Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Drop In Geek Cafe

On to the next project! At the moment I'm working on something called The Drop In Geek Cafe. The premise is this. Getting a job can be really hard. Like really really hard. I know this. You've probably read me rant and rave about how the employment process just bites. If you have, just skip over the next paragraph.

The employment process bites because it focuses on all of the wrong things. We ask for CV's - but those CV's are styled in such a way as to remove any sort of personality from them and so you're wholly reliant on a cover letter to get some idea of the person except that even a cover letter is structured in such a way as to remove personality. So culling at this stage is based on superficial, easily fixed problems rather than on the real need of someone who can work within a certain environment with the right attitude. Then comes the Interview process and the applicant puts on their "interview clothes" which make them look dorky and purvey nothing of themselves. So it's down to a conversation and a couple of questions. With potentially hundreds of applicants, finding one that will fit into a company culture (I can just see Renedox's eyes rolling at those two words used together) based upon a 15 minute conversation (after culling based on silly superficial stuff) is just plain dumb. This is without talking about the abstraction that is need to HR to employment agency etc.

Right... so we've got everyone back here now? The Drop in Geek Cafe is a creation of jobs based upon skills that the kids already have. The idea is this. There are a lot of older people out there who didn't grow up with computers (I was INCREDIBLY lucky - spoilt as one of my sister's would put it - to have had that much money spent on me for computers) and could do with some help learning to use them.

The kids have not only grown up with a world of technology (there's that generation of people who've never known life without cellphones - this came up in a conversation the other day along with nothing used to be open on Sundays and the word "Geek" wasn't cool) but use it within their school work. They know this stuff. They can navigate an iOS or Android device as if swiping weren't this very new concept. They use Linux and Windows and Mac. They have the knowledge.

They're also within a learning environment. They know what works and what doesn't. And they're close knit families in which case they know how to deal with people of different ages.

This isn't good enough... being taught by someone younger than you is intimidating. It has to be comfortable. It should include tea and coffee and cakes and biscuits. It should be a chat over something rather than a "SIT DOWN AND BE TAUGHT!" kind of a situation.

And it should add other bits of value. Ever tried to show someone how to use a scanner? You have to show them on a set machine. It can't be a different scanner on a different machine. The software might not match. In the case of Windows, the drivers may dictate the interface. The OS might be different. In which case, having things like scanning facilities - i.e. just drop on in and use the scanner for an hour or whatever - just adds value. It's format rot stopped in it's tracks (when is the last time you had a look at those old slides or that Super 8 film?). It's a real business...

What is one of the big factors limiting kids finding jobs? Genuine references i.e. references which aren't their mums or teachers... So a real business, with the kids working (and getting paid - i.e. a real job), with real expectations placed upon them.

Those expectations?

Well... I know they have the skills to use the devices. Next it's about people. Always deal with the person first. If there's a problem, talk to them. Listen to them. Even if you know what the problem is and they just keep going.... let them have their say. Only interrupt if interrupting disrupts them getting more upset (this does happen). Real genuine work skills and probably a good place to start in any people facing job.

Even if it is a bunch of adults kicking things off, it must be employee driven. i.e. the kids need to take over and manage things. The people on the ground should be able to figure out what the customers are after. It's a whole learning opportunity - leadership, initiative and management. In which case, the bunch of adults should be able to fade into the background as support only - if things go according to plan.

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