) and you have a serious and growing problem, one that is not being tackled effectively in the UK.

Update: A design colleague told me the trend now is ‘boutique style agencies’ – high quality work at a lower price – compared to using the big agencies, so let’s see how this develops over the coming months and years.



CIAG – cracked it!

“Think of an idea to change our world – and put it into ACTION!” – Pay It Forward

Here are two CIAG ideas designed to help change the future shape of education in the UK.

We did History at school so why did we never do Future?

FUTURE – alternative (life-changing) careers guidance for young people.

Please click here for more information on the latest pilot of FUTURE™.

And what about the future of FUTURE? And have we cracked the code to an alternative solution for CIAG here…

JOBOLOGY – the science behind the world of work.

Please click here to look at a concept labelled JOBOLOGY™.



Both these concepts are built around this one simple question, something that has had me baffled for years…

“What do you want to do when you leave school?”

“I don’t know.”

In a recent survey (Sept 2013) this was the answer of a staggering 48 percent of x250 Year 11 students in North Yorkshire. Something needs to change here.

FACT: Traditionally (and locally) external careers services are very heavily biased on post 16 activities. This has not changed for years, yet I believe there is a gap in the market here, one where I have started to see change as careers organisation open their mind up to what is going wrong and what actually needs to happen. The future of CIAG must now be focussed on YOUNG people, the younger the better, and my suggestion (for now) is to target careers activities and work-related learning in Year 8 and 9 (aged 12-14), before choosing GCSE subjects at school.

The FUTURE pilot, stage 2, was completed (March 2014) and working with forward thinking Heads, teachers and 200+ Year 8 students so far, things are starting to shift and change shape with CIAG in West Yorkshire.

From egg to embryo
The original concept of ‘Jobs of the Future’ is developing at a decent pace yet the delivery model needs to be cloned and rolled out as fast as possible. The impact of this activity and the knock on effect of targeting Year 8 and 9 now will be:

• Sleep on it. The importance of reflection and incubation time (over 2-3 years)
• More ‘savvy’ students having a better understanding of job opportunities and the world of work
• A more positive outcome when you meet your careers adviser in Year 11

This simple concept of targeting a younger audience is a win-win-win scenario for schools, businesses and young people.

In time, and with some support, funding and some powerful stats and proof of concept, I fully expect this type of business driven careers activity to role out and become an essential and ‘necessary’ part of every school curriculum across the country. Let’s face it, if the future of the UK economy is dependent on someone doing something about it, and helping to change the shape of education, then we have to take risks here and do stuff never been done before. (Don’t forget to embrace failure along your own journey.) And in time I imagine this type of concept could become a weekly lesson that becomes ‘the norm’ for every student.

“It’s not what you learn, it’s how you learn.” – David Thomas

The digital revolution
On another note my own two children (aged 7 and 12) are seriously affected and addicted to Minecraft at the moment and if we let them they’d happily spend more time in a digital world of LEGO than they would in reality. And here I also have visions of thousands of obese young people sat in huge, floating gaming/AV chairs, similar to the Disney movie Wall-E if you have seen this very insightful clip?

My teacher is an App
The title and theme of this recent Radio 4 show is a potential clue to one route to learning and ‘the classroom of the future.’ Yet there is also another way, thankfully it does involve people and good old-fashioned face-to-face communication, yet it also involves props and teachers resource materials.

“When we laugh we learn.” – David Thomas

To help change this ‘digital madness’, how do we get back to traditional learning here? We design it to make it fun of course, and so far I have created a playing card game based activity on the Jobs of the Future and another engaging ‘prop-heavy’ activity; ‘The 7 Keys to Success’ that involves 7 keys, 7 boxes and 7 words of wisdom.

‘The future is about entertainment not just enterprise’

The role model and business driven ‘storyteller’ of the future (AKA enterprise champion) will:

1. Help develop, inspire and empower young people to make a positive contribution to the future success of our region.

2. Explore new dynamic areas of learning, creating egg-citing pilot projects and workshops designed to engage and entertain students.

3. Always remember to keep smiling in these challenging times and will promise to ensure we also have some FUN!

In time all the dots and creative thinking will join up, and a new, successful model for CIAG will change shape and evolve over time… Yet TIME is pressing here, we all need to act fast and move at the speed of a bullet… So let’s not forget this inspiring quote when thinking about young people and the future of the local and UK economy.

‘So many eggs, so little time.’ – Cadbury’s Creme Egg (Spring 2014)