I try to introduce and use the apprenticeships.org.uk website with pupils in schools. It can be a nightmare. Schools are busy places, pupils of 15 or 16 can come from a wide range of backgrounds but often have short attention spans when it comes to websites that are not up to the slick standards of social networking sites (the sites they are not allowed to access in schools). If a site has too many barriers they walk away.
Apprenticeships are one of the major options for young people about to leave school at the end of Year 11. Why must the website be so hard to use with them?
My main criticisms of the website begin with the organisation’s seeming inability to respond to criticisms! I know they have heard all that follows before because I’ve been to conferences and presentations over the last year or so when they have sought – and been given – this same feedback. And nothing has happened. Maybe if enough LinkedIn members respond they might listen and act. I know that – like voting – if LinkedIn ever changed anything they’d ban it but lets try…
1. Crucially, information about wages, hours, qualifications sought and to be gained are all hidden behind the frustrating (see below) process of registration and signing in. It’s difficult to incentivise teenagers to continue without this basic information up front. It shouldn’t be difficult to get this right. (After all, the old vacancy cards in careers and Connexions centres provided all this information minus the employers name and did motivate the young person to speak to an adviser to find out more).
2. Even if we get beyond problem one (above) we find the process of registration a real hurdle. Bear in mind that this is a website the pupil will not use on a daily basis. Coming up with a user name is not always too difficult (although you’d be surprised). The password is another matter. The site asks for a “capital letter, a number and a special character” combination. Now I understand the argument that this guards against identity theft etc. but this requirement actually undermines security by not allowing the young person to use a password they already know or might remember and they end up writing it down on a piece of paper in their pocket. If they can be bothered and if they know that a “special character” doesn’t mean Thor or Captain America…
3. Should they overcome barriers 1 and 2 they find that they have to enter their email address. Fine and perfectly reasonable for the professionals and adults who operate the site but a real problem if they have – as most do – a Hotmail or Facebook account that they cannot access on school computers!
So having done my best to sell the Apprenticeship concept to them using my log-in and then spent a long time – if the bell doesn’t ring for the next lesson – helping them to set up an account, the entire “sales” process falls before “closure” when I have to rely on them going home after school, not losing the piece of paper with their over-complicated password on and remembering to log in to their hotmail account BEFORE THEY EVEN SEE THE PAY, HOURS OR QUALIFICATIONS THEY NEED. Next time I see them, a day or week later, they have usually forgotten the username, password and havn’t visited the site again anyway.
It is much easier for them to apply to college. The information they need is right there. They know the course will be there in September when they need it. They can apply on-line on the same website.
I know young people – like their careers advisers – can be frustrating and are not always their own best friend but the apprenticeship.org.uk website should be designed with those facts in mind. What do other people who work with real young people in schools and colleges think? Is it just me?