We are often told that what happens today in the US will happen here tomorrow. So what can we learn about FE marketing from US colleagues?

Well let me start by saying that I'm not convinced that the sequence of events is always from the US to the UK. In the digital and retail worlds the UK often leads. Take for example online shopping and supermarket home deliveries. UK consumers shop online far more than our American cousins. And whereas supermarket deliveries are common in the UK they are far less common in the US and much more expensive.

Always eager to learn more about marketing I was recently in the US to discover more about how US colleges market themselves to prospective students.

A few days after the US Presidential elections I visited Miami Dade College, the largest college in the US, to compare and contrast college marketing across the pond.  

MDC is an real eye opener. The main campus covers several blocks, is  just a few minutes from sea, and has its own railway station. In total 165,000 students attend the college each year.

The average student age is 26, 66% of students are part time and 75% are in work. So MDC is unlike the typical UK FE college. But with more and more emphasis being placed on working with employers, traditional budgets being cut and the rise of the LEPs we can learn a lot from a college that specialises in being very employer and business focused.

My host for the visit, Dr Achie Cubarrubia, explained that MDC has a strong focus on student access, equal opportunities and institutional agility.

Miami Dade county is unlike the rest of Florida. Florida voted for Trump in the elections but Miami Dade county voted for Clinton. This was largely due to the Hispanic population which is significantly larger than in other parts of Florida.

But what of marketing?

I was surprised to be told that MDC hadn't done much marketing during the recession and it was interesting to hear Noah Brown reflecting the same message in his recent FE News video interview.

In recent years MDC have undertaken more marketing activity. This includes each school within the college having its own prospectus, various other printed material, radio, TV, and a schools push.

But MDC is so well known that courses previously filled without much effort, simply because it is so well known.

My experience in the UK of stopping people In town centres and asking for directions to the local college or private provider indicates that few U.K. providers have the same level of recognition. I often get vague answers and too many people have little or no knowledge of their local providers.

There are various reasons why MDC is better recognised. The student age range at MDC is much older than in U.K. colleges, with a very high proportion of students employed and attending college part time as a means to grow their prospects and career.

And MDC is a community college in a sense unlike UK providers.  Community college status in the US means links with the local community are far stronger than anything I've seen in the UK. And MDC are focusing on exploring partnerships with local employers including the Transportation Security Administration at the local airport, to name but one of the larger ones.

Community events such as film and book festivals are one of the most visible community events run each year and give MDC massive profile. While I was there they were in the middle of a book festival. The local streets were closed to traffic and hundreds of stands had been erected. Street after street were about to see thousands of people flock to a week long book festival. A book festival seems to be at odds with the notion of America being the home of the Internet; of Google, Amazon and most of the social media platforms, but this event sees packed streets with thousands of visitors vying for everything from first editions to comics.

In Miami it seems impossible to be unaware of the events, stands, speakers and other related events run by this local college.

Could UK providers replicate something similar? I believe so and I'm already sharing ideas with some providers. I can't see a book event taking off in the UK but there are alternative events that could be in demand.

As Noah Brown indicated in his video the marketing situation has changed since the recession ended. More active marketing is now indicated and the marketing I saw was very similar to what I see in the UK every week.

But there are gaps in what I saw. MDC are currently exploring CRM. Few UK providers have mastered the art of CRM as well as they might. In fact many providers don't use a full CRM system at all. I was surprised to see a major US college not using CRM to the full.

On the positive side the attention to detail MDC gives retention and progression is remarkable. I think we can learn a lot from them in this area. I still see many providers in the UK without formal retention and progression plans. Far too often we depend on a wing and a prayer and think teaching staff will deal with it. My question of UK based senior managers is whether there is any evidence of staff undertaking any retention and progression activity in their organisation. Few can actually demonstrate it in my experience.  Too many think it is a marketing activity. Few see that it is an integral part of the teaching strategy and that marketing only plays a marginal part in this. These strategies are absolutely key to maximising income and of ensuring survival.

Careers Advice

Prior to visiting MDC we had agreed to spend a large part of our time looking at careers advice provided to potential students. I was well aware of the criticisms made at school level in the UK and personally feel too many UK providers focus on courses rather than careers.

MDC are using a number of software systems to provide career advice to students. Some provided up to date information on vacancies, typical salaries and career prospects whilst others specialised in resume production.

One stood out however and I’m aware is being used by MDC and a number of UK providers. Having some knowledge of this system I had a lot of questions. What ensued however was that my questions prompted questions in return, and we both came to the conclusion that these systems were not being used as effectively as they could be in Miami or the UK.

When I enquired about how careers advice was provided to prospective students at MDC there was a lightbulb moment. It was being used very effectively to aid progression but not at all as effectively in terms of prospective students. I provided some UK case studies and a decision was immediately made to remedy the MDC situation. I eagerly await the results.

What was clear to both myself and MDC was that the provision of careers advice prior to course advice makes a lot of sense. In fact I'd go further, it is absolutely vital as part of a progression strategy.

A number of UK providers have invested heavily in career advice software. Some use it internally as part of the careers function, some use it for marketing with a small percentage embedding it on their website. In a very small number of cases I find individuals using it in class as part of their teaching. But I've yet to find a UK provider using it at marketing events, on their website, as a planning tool, for retention and progression in the classroom and as a teaching aid as a concerted strategy.

We are not alone in this. MDC used career guidance software quite well internally for progression purposes but hadn't, when I visited, embedded it in their website. It seems we all have a lot to learn about the plethora of new technologies now available.

One thing is certain. By sharing experiences between providers and countries we can understand how to market more effectively. Travel certainly broadens our experiences, minds and expectation. But the first step is to truly look at ourselves and be critical about what we are doing in reality as opposed to what we think we are doing. We need to consider how we can be improve against benchmarks, even where our benchmarks are only internal.

Presidential recognition

Lastly I’d like to offer my congratulations to Dr Eduardo Padron, MDCs President. During my stay in Florida Eduardo was one of only 15 people presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama.  This followed Obama’s recent visit MDC’s Wolfson campus where he spoke with passion about his Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

About Stefan Drew

FHE Marketing Consultant Stefan Drew was previously director of marketing at two FHE colleges and for the last decade has worked with colleges, universities and private providers throughout the UK, Europe and the US

Visit: www.StefanDrew.com and http://www.providermastermind.com

LinkedIn    http://uk.linkedin.com/in/stefandrew

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Advertisers

Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

Levelling Up Learning through Technology – A Ufi...

Levelling Up Learning through Technology – A Ufi VocTech Trust’s Whitepaper - EdTech Update April 28, 2021How can digital solutions improve outcomes...

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel had a status update on Twitter yesterday

RT @FENews: Flexi-jobs, ATAS and Apprenticeships: OverviewFollowing recent consultations by the Department for Education, a new flexi-jobs.…
View Original Tweet

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.

Podcasts

We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.

Events

FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page