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About Us

Karen Martin and Beverley Ireland-Symonds promote the value of having effective communication skills for individuals, teams and organisations.
Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Should pupils be penalised for poor spelling?

The recent announcement that A-Levels and GCSEs are going to be 'toughened up' with pupils losing marks for poor spelling has caused a great deal of debate. Some teachers agree and others think that it doesn't really matter and it is the content that is more important.

As an examiner for one of the major examining boards in the UK, I recently had an interesting conversation about this with a fellow examiner.  We were talking about what mark should be assigned to someone who had made 8 spelling errors in an assignment of 300 words.  My colleague argued that 8 errors was a very small amount as a percentage and the majority of the work was good.

Of course he was right.  As a percentage, 8 errors represent 2.6% of the total amount written which is small and under the criteria we were marking the majority of the work was good. In the context of which we were marking I had to agree with my colleague, however, with my non-examining hat on I have a very different view. 

Whatever pupils learn at school and later at college or university they are being prepared for ultimately getting a job and being a success in the world of work. If they're applying for a job, would 8 errors on the application form be acceptable? It may depend on who's judging it, but in a competitive market place a poorly spelt form may mean that they don't even get short-listed. Eight errors would suddenly look very different if it was shown to damage someone's job prospects.

Successful companies such as Tesco have complained about the literacy levels of school leavers and graduates so it clearly matters to many employers.  No one doubts that times have changed and many people have a more relaxed view towards grammar and spelling, but surely everything should be done to ensure that schools leavers asre equipped with an acceptable standard of literacy skills and an understanding of any areas they need to improve. What do you think?
Thursday, 18 November 2010

Who will fill the UK skills gaps?

It was announced today that the government has been advised to cut the number of non EU migrant workers allowed into the UK by up to a quarter, but what impact will this have on the UK economy?


According to a recent article in People Management, employers are having to turn to migrant workers to fill skills gaps – this includes EU and non-EU migrant workers. As the UK economy starts to recover, this is becoming even more of a necessity as it’s hard to fill certain vacancies with UK workers. Out of the 600 employers who completed the CIPD/KPMG Labour Market Outlook survey, almost half said they had vacancies which were hard to fill, particularly in IT, accountancy, finance and engineering.


The proposed introduction of a 'migration cap' by the government has been worrying a number of employers for some time, so today’s news is not going to be welcomed by all. This could impact considerably on the ability of some companies to recover from the economic downturn. Even though the number of UK graduates struggling to find work is on the increase, many employers are still finding it difficult to fill skilled vacancies.

Back in September this year, Vince Cable, Business Secretary, stated that if some employers are unable to fill vacancies they may be forced to move some of their operations overseas. According to Cable, any immigration cap that is introduced needs to be flexible enough to, 'meet companies’ skills requirements and the economy’s growth needs.' I’m sure lots of business leaders will be questioning just how ‘flexible’ today’s news is for the UK.

If the UK wants to address these skills shortages then something has got to be done to ensure that people are coming out of universities and colleges with the skills that are needed. This is not a new problem, yet not enough seems to have been done to ensure that businesses and the education sector are working collaboratively.


Should UK businesses be putting more pressure on the government to review immigration policies?
Friday, 12 November 2010

Could demonstrating harm your future job prospects?

The papers this week, have been full of the 50,000 strong demonstration In London, against the increase in student fees for Higher Education students. Because of a small minority, it is clear that some of the messages that they wanted to communicate have been lost behind the headlines of smashed windows, unprepared police and a fire extinguisher being dangerously thrown from the roof of a building.

I have read newspaper articles and listened to the news and watched Newsnight and  heard from students who condemned the violence, those that said a few broken windows are nothing, those that say violence is the only way that their voice can be heard and those that just wanted to attend and silently express their anger about the burden of debt they may face in the future.  As I listened to the reports and I read articles, there was one issue that kept coming up for me which hadn't been mentioned. I kept wondering whether the people involved were fully aware of the messages they were communicating and how they could impact on their future job prospects.

In January of this year it was reported that “7 out of 10 employers research candidates online”, but as we go around our daily lives, are these figures that the majority of people even thing of? The photos, the messages that we post randomly, could they be held against us at a later date. It's easy to argue that most of us are aware of the importance of what information we share with other people and being careful to set the right  privacy settings.  However, the key issue is not the control of our own settings but other peoples. It’s possible to be completely unaware of photos that other people post on their walls, with comments, names, dates and times. 

I’m not arguing that people shouldn’t demonstrate or they shouldn’t be seen on a demonstration. The right to demonstrate and freedom of speech are rights that as a democracy we should welcome and celebrate.  All I wonder is that when the students of today demonstrate, lawfully and peacefully and a tiny minority  throw missiles, or break windows or scream abuse – are they thinking about the possible impact on their job prospects of the future?