Thursday 26th April 2012 – a special day

If you live in the US, today is a special day for sons and daughters…

What a brilliant initiative!  Check the link: www.daughtersandsonstowork.org/

Of course, it’s only one day so all those lucky sons and daughters won’t get the widest of experiences but it’s a brilliant idea nevertheless.

There will doubtless be plenty of people who will resent the idea of “kids” coming into their workplace and distracting them.  But there will also be plenty of people who find themselves to be naturally inspiring and who will encourage young talent.  Even if that sometimes results in the sons and daughters changing their understanding of what work is all about, then that’s a good thing.  We all like to make informed choices and we want our children to have that opportunity too.  This looks like a great initiative!

It’s a bit like carrying an organ donor card

Stats from the NHS suggest that whilst more than 94% of us would expect to benefit from a donor organ should the need arise, only 29% of us carry an organ donor card.  Similarly, only 4% of the UK population give blood – a staggeringly low proportion given the personal “cost”.

When unleaded fuel was first introduced to the UK in the late 1980’s, the takeup was very slow.  This was partly owing to the engine-tuning changes which were needed, but even when new cars were compatible with unleaded, the takeup remained stubbornly slow.  It was only when unleaded became significantly cheaper than the alternative, that it began to change, and unleaded sales overtook leaded and diesel.  Drivers could directly feel the benefit for themselves, immediately.

We all understood then, that it was a good idea to switch to unleaded, just like we all understand now, that it’s a good idea to carry a donor card.  So what are we waiting for?  It seems we need to feel the effects of the gain personally before believing it, and deciding how to behave.  The debate in the UK over whether or not we should have an opt-out system (rather than the current opt-in) will no doubt continue whilst we consider civil liberties, rights, information security and such.  But I’m fairly sure that if you told someone who was suddenly critically in need of a donor organ, that they could only receive the organ if they themselves held a donor card, they would sign up instantly.  In this case it’s easy to feel the gain personally, and the resultant behaviour is easy to predict.

Is this why we have so few placements available for students?  Employers aren’t actually feeling any real pain, so they don’t do anything about it?  Can we make it more painful for them unless they create places?  Or, better, is there something we could do which makes them feel the benefits as soon as they create places?  Doing something might be more effective than waiting and hoping for the best.

Gosh, it must be so hard for those at the NHS who encourage us to donate blood or organs – they must encounter so much apathy!  I feel for them.

Footnote – as a result of this, my immediate personal action is to register with both services.  Doesn’t take much thinking about really, does it?

Is it my imagination…

… or are things getting more complicated since the advent of the web?

I recall that in my last year at school, I wrote to universities and asked for a list of organisations which might sponsor me on a degree course.  Then I wrote to a couple of those organisations asking for details and followed up with a completed application form.  It was pretty straightforward, and relatively painless.  And when I say “wrote”, I mean by hand, and “posted”, meaning through the mail service.  These days it seems to be strangely more complicated.

I just did an exercise to see how it works these days, and I put myself in the shoes of an imminent school-leaver.  I figured that with the benefit of the web, it should be even more straightforward than it was all those years ago.  Where to start?  University websites generally don’t have lists of potential sponsors, or partnering organisations.  Extensive web searching reveals plenty of such organisations, but they all seem to offer different things – placements, internships, training schemes.  It’s absolutely not obvious (to me), and for a student it must be quite a daunting prospect.

Are there any websites which make this easy (or easier) for students?  Do we expect school-leavers to do all this searching for themselves?  Is this part of a survival scheme, where only the fittest (or in this case, most persistent) reach the end?  Where should the responsibility lie to resolve this?  Should it be with the universities to forge closer ties with organisations, or should it be with the organisations themselves?  Or should schools be taking some of the responsibility to create these relationships?

I was naively hoping that somehow the web would help close the gap between the “for sale” and the “wanted”.  Why isn’t it as simple today as it was 25 years ago, when all it took was a few nicely worded letters and a bit of time waiting for the postman?