Careers lectures, even at the best of times, tend to be soporific and prosaic. Somehow even animated careers advisors can unwittingly transform what should be an important and exciting pre-career experience into what seems like indoctrination.
But cue Oasis, or the Spice Girls and a few punchy radio jingles and you have your audience hooked, as the Hampshire Training and Enterprise Council discovered when it teamed up with Ocean Radio Group to present a new career initiative.
Power FM is Ocean Group's popular music station. It is aimed at 15 to 35-year-olds and earlier this year it began a schools' tour of Hampshire to spread the word about careers in local radio.
The Power FM Schools' Tour is a fully interactive experience that enables pupils to create their own half-hour radio programme. First they have to find a name for their "station". The various roles of people working on a radio station are explained, while a regular Power FM presenter outlines what goes into running a commercial radio station. Students are asked to choose a selection of tunes and advertisements that they believe will reflect the ethos of their station.
They then have to present news, travel and weather bulletins, and the half-hour of "live" radio is interspersed with jingles.
One of the tour's main aims is to make radio an accessible and realistic career option to students who may not realise the variety of employment opportunities it presents. "Power FM is often asked to attend a whole variety of careers talks and fairs," says Evelyn Timson, events and marketing manager for Ocean Radio Group. "The anomaly lies in the fact that radio is loud, noisy and interactive and you can't express that at a careers fair behind a table with your little presentation unit behind you."
Explaining the diversity of careers available in the media industry is one motivation behind the project. Showing pupils that a career in radio doesn't just mean a glamourous role presenting programmes is an important exercise. Jackie Cross, head of marketing for Hampshire Training and Enterprise Council says: "Media is a broad church for young people seeking careers. Although there is no modern apprenticeship or NVQ specifically aimed at radio, there are many training opportunities in the media industry. We've had young people doing modern apprenticeships in business administration, engineering and information technology.
"In the past two weeks of the schools' tour we met more than 1,000 young people and we've had an excellent response. The tour is a great way of presenting careers information to pupils. It's about getting a hard message over in a fun way."
The tour has been particularly well received by schools that do not provide a media studies course as a study option. By bringing radio as an industry to their doorstep, it shows pupils how a commercial enterprise runs.
Colin Sayers, head of the senior school at Hayling School, Hampshire, says: "Wherever industry has a use in the school, we will use it to enhance the curriculum. We will look at anything anyone has to offer and if we feel that even one pupil will benefit, it is a positive thing."
Although Hayling does not provide a media studies course, one of the modules for GCSE English involves this type of study. The energetic and interactive nature of the workshop may at least prompt students into thinking about their futures.
The path to a career in media is certainly not a straight, nor even necessarily an academic one. The tour may not provide pupils with a direct answer on how to be in the right place at the right time. But it does provide an illuminating insight into an industry, and what you might need to break into it, in a lively, direct and accessible way.
What it takes to tune in
- Journalist: radio journalists need a good nose for news and an excellent reading voice.The job involves finding and researching stories, interviewing people, editing material and reading bulletins.
Relevant qualifications: most journalists have a degree; many will hold postgraduate qualifications, such as a diploma in broadcast journalism. Related NVQs include broadcast journalism, broadcast, film and video production and public relations
- Sales and promotions: commercial radio depends on advertising. A job on the sales team entails selling air-time to advertisers and co-ordinating production and scheduling of ads. The promotions department is responsible for taking the station out to meet the people, as well as raising the profile of the station within the community it serves.
Relevant qualifications include a degree or diploma in business management, marketing or communication. Sales experience is also useful.
- Business administration and finance: the station director is responsible for ensuring the company is making a profit and carrying out strategic business planning. Commercial radio depends on advertising, sponsorship and promotions. Apart from business overheads, one of the biggest costs is royalties, paid for every piece of broadcast music.
Relevant qualifications include a degree or diploma in business management; NVQs in administration, accounting or management.
- Producing and programming: producers are responsible for preparing programmes and supervising the broadcast. Other tasks include choosing records and people to interview, compiling programme features and organising phone-ins. The programme controller has overall responsibility for output, ensuring the content is the right mix for the target audience,while making sure the station's licence application criteria are fulfilled.
Relevant qualifications: Most producers have a degree, but many start as assistants and work their way up. Relevant NVQs include use and support of information technology, broadcast film and video production and using technology.
- Engineering: radio engineering covers everything from repairing, maintaining and operating equipment to preparing outside broadcasts. Chief responsibilities are to make sure the station stays on air and ensure broadcast quality.
Relevant qualifications: an engineering degree or HND, or a specialist course in electronics, after which many stations will provide their own specific training. Linked NVQs, include electronic post-production support,sound assistance, sound direction and sound operation among others.
- Contacts: Commercial Radio Companies Association, 77 Shaftesbury Avenue,London W1V 7AD; Radio Academy, PO Box 452, 3-6 Langham Place, London W1A 4SZ; The Radio Authority, 70 Brompton Road, London SW3; Ocean Radio Group, Whittle Avenue, Segensworth West, Fareham,