Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Gap Year Fair

Today brought me some more business in Bath - this time, manning the Year in Industry's stand at a gap year fair – a collection of gap year organisations in the hall of a fancy school, all selling their stuff.

Strangely, whenever I come back from Bath, I feel really chilled and elated. I have no idea why. Today, I caught the train back, chatted briefly to a nice Indian lady, went to Asda, bought vegetables, walked home and listened to Northern Kings all the way. Then I ate two excellent cheese toasties and posted some stuff on my local Freecycle group. And it was awesome.

I wonder if Bath's really that nice that just going there gets me high? It is certainly a nice place, and I plan on testing the theory by making excuses to revisit the town.

The gap year fair itself was a bit of a dead loss in terms of getting students involved. I can count the number of students who really sounded interested on one hand.
The Year in Industry are in a difficult position at these events, as they are surrounded by people offering students the chance to spend a year snowboarding, swimming with dolphins or saving starving children in Africa. And along comes the YinI  saying "How would you like to get a job instead?" Doesn't sound so attractive now does it?
In order to deal with this, the YinI have started to offer an option called 'YinI Combo', on which students spend part of the year working like usual, then spend some of the money they earned to go off on a typical volunteering project abroad.
That's all well and good, but it's still called a Year in Industry. Countless times today, I heard students saying "Industry?" in a disgusted tone as they walked past the stand. The idea of working on a gap year is not one that appeals to the average 17-year-old.

I think that while the YinI is badly placed to sell its own YinI Combo, its partners that offer the volunteering part of the year are perfect for it. They can say "You can do all this stuff, and over here are the YinI who will help you to work up the funds to do it too!". Not only that, but the YinI looks great on a CV and it will help you prepare for your time at uni. Sounds a lot more interesting now, you see?

I'm not suggesting the YinI should stop attending these fairs. On the contrary, I think it should invest more in its involvement, and also be a bit smarter about how it does it. For a start, they should make sure that the people representing the partners understand the YinI and the Combo option. I spoke to representatives of the four partners today and three of them knew nothing about the YinI, even though they were giving out our leaflets!
I think they should also co-ordinate with the partners to ensure that the stands are physically close together and can refer students to each other easily.
Also, there was a lack of strong YinI branding on our stand. Almost all of the exhibitors had some sort of large-format backdrop with their name and an indication of what they do. Not so with us – we where the second-worst equipped of all the exhibitors there. It turns out that people are scared or simply uninterested to go up to a stand and find out what it is for, if it is not immediately obvious.

So yes, I have a lot of criticisms of the way the YinI represents at these events, but they can improve and I will tell them how!

And I am still in love with Bath!

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