Yesterday I took my final exams for the BSc (Hons) IT degree I have spent the past 4 years studying for.
When I moved home about 5 years ago, I had no idea what I was going to do with myself beyond temping in an office somewhere and after much encouragement from friends and family I decided to go back and get me a degree.
When I started this degree, I was adamant that I didn’t want to work in IT and that the industry was just full of wankers (what a misconception) and that I only wanted to get an IT degree so that I could do a PGCE and become a teacher. That notion lasted a full 2 years, meanwhile I got involved in the tech scene in Blackpool, thanks to Les Pounder who set up the first geekup in Blackpool & Gemma Cameron who brought Barcamp to Blackpool. It was then that I fell in love with the industry, the creativity, the potential and most of all the people.
Over the past few years I’ve met not only my boyfriend, but my boss and most of my colleagues as well as others I’d count amongst my best friends thanks to the amazing community that’s been cultivated not just in Blackpool, but across the NW and the UK.
So thanks to you, for opening my eyes to not only how great a career in IT can be, but to new technologies, friendly communities, exciting opportunities, amazing collaborations and most of all for the cake (which may or may not be a lie).
I’m not sure I’d have made it this far without you.
It’s been a while since I updated this blog, but having just returned from a trip to my local library, I felt compelled to write this post.
As a child the library was a frequent friend, my Mum took me regularly to South Norwood library to loan books, attend story time and go to children’s events and I loved it. Right up until becoming a (too cool for books) teenager, I enjoyed reading and as such, visiting the library. Now I know times are changing, e-books are replacing traditional paperbacks, and more people are downloading content and reading magazines and newspapers on-line than buying them or checking them out at the library, but I felt such a deep sorrow when I walked into Fleetwood library.
Now Fleetwood has got what you’d probably describe as a ‘deprived’ population, with a high percentage of those people on the lowest incomes (pensioners, single parents, unemployed, minimum wagers) but you’d think that would be an incentive to empower and educate the local population by providing decent facilities? I’m also well aware of the cut backs happening up and down the country, and I understand that libraries are taking a big hit (I wish I had some decent data here to back up these insights) but still, when you go to a library, generally one assumes you will find books? Not at Fleetwood Library.
It seems as though the library does a good job of catering for those who are it’s daily/weekly visitors; pensioners. Half of the first floor is taken up with books about wars, and romantic fiction and tales of seamen past, and that’s lovely, if you’re drawing a pension and saving on electricity by reading instead of watching TV (the other half coincidently is the children’s section). However, when I search the library catalogue for ‘ethics’ and get no results, for ‘computing law’ and ‘IT legislation’ and get no results; alarm bells ring.
A search for ‘trust computer’ returned but one result, a DVD entitled ‘Trust’ directed by David Schwimmer… need I say more? Following a thorough (all of 2 minutes to check 3 shelves) search of the woeful ‘Computers’ section and a cursory glance at ‘Psychology’; including such gems as ‘How to tell if you’re Psychic’ and a book on dowsing I gave up. I felt such despair for the people of Fleetwood, that all their local library can offer on computing is tips on how to use an iPod, and ‘Internet for the elderly’.
On the flip side to the horrendous experience of trying to find a book in a library (I know!) the staff there were extremely helpful, despite being in high demand and they’ve brought themselves into the 21st century by installing self-service computers where you can check out and return books. What I’d rather they’d spent that money on though is books! Both for the library and the people who go there in search of advice, information or something more than stories about fishermen.
The only upside to this whole experience, was allowing an old man to show me how to use the self-service machine. He looked thoroughly pleased. So much for having a degree in IT.
So the blog has been a little neglected over the summer. My apologies, but there’s been a tonne of stuff going on! Here’s an update on the main time vampire of the summer; Barcamp Blackpool 2012.
After regularly attending #geekupthetower for the last 12 months or so, I decided that I’d team up with the organiser (@biglesp) to help get this year’s Barcamp Blackpool going, as last year’s organiser (@ruby_gem) was passing on the baton. I didn’t realise at the time, just quite what I’d let myself in for!
The majority of the planning was slow and steady, getting sponsors, sorting out a bank account, finding a venue, organising the food and then all of a sudden it was 2 weeks before the actual event was meant to be happening and I’m not going to lie, I panicked! Les and I had a number of planning meetings, with all sorts of people from the Blackpool LUG to the venue, as well as with a lot of the #geekupthetower folk. With a week left to go, we still weren’t 100% on what the rules about PAT testing were, we weren’t 100% sure what equipment we had to provide for ourselves and we had no idea what the food on the day was going to taste like! That’s a lot of uncertainty when you have sponsors to represent and 150 people coming to your event. With a final shove, we nailed down the final details with literally 48 hours to go, massive props to Les here for holding down a full time job and keeping Mrs P happy whilst I sent message after message asking what we were doing about bunting and cakes and name badges and balls of string!
