Why I don’t work in tech!

Why I don’t work in tech!

I guess we all have our blind spots. Those little things that, however hard we try, just leave us unable to disguise our irritation. For some, it’s their football team losing at the weekend. For others it’s hearing a political view they can’t stand. For me, it’s being introduced as ‘that guy who works in tech’!

This irritation is based on one very simple principle. Technology is a means to an end, not an end in itself. We get our shopping delivered to our front door. The app that makes it happen is brilliant, but it’s simply a conduit to the greater goal of making shopping easier. In our case, Changing Education helps students find work experience and careers advise. The software we’ve developed simply makes that happen more efficiently and effectively.

It all began 12 years ago when my co-founder Matthew and I decided to start a business. We had a dream, which was to help young people leave education with credible work, life, and social skills. We’d do it by helping them gain work experience. To become familiar with ‘life on the other side’ of school or college and offer advice to help them take their first steps on the career ladder.

We founded Changing Education to do just that. We sat between the students, their schools, and the employers who could give them such valuable insights into the world of work. The good news was that it caught the imagination. We were inundated. The bad news was that we were spending our days (and nights!) drowning in paperwork, in spreadsheets, and in emails. The logistics continued to mushroom.

So when you’ve got too much to do, and a lot of it is administrative and repetitive, the best place to look for help is in the land of technology. Our wish list was pretty extensive. We needed to manage work experience programmes ‘en masse’, record every placement and interaction, to store all that information and make it searchable, make it accessible to school staff, employers, our staff and, most importantly, the students themselves, advertise new opportunities, manage risks, collate feedback and collate appraisals. I’m aware that was a long sentence, but it gives you some idea of what we were taking on.

The next step was to go shopping for something that ticked all those boxes. If you like your fairy tales, imagine a 21st Century re-write of The Princess and the Pea! We searched high and low, but there was nothing. So unlike the story, we decided to create our own!
That’s how the CONNECT Web Platform and our Student Mobile App were born. And what we quickly realised was that we couldn’t just make something that worked there and then. Things would change, including our vision. Which meant the software had to be incredibly agile.

We wanted it to become an integral indicator of performance management for departments, areas, and courses. We wanted it to report against regulatory requirements, from Ofsted audits and Gatsby to funding applications. We wanted staff to be able to track KPIs, to improve employer engagement, assist evaluation of the study programme, and develop wider careers model management and tracking.
As the technology became more popular, we realised we needed even more. This meant developing partnerships with other organisations to service the latest Ofsted and Gatsby requirements, and to offer our users even more.

And as we grew, we had to take care that the quality of our data remained high, because a brilliant system with flawed data isn’t very brilliant at all!

Looking back, we built the business without Connect for three years. We’ve now been developing and improving it for a further nine. During the pandemic, we’ve had to be agile enough to switch the provision to virtual experience and advice. Fortunately, it has held up, meaning that we have been able to continue to help students plan for the future at a time when they need it most.

I am so proud of Connect and our student app. I’m so pleased we invested in it heavily. But, ultimately, it’s just a means to an end. Because we have now helped over half a million children embrace work experience, preparing and inspiring them to become future leaders.

This is why, when we next meet-up, I’d be really grateful if you could introduce me as the guy who works in education!

Author: Stephen Hackney (Director and Co-founder Changing Education Group

(Virtual work experience is taking place right now. We are already planning for on-site work experience next year. We are hosting a series of webinars to explain how to get involved and how to use our technology. It would be great to see you there.)

want to know more? watch the teaser video

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