The Now & Next App

About this idea

The Now & Next App By Clare Griffiths, University of Brighton

Now & Next: An app to help students and graduates develop their skills and find employment

1. What is the app? What are the benefits?

Now & Next is a user-friendly, web-based employability app for students and graduates, accessible on any mobile device.

It helps users work out which employability skills they have, and which ones they can further develop whilst at university, or in work.

It also helps users evaluate and reflect on the skills they have gained whilst they have been studying, working, or volunteering, and helps users write their e-portfolios, LinkedIn profiles, CVs, and job applications.

Users can also search for part-time jobs, placements, internships, and graduate vacancies within the app.

It can be used in the classroom as part of the curriculum, or at home, when students and graduates are writing about their skills and experience, or when they are looking for employment.

2. How does it work?

Users rate themselves against each skill listed, and write down examples of when they have applied those skills. They also write down goals on how they can further develop those skills whilst studying, working, or volunteering. They can email the results to themselves, and share with other relevant people – such as their tutors and careers advisers. This data can then be used on their e-portfolios, LinkedIn profiles, CVs, and job applications.

Users can also search for part-time jobs, placements, internships, and graduate vacancies via the app at any time. 

3. What problems does the app solve?

Firstly, students don't always know which skills and traits are valued most by employers, and often suffer from writer's block when filling in the “skills” sections of e-portfolio programmes. Not only that, existing software is often clunky, with little guidance for users. Now & Next helps users by listing the skills and traits most valued by employers, and gives users examples of when they may have used those skills whilst studying, working, or volunteering. The app prompts users to reflect on when they may have applied those skills, and how they can further develop them whilst at university, or in work.

Secondly, students don't always know where to look for work opportunities. To alleviate this problem, Now & Next contains a searchable database which students and graduates can use when they are looking for jobs, placements, and internships.

Thirdly, educators often use paper-based exercises in the classroom, which students can misplace afterwards. With Now & Next, students can write about their skills and relevant work experience directly in the app, using their mobile devices in class. Users’ data is stored automatically within the app, so they don’t need to worry about losing their work. They can then revisit their skills audit at a later date, whenever they want to.

Finally, educators, support services, and employers sometimes find it difficult to engage with students. Now & Next provides these professionals with an alternative, innovative approach for student engagement, using a medium students are familiar with.

4. How do I know this app is needed?

As an educator based in the University of Brighton's Careers Service, I have tried and tested a paper-based version of the skills audit in lectures and workshops with hundreds of students and graduates. I have always made a habit of collecting feedback from students and educators who have used the paper-based version of this tool, and as a result, I have made incremental improvements to it over the last couple of years.

One student, Chris, told me, “I was able to think of examples for the majority of the skills listed, which has been pretty helpful. Each of the examples I gave were different, and it was interesting to see the variety of skills I discovered I had. I found it very useful, and quite reassuring in the lead up to my job interview”.

Another student, Amie, told me, “I like the idea of a skills audit, as it really helps you to see what you’re good at, and what you need to improve on”.

I recently carried out some market research with a group of students and graduates about their usage and purchasing of phone apps. The main results can be found below:

94% of the sample surveyed said that they possessed a smart phone. 100% of those with a smart phone said that they regularly download free and paid apps. 100% of respondents with smart phones said they would download an app which helps them identify and develop their employability skills, create professional development goals, and find jobs. 76% of respondents with smart phones said they would pay for such an app – anything between £0.69 and £5.00. 24% of respondents with smart phones said they would not pay for the app.

5. What commercial potential does my app have?

The app will always be free to students and graduates because I want to support as many students and graduates as I can. Income will be generated, therefore, by charging employers to advertise their work opportunities on the app’s vacancy database.

It is also possible that a white-label version of the app could be developed and sold to universities, tailored to their needs (e.g. branded with the university's logo, and updated with the contact details of their support services). In addition, advertising space could be sold to universities to advertise their postgraduate courses to the app’s users.

6. What should I do next to turn my idea into reality?

Product Development:

- Continue gathering feedback from potential users, and tweak accordingly [within the next month]. - Have further discussions with software developers, to find out about the potential stages of development and associated costs [within the next month]. - Develop a working prototype which can be tested by potential users, and demonstrated to universities and recruiters [within the next four months, once funding has been secured]. Dabapps is a potential developer.

Business planning:

- Develop a business plan using the Business Model Canvas, with the commitment to update it regularly [within the next two months].

Funding:

- Secure start-up funding in order to develop a working prototype [within the next two months].

Marketing:

- Create social media accounts for Now & Next, and start communicating about the app to generate interest from relevant stakeholders – such as students, graduates, employers, and universities [immediately]. - Write a marketing plan, incorporating offline and online marketing activities [within the next two months].

Intellectual Property Protection:

- Identify potential intellectual property to protect [immediately]. - Register Now & Next as a trademark [once funding has been secured].

Legal Issues:

- Identify what personal data will be collected about potential users, and stored within the app. Find out what my legal obligations are concerning the handling and storage of this data, and the cost implications of this [within the next month]. - Incorporate The Now & Next App as a limited company [once funding has been secured].