The schedule for the day was a little different to previous years, as we wanted more of a “do” for the evening as we had the wonderful 20lb coming up from Liverpool to play, as well as Alex Martindale doing a comedy routine. We had talks throughout most of the day, despite the fact I made a little mistake on the board and forgot to fill in the closing talks slot so people put their talks in there and we had a bit of last minute shuffling around to do! As with any event, things go wrong; we struggled to get people checked in as the registration area wasn’t immediately obvious to people who wanted to just walk in and dump their stuff, the coffee was naff so I had to get my Mum to do a last minute run to Asda to get some decent tea and coffee, the projector died during the opening talk so we had to do without and get the lovely Dan Lynch to jump in as AV for the day, and I’m sure there were many more little issues that we’ve learnt from and will do differently next year (yes, I think I’m mad enough to do it again).
In the 72 hours before the event I baked and iced 162 cakes and 70 biscuits, had a mad dash to the supermarket to buy power adaptors, had 2 meetings with the venue and one HUGE meal and a few drinks at the pre-drinks, so I was thoroughly knackered on the day, apologies to those who I didn’t get to talk to, but I hope you had a brilliant day! Things are really different on the side of the organisers, and the enjoyment comes not from going to talks, but from seeing other people appreciating and enjoying your hard work. So to all of you who said something nice about us, gave us a smile or an offer of help with a difficult or boring job, to those that offered advice on what bank account to apply for and how to get the wifi working to it’s best, a massive thank you, because although Les & I are the organisers, we couldn’t have done it without you.
I’m really proud of what we achieved, and there are loads of little improvements I’d like to make for next year, many of which have been reiterated on our feedback form. If you haven’t already done it, please take a minute to let us know what you thought of the event and the venue etc. as your input is what helps us to improve it.
Finally, a MASSIVE thanks to all our sponsors. This year they were so much more than the guys and girls that gave us money. They also provided advise, equipment and knowledge on top of the venue, wifi, food, drink, cake and fun!
Also, take a look at some of the videos and pictures that are emerging, here’s a few randomly related pictures I found on my iPhone!
The team behind Blackpool Youth Question Time, which I blogged about last week have posted some videos of the events on their YouTube channel. For those of you who were a bit bewildered by my last blog post on this topic, or found it too long to read, why not watch the videos below and see what to make of the event for yourselves.
On Thursday of this week, I was invited to attend the first ever Blackpool Youth Question Time, held at the City Learning Centre, on Grange Park in Blackpool. I was invited as one of 5 allocated places for Blackpool & The Fylde college, and was asked by the College’s Student Liason Officer, as part of my responsibilities as a Students’ Union exec member. I was really pleased to be invited to the event and found the evening really interesting.
The event was organised (I think) by the team behind @rubothered on behalf of Blackpool Council.
The panel was chaired by the head of ‘Employability’ at Blackpool & Fylde College, Chris Thomas and was made up of the following people;
Conservative Councillor Paul Galley (PG)
Liberal Democrat Councillor Douglas Green (DG)
Labour Councillor Chris Maughan (CM)
Member of Youth Parliament for Blackpool Lauren Anderson (LA)
Blackpool Young Persons Council Chair Nicole Burke (NB)
It was great to see the young ladies charged with representing the ‘youth’ of Blackpool, speak so coherently and passionately about the issues affecting young people in the area.
The format of the evening was that there would be two sessions, with a short interval in between. In the first session, questions from young people who were unable to attend were asked, which included questions on tackling racism and youth unemployment. Both serious issues affecting many young people across the Fylde.
In response to the question on youth unemployment;
CM said that cuts made by the previous administration of as much as 50% to youth funding meant that it was difficult to offer the level of support to young people the Labour party would like. However he insisted that support would still be provided and that vulnerable young people would be made the priority.
PG, who runs a private recruitment company said that the key would be to identify a 30 year plan, which would see the Fylde coast linking current education to the skills required in the future. He also said that schemes like the Princes Trust would be a good example to follow and that young people needed to be ‘inspired & nurtured’ to raise their aspirations and help them to start businesses of their own.
