Thursday 13 September 2018


I have a bit of a reputation at work for a) often volunteering to do anything different b) always volunteering if there is a free lunch c) making a batch of flapjacks for the office on the slightest excuse. Yesterday I was up super-early to catch a bus to Dublin to sell Science at The Institute at the Irish Times Higher Options Event at the RDS. Volunteers like me could claim for their bus-fare and a per diem for all the food and lattés they would have to consume while away from their desk. It's something like €25 if you're away on Institute business for more than 5 hours. I paid myself €24.99 to make a cheese and rocket sandwich before I left home. I have a long and sorry record making the most of these 'entitlements'.
The coach-park Simmonscourt barn Pavilion [above looking empty by comparison] was rammed by the time I got there 30 minutes after opening (the bus was running late) and a huge mill of school-kids were lining up to get in. I had my exhibitor's wrist-band already, so slipped in the back door through the junk-food catering park. Inside it was roaring, the very high ceiling helped dissipate some of the noise of more than 1000 teenagers on a day out of school. There were colleges from all over Ireland, about 20 from the UK, 3 from the Netherlands (one of which was handing out stroopwaffltjes - win! for me), and others from Denmark, Poland, Hungary. All these European colleges teach through English and hope to persuade Irish kids to cut the apron-strings and live foreign. As always at these events, the stand attracting most attention was the Irish Defense Forces: and it's not only a boy-thing anymore.

I did [honest] shill for The Institute, especially for our new BSC in Brewing & Distilling, but was also giving advice to (for gawd's sake)
  • take a gap year rather than going straight from school to college. Especially if you don't have a clear course in mind. Heck, a lot can happen in a year and you may be able to bypass a marginal college course altogether.
  • immerse yourself in college: it's not just the means to an end; it's four years out of your young life and it would be a shame to be miserable for that amount of time just because the ordeal will land you a desk job [or flight-dispatcher, midwife, engineer, teacher, librarian] afterwards
  • don't ask me about careers after college. things will change utterly in the next five years. Jobs will emerge and be available that are not invented yet. Jobs that look comfortable and secure now will be replaced by robots. Heck-n-jiminy, the floor on which we stand might be permanently covered in water by 2023. College trains you how to think through and solve problems and manage your time effectively. If you can master those skills then you are a desirable gun-for-hire in any organisation.
  • don't over think the decision: success and happiness in college is mostly dictated by the incoming peer group (among whom you probably meet your life partner) and over which you have no control at all at all.
Apart from gratuitous advice I spent some time returned college prospectuses back to their home place. The event managers had put a wheelie-bin near The Institute's stand and I noticed it had a miscellaneous stack of brochures piled on the lid. Everyone was handing out brochures most of which weighed about 1kg. It seemed wasteful for them to have a useful life of about 20m between Stand-TCD and the bin. One of the student interns took his brochures back but asked "What are we like? Hasn't anyone in the room discovered On Line yet?". I am a bit old fashioned that way but I did suggest to some of the customers that they could have a look in the index to find the pages that interested them, rip 'em out and dump the rest of the brochure. That way they'd be less likely to herniate themselves carrying a sackful of paper back to school. Round about lunchtime the organisers delivered us a pallet full of more brochures because the first one was nearly empty. The delivery note on the top said "Count = 1430" and I guess they weighed a tonne. Me, I'd enter our brochure cover into the competition for dullest design in the room. But at least it didn't feature a stock-photo of clean and diverse young people 'having fun' at college.

Inside, all the brochures are dull dull dull; full of details and language that are alien to 18 y.o.s about to choose what to do for the next four years of their life. IT Tralee has a great cover: so good that I brought one home to show out school liaison people. But inside it has [random page] "the aim of this programme is to produce a technician <yawn> with a fundamental knowledge <zzzzzzzz> of the essential engineering skills associated with agricultural machinery" what [tf] does that mean? It means "Hey we'll teach you how to dismantle a PTO [the yellow shaft R] and put it back together without leaving any parts on the floor of the barn - this will win friends and earn money all over the parish back home".

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