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Getting students LinkedIn

How is LinkedIn using big data to close the skills gap and make students more employable? The EdTech Podcast's Sophie Bailey finds out

Posted by Rebecca Paddick | August 15, 2016 | Higher education

In a recent interview with Charles Hardy, Education Lead, at LinkedIN I found out about LinkedIn’s plans to close the skills gap and make students more employable through the data-crunching of their 400m members. 

Using ‘big-data’ is nothing new, but LinkedIn clearly have a head start when it comes to user volume - something which obviously caught Microsoft’s eye with their recent $26bn intention to buy announcement.

How many teachers, students and university lecturers are using LinkedIn, however? Hardy said much had been done to move on the student perception of LinkedIN as ‘Facebook to old people’, but he did also admit that teachers were ‘not the strongest demographic on linked in yet, but certainly very important to us.’ Adding ‘we need the teachers onboard.’ 

Why is this focus on teachers and students so important to LinkedIn? Going back to the title, how are new services helping to make students more employable? 

Many services are popping up in this area, providing more sophisticated methods of ‘optimising’ student pathways after school. They show which Universities, Apprenticeships and Further Education placements there are, how competitive they are and which jobs they may lead to. They connect students with peers, past alumni, and prospective newcomers to leverage their experiences and expedite career successes. Numerous start-ups and scale ups are developing in this area, something I highlighted in my recent webinar speech for The Department for International Trade and Investment. They include Unifrog and Unibudy and LinkedIn.

Given the prominent issue of rising student debt and calls for clearer pathway options, one can see the appeal of such services to savvier, choosier students who are used to ‘hubbing’ their experiences online. Hardy identified LinkedIN as a way for students to showcase their enthusiasm for subjects and hone their soft skills, preparing the bridge from pure academia into the work place: "Educational qualifications, in many ways, are no longer providing the level of discernment that employees are looking for."

To date, Hardy has predominantly been working with Universities and the Higher Education sector, but for real success with student engagement more educators from school upwards will need to be familiar with the platform to highlight its use to students, with the same ease of use - perhaps - that they adopt Pinterest and Facebook. This has been the cause of some debate online with for and against arguments for teachers and LinkedIn, but Hardy highlighted the benefits of LinkedIn as a place for teachers to share resources, knowledge and communities. Sounds like TES Resources should keep note.   

Universities have been using the platform to build branded pages which showcase the sectors graduates go into and offer connections between past, present and future students. In Hardy’s words "If you’ve got 100,000 alumni on linked in; how do you leverage that as part of your branding? It’s huge!" 

A Greater Manchester Combined Authority project  - in conjunction with the Norther Powerhouse Strategy and endorsed by MP Matthew Hancock - used LinkedIN data to create a ‘digital map’ of Greater Manchester’s economy, identifying job trends, business movement and skill requirements within specified areas and sectors in Manchester. Hardy said of the project: "It’s a good demonstration of working with a range of people to leverage our data for insights into a community or career sector."

What’s clear is that networking and presenting yourself effectively has always been important for students on the road to first jobs; this time the tools just got sharper. 

To find out more listen to episode 19 of  The Edtech Podcast:

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