NB responded by asking what could be done now to help 16-17 year olds struggling to find work, with services such as Connexions being cut, she felt that young people weren’t getting the careers guidance they needed, and would often leave the town to seek employment elsewhere.
DG said an emphasis needed to be placed on schemes such as apprenticeships, but that would be difficult since many of the companies that used to offer apprenticeships such as BT were no longer public sector companies. He also said that the onus should be placed on young people to try to seek employment, and that the culture of having things handed to you on a plate was to blame.
LA insisted that careers advice was what was lacking, particularly in schools, she agreed with DG that young people should be pushing themselves to create opportunities but more companies in the town were needed, that offer more than just seasonal work.
During this discussion, Paul Maynard Conservative MP for Blackpool North was invited to contribute and said that we need to diversify the economy across the Fylde coast and work across councils to get successful schemes such as apprenticeships set up. He also talked about private sector services, such as BenEast who can offer careers advice and guidance for young people.
The next question was about tackling racism between young people?
DG said that there needs to be better education in schools about the affects of racist behaviour, and that parents should take responsibility for teaching their children about this issue. He also said that peer pressure could be used in a positive way to get the message across that it isn’t acceptable to be racist.
NB said that the message needed to be spread further and that young people of Blackpool needed to work together to do this.
LA said that she thought the punishment for any racist attack should be the same, no matter whether you’re the England football captain or an everyday person. She also said people needed to be made aware of the consequences of being racist.
PG said that the country as a whole needed to work together to embrace multiculturalism.
The Chief Constable for Lancashire Police was brought in on this topic and reiterated that there is no place in society for any form of hate crime and discrimination, and that so far raising awareness of the issue has helped reduce incidents of this type. He also stated that it was important that schools and colleges had good anti-bullying procedures in place and that young people are made aware that the Police will take action on these types of offences.
After these questions, there was a brief interval. In the second half, questions on transport, cuts to youth services and changes to the bus timetables and routes were raised by members of the audience.
The first question was about what specific youth service provisions are there for people with disabilities?
A lady in the audience (I didn’t catch her name or role) responded that new provisions were being made at Mereside called ‘Aim Higher’ which is a facility opening fully in March specifically for young people with disabilities and their siblings and parents. The facility offers the area’s first soft play centre for disabled youths as well as many other fantastic opportunities for disabled young people.
Another audience member added that there are plenty of voluntary youth organisations working in conjunction with local authorities, such as; boys ‘n’ girls club, Tramshed and Tiggers.
The next question was from a colleague of mine on the Students’ Union, Sam Richardson who asked whether there were any plans to support students with the cost of transport in Blackpool, by introducing a student fare or extending the existing Wave Card provision. Sam put this question into context by bringing up the cuts to EMA which meant that many students found it increasingly difficult to afford the cost of getting to college.
CM responded by agreeing that he thought the cuts to EMA were appalling and that in his experience he and his brother would never have been able to get to college without it. He said that at present Blackpool Council, who are the majority stakeholders in Blackpool Transport were in reviews to see if and how changes could be made to make the cost of travel more affordable.
NB said that lots of young people found the cost of travel a huge barrier to accessing services and employment, not just education. She said that the Blackpool Young Persons Council (BYPC) were in talks with Blackpool Transport about trying to extend the Wave Card to 19 year olds.
PG said that the EMA would be replaced by a 16-19 ‘bursary fund’ which would helps those who most needed support and pointed out how lucky he thought we were in comparison to some places were the buses stop running at 5pm.
During this discussion, the audience heard from Trevor Roberts from Blackpool Transport, who agreed to sit down with BYPC and try to extend the Wave Card, he also said that since September 2011, they have been working with Blackpool & Fylde College and Blackpool 6th to offer reduced fares, but that perhaps more information needed to be provided about how these fares can be accessed. He also brought up that Blackpool Transport has only increased its prices once in the last three years, and that was down to the rising cost of fuel, as opposed to increasing profit margins.
The final question of the evening was asked about why youth groups have been cut, and often youth workers moved to other jobs?
DG put the onus on the economic climate, saying that cuts were having to be made and that all areas were bound to suffer.
PG said that in his ward they were allocating more of their budget to youth services than in previous years, and that the 30 year plan he talked about earlier would help support young people.
LA said it was appalling that no consultation had taken place with the young people who were going to be affected by the 50% cuts to youth services.
