News: career changes; London skills gap; applications down; summer schools

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The Independent Online

Never too late to change career

According to a recent survey there is a yawning gap in how exciting graduates think their respective careers are. The Training and Development Agency (TDA) for schools asked around 2,000 graduates aged between 21 and 45 to rate how bored they were in their jobs. People in administration and secretarial jobs came out as the most cheesed off, followed by those in manufacturing, marketing and sales.

Those in media, law and engineering scored somewhere in the middle of the boredom scale, while the most absorbing job came out as teaching, closely followed by a career in healthcare. Teachers said that they enjoyed themselves more because no two days were the same and they also took enjoyment from interacting with people every day.

Half of the graduates who were questioned said that they had thought about changing career in the past year, with 61 per cent saying that the reason they were bored was that they didn't feel challenged, and that their skills and intelligence weren't being used to the full.

However, as a TDA executive director points out: "It's never too late to change career." It's also worth having a good think about what it is you want to do in the first place!

Concern at London skills gap

The shortage of skilled staff is the biggest barrier to business in London, a recent survey has shown.

Almost two-thirds of employers - 61 per cent - face skills shortages, an increase from 49 per cent last year, the CBI employers' group said. The biggest problem is recruiting staff with specialist skills, but general skills such as communication and team-working, as well as basic literacy and numeracy deficiencies, were also a concern, employers said.

The difficulty in recruiting skilled staff may also be having an effect on off-shoring, with the proportion of companies moving research and development work overseas doubling in a year.

Sir Digby Jones, the director general of the CBI, said: "While it is positive news that London is still seen as a good place to do business, employers are right to be concerned about the difficulty in finding staff equipped with basic and more advanced skills. Business does not expect young people to have all the skills to do a specific job but surely it is not asking too much of the Government to ensure school leavers have the ability to add up, read and write." So, if you've read this article you're a third of the way there!

Figures show applications down

State school pupils, working-class youngsters and people from deprived backgrounds are losing out to more privileged candidates in the battle for university places, according to official figures published last month.

Ministers expressed disappointment at the figures, which showed the proportion of pupils from state schools going to university has dropped to its lowest level for three years.

Drop-out rates have also risen and more young people are predicted to leave university with no qualification and to fail to find work, the data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) show.

Bill Rammell MP, the higher education minister, said: "We are disappointed that the percentages of young full-time students from disadvantaged backgrounds have not increased since last year."

The publication came as the latest university application figures showed a 3.5 per cent drop, suggesting that young people had been put off going into higher education this autumn by the introduction of top-up fees. This meant that 17,184 fewer students applied to university than at the same date last year.

Universities will be able to charge fees of up to £3,000 a year from September. The new fee regime has already provoked a rush of applications last year with 8.2 per cent more people applying to ensure they would escape the new charges.

Broaden your horizons in the sun

For many students, summer is a time to relax. For more serious-minded individuals, it's a chance for further study - and academic summer schools are becoming increasingly popular.

In alliance with the Government's Aimhigher initiative, many universities run free summer schools to encourage teenagers in years 11,12 and 13 to consider the benefits of Higher Education. Catherine Baggley, 17, has just finished a residential summer school at the University of Nottingham. "It was brilliant," she says. "If that's what university is going to be like, it's going to be great."

Summer fun isn't ignored. The Oxford Summer School timetable is designed to promote a good working ethic by rewarding students with social activities in the evening, from punting and theatre trips to laser tag games and skating.

For degree-level students and professionals, university summer courses such as those run by the London School of Economics are a chance to gain extra degree credits and enhance sector knowledge. "The selling point is that the courses are condensed versions of LSE courses taught by its lecturers," says summer school manager Lyndon McKevitt.

For students looking to sharpen their skills, summer schools offer brilliant opportunities and give you the chance to meet new people and broaden your horizons.

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