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December 2, 2010 / Sophie_Paterson

When You Grow Up

In October the Welsh town of Merthyr Tydfil hit the headlines, when Work and Pensions Secretary Ian Duncan Smith used the town as an example of where the people had become ‘static’. Alun Baker is a Merthyr man whose career has been anything but static, and after 20 years as a leader in the IT market he has launched a website which aims to become the ‘Facebook for careers’. When You Grow Up or WYGU is a new social network which combines the slick and user-friendly aspects of Facebook with the practical functionality and career minded savvy of LinkedIn.

WYGU is designed to get young people actively thinking about how to achieve their ambitions and future careers using psychometric testing, profile matching and ‘WYGUpedia’ an expansive careers wiki which describes thousands of jobs and University courses. The site, which is still in BETA, looks sexy and is easy to use. The concept is described on the home page in a novel video, using only cake! These features alone are more appealing to a younger audience compared to the intimidating corporate minimalism of LinkedIn.  However, the site is not just for young people and the unemployed. Baker has trademarked the term ‘Personal Social Responsibility’ (PSR) as he strongly believes that individuals who are in employment want to give something back. WYGU is constantly recruiting mentors to help guide young people along their chosen career path and has a league table to show the mentors who help the most.

Baker and his Ops Director Matt Summers are both Alumni of Swansea University, and is proud of his roots. I asked Alun how much impact he thought the site would have on young people from Wales, particularly in deprived areas such as Merthyr…

WYGU will be a global platform for anyone looking for, or to give, Careers advice and guidance. One of the big challenges facing those in deprived areas is Social Mobility, self belief and support to improve their personal circumstances.  The Government has made various declarations of the need to have a mentor for every child but to date does not seem to have mechanism to deliver on this.  I believe WYGU provides that platform but in a much more modern structure around what we term e-mentoring.  Through this, anyone seeking help with career choice or development can have the immediate insights and pearls of wisdom from multiple mentors who have experienced that course, institution, college or professional environment.

Many professions are tied up in close-knit circles and have constrained social mobility.  Through WYGU, via networks and e-mentoring, we can help break down those barriers and open up professions that were previously out of reach for people from deprived areas.

So if it’s successful do you think that WYGU could be picked up by Universities as a tool for widening participation?

Absolutely, in the way that Facebook has become a home for games, WYGU wants to provide a platform for anyone offering careers advice and services.  WYGU’s social network can provide the vehicle for many organisations to have a much wider reach.

How can young people interested in the Cultural and Creative Industries best utilise the site?

The principles of social networking are that the users predominantly provide the content. So for anyone looking to break into creative arts and media WYGU provides a platform to create a living CV where they can upload videos and other artistic content to share with individuals and groups in the safe knowledge that the site is focussed around the serious topic of careers.

Equally, breaking into these industries is notoriously difficult but through our e-mentoring platform WYGU can provide accessibility to encourage, guide and educate young people to take the right path.  This will inevitably assist with bringing in and exciting people about culture and creative industries.

As with any new venture WYGU has a long way to go before it reaches the global level Baker is aiming towards, should it work it would be an excellent way for those interested in the Cultural and Creative Industries to investigate how to turn raw creative talent into brilliant career prospects.

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