CM explained that the 50% cuts to youth services were made before Labour took over in May 2011, and that young people were always going to be a target for cuts. He also explained that once the budget had been set, there was nothing they could do to put that money back into youth services, as it was being spent elsewhere, but that it would be reviewed at the next budget.
That was all of the questions that were asked on the night, and my recollection of the answers provided. I thought the panel were excellent and it was great to see so many people in positions of power, who can make changes and decisions to help young people in Blackpool in attendance. As I said earlier, I thought Lauren and Nicole both did an excellent job of representing the young people in Blackpool, who often get a bad press.
It was really enjoyable to see so many people coming together from different sectors and services to try and improve the lives of young people in Blackpool, and I sincerely hope that there will be another ‘youth’ question time soon.
So a few weeks ago I blogged about my efforts to be elected as student union HE Communications Officer at my college in Blackpool.
I found out on Monday of this week, that I was elected with a majority of 47 votes to 2, who voted to re-open nominations.
I’m really pleased with the result. Even though it doesn’t seem like a great deal of votes, I actually didn’t do much to get them, other than contact some of my tutors and encourage them to let their classes know that voting was open and to put up a handful of posters around campus.
My duties start on Monday really, when I’ll be getting my class rep training and meeting a few more of the union executive committee.
I’m nervous about what my responsibilities will be, hopefully nothing I can’t handle! Equally excited though to see what challenges lie ahead.
So as part of my quest to be elected as Communications Officer, I had to create a campaign poster to put up around the college, alongside a manifesto in order to try and get people to vote for me.
Votes are being cast between 17th and 21st October, so hopefully I’ve enough time before then to spread my name about and get people behind my cause!
I’ve included a copy of the poster for you have a look at. Any feedback would be warmly welcome. I’ve also added the copy from my manifesto for you get have a look at. Hope you like it! Please leave a comment letting me know what you think, positive or not
“My name is Lalita D’Cruze, most people call me Lally. I am standing for the position of H.E. Communications Officer.
I am a second year BSc IT student already involved with some activities happening both in and outside of the college. I believe there are a lot of great things going on around campus that not everyone knows about. There are loads of activities and groups already running at the college, as well as discounts and special offers for students which aren’t being taken advantage of simply because people don’t know they exist.
If elected I will do as much as I can to help any society, student or faculty in promoting their activities or events to the student body. I will do my best to ensure everyone knows about what’s happening at the Student Union and how they are working with the college to constantly improve your time here. I will try to keep the information relevant and easy to understand, whilst continuing the great work already being done by the Student Union, by communicating with students through Facebook, Twitter & around campus.
I would be happy to take on any feedback about the current communication system at the Student Union and will strive to improve it to make sure your voice is heard by the Student Union and college where possible.
I am really passionate about sharing and communicating and I recently completed a level two certificate in British Sign Language, which helped me to understand the challenges some people face with communicating on a daily basis. I have also spent time working with organisations in the local community to promote music nights, conferences and technology events and maintain two blogs and a twitter account covering these topics and more.
I believe the more people are involved in the student community; the better it can grow to be.
Vote for me via Moodle as Communications Officer and you’ll never be out of the loop.
I started back at college last week and lessons properly kicked off on Tuesday, and it turns out my college timetable means I only have to go in one day a week!
Whilst this seemed great at first, I’ve quickly come to the realisation that I’m going to have a lot of free time, even with the time spent doing assignments from home.
Obviously my first thought was to get a job. However it seems those aren’t that easy to come by, not that I’ve been trying very hard either.
So instead of investing time in the pursuit of a part time-low pay job, I’ve decided to get more involved at the college.
The hope is that being more involved will give me a better chance of getting onto the PGCE after graduation, as well as looking good to prospective employers.
This week I nominated myself as class rep against 3 others from my class. The votes fell 8 | 5 | 1 | 1 in my favour and the person with 5 votes was chosen to be the deputy rep.
Whilst a lot of people have put me off being class rep, saying it’s hard work for little return I think I could be good at it, and I’m determined to get behind my class and try and improve our experience of education.
I also nominated myself yesterday for the position of HE Communications Officer at the student union. This weekend I will be creating my manifesto and posters to display around the college to try and get people to vote for me!
I really want this job, as it involves communicating with the student body via twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms, as well as the student union website and possibly a magazine and radio station.
I think that I may actually be the only person who’s applied for that particular post, but I still need the votes to get elected and campaign week starts 10th October so I’ll blog again about my manifesto and how campaigning goes.
It anyone has run a campaign for a position on the student union or has any tips or general advice, please leave a comment!