Lord Jim Knight on Education, Job Searching and Recruitment – Feature Interview with Innovate CV’s New Associate Director

Innovate CV is honoured to announce Lord Jim Knight as our new Associate Director.

Lord Knight was the longest serving Schools Minister in the last Labour government, as well as serving as Rural Affairs Minister and Employment Minister. He attended weekly Cabinet in the year running up to the 2010 General Election, and was made a life peer in the Dissolution Honours List after the election. He is now Shadow Employment & Welfare Reform Minister in the House of Lords, as well as now being an integral part of the Board of Directors at Innovate CV.

You’ve spent ten years serving the British people. Tell us about your most satisfying achievements.

Whilst very proud of what I was able to do for my constituency in Dorset, I am most proud of my work as schools minister.  In my time we trained the best generation of teachers we’ve ever had and deployed them in the best equipped schools, probably in the world – as a result standards are improving.  My time as employment minister also showed how much more needs doing to make sure everyone leaving school is employable!

Congratulations on your new role as Innovate CV’s associate director! What attracted you to join the team?

I have become increasingly interested in the power of technology to “do more for less”.  It has transformed industries like travel, and music but more importantly changed the way we all work and communicate.  It frustrates me that we are yet to catch up with the potential of technology in education or recruitment.

Innovate CV is ahead of the game in offering a great product that does just that, so it is a great fit with my interests.

You have a very active Twitter account, which indicates you enjoy keeping up with technological advancements. You’ve even enjoyed a guest appearance on Second Life! But how can job seekers best harness digital developments?

The future is hard to predict, but we do know that using technology with confidence is now a basic skill in the labour market.  We know that with the explosion of social networking, recruiters are increasingly checking candidates’ on-line profiles.  Job seekers therefore need to wise up to both the threats and opportunities of the on-line world.

More job applications are only accepted by email or through websites, and using an online CV shows employers that you are confident with that medium.  Products like Innovate CV then offer much more through helping improve the CV, and providing a gateway to training, as well as a very rich multimedia CV.

The educational community has made significant inroads in embracing the eLearning concept. Do you think employers share their enthusiasm?

Employers remain concerned that school leavers can read, write and add up.  They want good IT skills but seem broadly happy with what schools are producing at present.  The challenge from employers for schools is therefore to sustain good levels of IT skills whilst further improving the other basic skills.  The other enthusiasm from employers is to see more soft skills – communication, team working, leadership and presentation – these are very well developed using technology and the cultures of social networking that are rooted in collaboration and communication.

Some 10% of UK students who graduated last year were unable to find work, up from 8% the year before. What are the main factors contributing to these difficult conditions?

This reflects a very tough labour market.  It is always the case that tightening labour market conditions are hardest for young people because employers can pick and choose, and will be inclined towards skills plus experience if they can get it.

As employment minister we sought to mitigate against this by programmes such as the Young Persons Guarantee, the Future Jobs Fund, expanding apprenticeships and Backing Young Britain.  These measures helped keep youth unemployment below the predicted one million and targeted help for graduates with opening up internships.  Most of these schemes have ended with the change of government and I believe the latest statistics reflect that.

Given the fiercely competitive graduate job market, university-leavers are looking for ways to stand out.  What realistic options do they have?

Ideally they won’t have waited until graduation before worrying about it! Young people are used to being judged on their academic results.  These remain important, and will often be the basis of filtering by employers, but having some work experience is just as important.  Employers want to know a candidate is sufficiently motivated to hold down a job and get a good reference, almost regardless of what the job is.

Softer skills such as presentation, confidence, communication, resilience are today more important than ever before, and can be demonstrated effectively on an Innovate CV.  Doing voluntary work, sport, the arts, cadets – anything that builds those skills – is therefore vital if you want to put yourself in a really good position.

If you have neglected all these things in favour of Xbox and the bar then you may need to spend some time volunteering after graduation, if your family can support you while you do it.

You’ve been a major advocate of introducing technological know-how into the education system. Why do you feel so strongly about this issue?

There has been a revolution in learning in the last few years, but unfortunately too much of it has been outside school!  Children today are the most stimulated in history – stimulated by TV, games, social networking, the internet…and the real world!  Children can now pursue their passions and learn so much together with friends anywhere in the world, and they are getting on with it.

Sadly, too often schooling doesn’t reflect this powerful new way of learning with teaching being done by lecturing in front of rows of desks – much as it did when I was at school.  This makes school irrelevant to the real world children are living in, it doesn’t sufficiently engage them, and can even mean that school is where they go to have a rest from learning!  That has to change.  As President Obama said: “Our future is at stake. The nation that out-educates us today will out-compete us tomorrow”

At the recent REC convention you met with the recruitment community. What were the major themes or general concerns industry players were bringing up with you?

Many realise that there are opportunities to do things better with technology but are struggling to understand how.  They know that wading through paper is inefficient and there must be a better way.  In the current economic environment few want to take risks and so are looking for tried and tested tools.

There was also some interest in how the industry responds to the public sector job losses.  The public sector itself may want advice in how to remodel its workforce and generally it means a much more competitive labour market.

How is Innovate CV best placed to replace the Word CV and bring increased efficiencies to recruiter and job seeker?

It goes back to the previous question regarding digital developments.  For the job seekers it is a free service that can make a real difference by ensuring you have a decent CV that you can keep up to date, show more of your personality, with advice on how to improve your prospects further.

For the recruiter it is a great advance to be able to go straight to the information you need at each stage of the filtering process with an agency tailored standardised template, and to be able to receive more advanced elements like video and samples of work for those that want it.  It genuinely offers more for less.

We wish Lord Knight all the best for his new role, and welcome any questions or comments you may have for our new Associate Director!


Categories: Articles for Employers, Articles for Job Seekers, Articles for Recruiters


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3 Comments on “Lord Jim Knight on Education, Job Searching and Recruitment – Feature Interview with Innovate CV’s New Associate Director”

  1. Maggie R
    December 3, 2010 at 10:36 am #

    Can I ask Lord Knight what his thoughts are about unpaid internships? We’re being encouraged by my lecturers to go for it. As a PR student, we understand that we will learn valuable skills etc. But we can’t help feel taken advantage of as students. Regardless, our hands are tied.

    Can we expect unpaid internships to become the norm across many industries?

  2. jameswarrior12
    December 6, 2010 at 2:20 pm #

    “Sadly, too often schooling doesn’t reflect this powerful new way of learning with teaching being done by lecturing in front of rows of desks – much as it did when I was at school.”

    Fantastic views, if you ask me. I thought school was a dreadful experience. However, when I started working a graphic designer, the eduaction experience turned around 180 degrees. I don’t think it was purely because I found the topics more interesting, but because the tools were far more in touch with the realities of how we grow up these days.

    Top notch perspctive, in my humble opinion!


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    […] Lord Jim Knight: In England all money is spent at the individual school level; they have the opposite problem as the US (no economies of scale/impulsive & inefficient purchasing vs. overly long sales cycle, tremendous number of hoops to jump through to sell to large districts in US) […]

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